Preparing for Your First Online Therapy Session: Essential Questions to Ask Your New Therapist

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Embarking on therapy is a courageous and empowering journey towards personal growth and self-discovery. In order to maximize the benefits and create a strong therapeutic relationship, it’s crucial to choose a therapist who aligns with your unique needs, preferences, and goals. In this post, we’ll delve into critical questions to inquire with potential therapists, which will not only aid in finding the best match for you, but also set the stage for a successful, supportive, and transformative first session and beyond. These questions will cover various aspects of therapy, such as the therapist’s expertise, approach, cultural competence, and collaboration style, ensuring that you feel secure, informed, and ready to embark on this life-changing path towards mental health and well-being.

Basic Questions to Ask a Prospective Therapist

Before starting therapy, it is essential to understand the practical aspects of working with a therapist, such as cost, insurance, and credentials. Asking these questions upfront can help you feel more at ease and confident about your decision to seek therapy:

  1. What is your therapeutic approach or orientation? How would you describe your style of therapy?
  2. What are your areas of expertise or specialization? Have you worked with clients facing similar issues or challenges as mine?
  3. What type of clients do you typically work with (e.g., age range, backgrounds, presenting concerns)?
  4. How do you set goals and measure progress in therapy? What is your approach to treatment planning?
  5. How long are your sessions, and how frequently do you typically meet with clients?
  6. What is your availability? Do you offer evening or weekend appointments?
  7. What is your cancellation policy? Are there any fees for missed or cancelled sessions?
  8. How do you handle confidentiality and the privacy of your information?
  9. Can you provide references from other professionals or clients (with their permission)?
  10. How do you approach collaboration with other healthcare providers, such as psychiatrists or primary care doctors, if needed?

Is This Online Therapist a Good Fit?

Finding a therapist who matches your personality and needs is crucial for a successful therapeutic relationship. Consider asking the following questions to learn more about the therapist’s approach and whether they align with your preferences:

  1. How do you tailor your approach to meet the unique needs of each client?
  2. How do you handle disagreements or conflicts that may arise during therapy sessions?
  3. Can you describe a successful therapeutic relationship you’ve had with a client? What factors contributed to its success?
  4. What do you believe is the most important factor in building a strong therapeutic alliance?
  5. How do you incorporate feedback from clients to adjust your therapeutic approach or address any concerns?
  6. How do you handle situations when a client isn’t making progress or feels stuck in therapy?
  7. How do you support clients in developing self-awareness and coping skills outside of therapy sessions?
  8. What are your views on self-help resources and their role in the therapeutic process?
  9. How do you approach the integration of a client’s spiritual or religious beliefs into therapy, if applicable?

Setting Goals for Online Therapy

Establishing goals for therapy is an essential part of making the most of your time and setting yourself up for success. Ask your potential therapist these questions to understand their approach to goal-setting and monitoring progress:

  1. How do you involve clients in the goal-setting process, and how flexible are you in adjusting goals as therapy progresses?
  2. How do you track and measure progress toward therapy goals? Do you use any specific tools or techniques?
  3. How do you ensure that therapy goals are realistic, achievable, and tailored to each client’s needs?
  4. How do you handle situations where clients feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the goals they’ve set?
  5. What is your approach to incorporating client feedback into the goal-setting and progress-monitoring process?
  6. How do you balance long-term goals with short-term milestones to keep clients motivated and engaged in therapy?
  7. How do you manage client’s expectations regarding the timeline for achieving their goals?
  8. Do you typically work on one goal at a time, or do you address multiple goals concurrently? How do you prioritize goals when working on multiple areas?
  9. How do you help clients maintain progress and continue working on their goals after therapy has ended?

Understanding Cultural Competence in Online Therapy

Finding a therapist who is culturally competent and understands the nuances of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds is crucial to creating a safe and supportive therapeutic environment. While your therapist doesn’t necessarily need to share your background, they should be able to empathize with and understand the unique experiences and challenges faced by individuals from diverse backgrounds.

  1. What is your racial/ethnic and cultural background? How does that impact your work as a therapist?
  2. What is your experience when it comes to working with ________ (ex. specific racial/ethnic backgrounds, immigrant populations, LGBTQ, etc.)?
  3. How do you work with clients who have experienced racism, discrimination, or immigration-related concerns?
  4. What does it mean to you to provide culturally competent care? What training have you had on this topic?
  5. What is your comfort level when it comes to talking about topics such as white privilege, racism, discrimination, or systemic oppression?
  6. How familiar are you with the unique mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ individuals? What specific training or education have you had in this area?
  7. What is your experience working with transgender or nonbinary clients, and how do you address their specific needs in therapy?
  8. How do you create a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ clients? Do you use gender-neutral language, and are you familiar with preferred pronoun usage?
  9. Can you provide examples of how you have supported LGBTQ clients in navigating relationship or family issues, coming out, or exploring their identity?
  10. How familiar are you with the intersectionality of race, ethnicity, LGBTQ identity, and disability? How do you address these complexities in therapy?
  11. What is your experience working with clients who have disabilities? Are you knowledgeable about various disabilities and their potential impacts on mental health?
  12. How do you ensure your practice is accessible to clients with disabilities? Do you offer accommodations such as flexible scheduling, remote sessions, or physical accessibility?
  13. Can you provide examples of how you have supported clients with disabilities in addressing mental health concerns, navigating barriers, and advocating for their needs?
  14. How do you work with clients who face multiple layers of marginalization, such as being LGBTQ and having a disability?

Exploring Collaboration in Online Therapy

Attending sessions beyond your first meeting is different for each therapist. Asking the following questions during your first session can help you feel more at ease and give you a better understanding of what to expect from your therapeutic journey:

  1. How do you create a safe and trusting environment for clients during sessions, both in-person and online?
  2. How do you typically approach the first few sessions with a new client? Is there a specific structure or assessment process you follow?
  3. How do you handle situations where a client may not be progressing as expected or is struggling to engage in therapy?
  4. How do you involve clients in the decision-making process when it comes to treatment plans and therapeutic interventions?
  5. Are you open to adjusting your therapeutic approach based on client feedback or preferences?
  6. What is your policy on communication between sessions? Are you available for support via email or phone if needed?
  7. How do you handle any potential conflicts or challenges that may arise during the course of therapy?
  8. In what ways do you encourage clients to be active participants in their own healing and growth process?
  9. How do you work with clients to develop healthy coping strategies and build resilience outside of therapy sessions?

During your first session, asking key questions will help you gain insight into your therapist’s approach, qualifications, and compatibility with your needs. This can put you at ease and set the stage for a successful therapeutic journey. Read about what to expect in your first therapy session. Find more first-visit advice by reading the complete category of Online Therapy Blog Posts.

Remember, the decision to seek therapy is a brave and commendable step toward personal growth and self-improvement. Recognizing the need for support and guidance demonstrates your resilience and commitment to becoming a healthier, happier version of yourself.

Being proactive and asking the right questions can not only assist you in finding the most suitable therapist but also ensure a productive and beneficial experience with your chosen mental health professional. This approach helps establish trust, set clear expectations, and encourage open communication with your therapist, enabling collaborative and effective work toward your mental health goals.

As you engage in therapy, keep in mind that change requires time and patience. Embracing self-reflection and confronting difficult emotions significantly contribute to personal growth. By adopting a curious and non-judgmental attitude, you can better navigate the challenges encountered during your therapeutic journey.

Additionally, experiencing a range of emotions during therapy, such as vulnerability, fear, breakthroughs, and joy, is entirely normal. Embrace these emotions as part of your healing process and opportunities for growth.

In conclusion, initiating therapy is a positive step toward self-improvement. By being proactive and asking the right questions, you can cultivate a strong therapeutic relationship and optimize your experience with your therapist. Together, you’ll progress towards greater self-awareness, emotional well-being, and ultimately, a more fulfilling life.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.

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