Here are 10 questions to ask a therapist before scheduling a session.
Graphic by asadigova
You may recall that back in December I started to see a therapist as I had been experiencing some issues that I felt were affecting my healing from infidelity, and thought it might be helpful to seek some professional guidance.
I’ve also noticed that many of you who email or make comments have mentioned that you are either in therapy or are considering it. Therefore, Doug and I felt that it might be helpful to prepare a list of questions that one should as before actually scheduling an appointment with a therapist.
There is absolutely no point in traveling to, and spending money on therapy unless you and the therapist agree on your expectations for the therapy. Perhaps someone referred a therapist to you, or you found one online or in some other directory.
You may not know anything about this person, so you should dig a little deeper before scheduling an appointment. Some of these questions are suggested by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT ), and some are my own.
10 questions to ask a therapist before scheduling a session:
1. What is his/her educational and training background? My own personal opinion is that you should seek the help from a marriage and family therapist (MFT). Not all therapists have a degree in marriage and family therapy, so you want to make sure that the professional has completed some sort of post-graduate training in that area.
Marriage and family therapists are trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and focus on understanding their clients’ symptoms and interaction patterns within their existing environment. MFTs treat predominantly individuals, but also provide couples, family and group therapy.
2. Are they a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)? Family therapists who are Clinical Members of the AAMFT meet the educational, supervision, and training standards of the Association. Licensure standards are based on the AAMFT’s Clinical Membership requirements, and the AAMFT accepts licensed MFTs for Clinical Membership in most states. For those states without licensure, Clinical Membership will demonstrate equivalent education and training.
3. Do they have experience treating the kind of problem you are experiencing? While MFTs are trained and licensed to provide the full range of mental health services, like all mental health professions, each individual therapist may vary according to expertise. Make sure the therapist has experience and understands the problems you are having.
4. Are their services covered by your health insurance? The majority of managed care organizations and third-party payers reimburse services provided by MFTs. Additionally, most employee assistance programs provided through an employer also contract with family therapists. You should contact your plan or payer to ensure they reimburse services provided by MFTs. All I had to pay was a $20 co-pay just like any other physician appointment.
5. What are their fees, and are they negotiable? If your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of sessions and you cannot afford the fee, perhaps they will negotiate a lower fee. My therapist’s fee was $150 per session (50-minutes). As with most group insurance plans though, the insurance company discounted the fee to an amount that they would be willing to pay. In my case it was discounted to $98.85, of which I had to pay the $20 co-pay.
6. What is the average length of marriage and family therapy? Length of marriage and family therapy depends upon various factors, including seriousness of the problem. Generally, marriage and family therapy tends to be short term. Research shows that the median length is 12 sessions, with 65% of cases completed within 20 sessions. Though length of therapy differs from case to case, marriage and family therapy tends to be briefer than many other types of therapy.
7. How long are each session and how often are they held? My sessions were about 50 minutes in duration and were held every other week. However, I may have been further along in my recovery than some of you, so you (or the therapist) may choose to schedule weekly sessions.
8. What is the therapist’s success rate? That is, what percentage of his/her clients are able to resolve their issues successfully (without divorce)? I would suspect that not many therapists would have this information at their disposal, but the manner in which the therapist answers the question should give you an indication – or at least a gut feeling – of their success rate.
9. Where is the office and what are your hours? Obviously you need to know where to go. And if you need weekend or evening appointments, you need to make sure the therapist is available when you are.
10. Can I come alone or do we need to come as a couple? The reason I asked my therapist this was because I went to therapy for ME. I did not feel that I needed Doug to go along. I needed to make sure that my therapist would work with an individual concerning personal issues stemming from a spouse’s emotional affair. He assured me that it was common practice to do so.
While I’m on the subject, I thought I’d let you know that my therapist basically told me not to come back anymore! Just kidding.
He said I’m on the right track, that I’m currently handling things very well, and that we’re doing everything in our relationship that we should be. He said he would love to continue to take my money, but there was no sense in it, but that he would be there for me in the future if I felt I needed to see him. Let’s hope that I never see him again!
Though the need for therapy no longer exists, I do continue to garner strength and support from a variety of sources. First of course, is the love and support I receive from Doug. The Affair Recovery Movement has been a wonderful source of support and knowledge. I continue to read (and re-read) books regularly on marriage, relationships, infidelity and love. I also have a small group of carefully chosen friends and we share our support for each other with respect to our love and marital “issues.”
Last but certainly not least, there is all of you!