Finding the right therapist is hard work. So much so that many people don’t quite know where to start. You might head to Google and ask “How often are therapy sessions?” or “How long are therapy sessions?” and “What should I expect?” If you’re new to the idea of therapy, trust me, you’re not alone. Here are some frequently asked questions about therapy.
“What is talk therapy?”
While there is no formal consensus on how to describe therapy, Dr. Michael Herkov does a pretty good job by describing it as:
is a process whereby psychological problems are treated through communication and relationship factors between an individual and a trained mental health professional. Modern psychotherapy is time-limited, focused, and usually occurs once a week for 45-50 minutes per session.Source: PsychCentral
Simply put, once you decide on a therapist and send them an initial email (or fill out a form like ours at this link) you will spend your time in conversation with a trained, and experienced, mental health professional typically for 45-50 minute session at what frequency works best for you (often starts weekly but not always – at least not at Viva).
“What kind of therapy do you practice?”
Some people are more familiar with the different types of therapy than others, and that’s OK. But this is a good question to explore with a potential new therapist. There are several philosophies on therapy and treatment modalities to consider. However, you should know that many models have very similar effectiveness levels for the same issue/condition. This has been well established in psychological research. The fundamental point of change in therapy is having a good rapport and relationship with your therapist.
In the event you would like to know more about the types of therapy out there you may want to research terms like: Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Psychodynamic Therapy, Person-Centered Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) to name a few.
“What kind of services do you offer?”
Similar to the question of what kind of therapy do you practice, if you’re open to other treatment options such as therapy groups, support groups, workshops or presentations, ask your potential therapist if they also provide any other offerings you could take advantage of to optimize your mental health. These resources are great on their own or as helpful add-ons to traditional talk therapy.
“How much does therapy cost?”
This is also a difficult question to answer as there is variability among therapists depending on their training, expertise and location. Out of pocket costs for therapy range anywhere from $0 to $200 a session on average. If you have insurance, they will typically cover individual talk therapy (thanks to the Affordable Care Act – thanks Obama!) You would be responsible for any plan deductible or copayment per session. Most therapists, and practices, offer “sliding-scale” slots which are reduced cost sessions to help increase accessibility for a range of incomes and lifestyles. If you see a typical fee that is too high for you then just ask if that fee is negotiable based on your need. Most practices offer some amount of reduced fees as its and ethical business practice.
Many also offer “convenience billing” which is a fancy way to say that your therapist office may bill your insurance company for your out of pocket costs, so that you later receive a reimbursement from them. This is most commonly used for those with “out of network” benefits.
In general, fees for therapists are a hot button topic with a lot of reasons and perspectives. Talk to your potential therapist about them!
“How do you accept payments/do you take insurance?”
Understanding how fees and payments work with therapy is essential to a good therapy experience. Once you establish a connection with a potential therapist be up-front about how you plan to pay for therapy (out-of-pocket versus insurance) and discuss your options with them right away.
Ask them how they accept or process payments and how they address concerns regarding payment. Understanding your new therapist’s way of managing the financial part of therapy is necessary to help put your mind at ease while you make this investment in yourself.
“How do I know if therapy is working? How long should this last?”
There is no single answer to this question. I’ve personally worked with clients for two months and I have also worked with clients for years. Success in therapy depends most on what you feel like you need from therapy, and how long you’d like to invest in the process.
A therapist will always have recommendations about your time in therapy, but ultimately it is your decision whether you’d like to accept those recommendations or not. Therapy, at least we do it, is collaborative and we want to explore options with you – not simply dictate your treatment.
Similarly to the length of therapy question, it’s also important to discuss progress with your therapist periodically. Signs that therapy is working (this varies by your specific concerns as well) could be feeling less anxious or sad, and feeling more peaceful, getting more rest and seeing improvements in relationships, work, school, etc. You and your therapist can work together to identify markers of progress specific to you.
“How often should I meet for therapy?”
I think this is largely a matter of opinion to be honest. That being said, most clients meet weekly for ongoing therapy initially. This helps build rapport, get oriented to therapy (especially helpful for newcomers) and gain momentum. That’s certainly not the case for everyone.
It is common for some clients, with less urgent concerns, to meet biweekly or monthly ongoing to get the support that they need.
“Where are you located and what are your hours?”
Obviously, it’s most ideal to have a therapy location either near your home or work to that you can rest assured that even if you aren’t at your best, distance is one less barrier to work through. Many therapists often have tricky schedules to contend with due to long hours and accommodating a range of clients. Be sure to ask from the outset what their limitations are with scheduling (and/or what you would need to have accommodated) so that your potential therapist can let you know quickly if they can make that work. If not, ask for alternative resources and providers to explore.
“Do you offer video or remote sessions?”
This question may be particularly important if you take work trips often or have difficulty traveling to traditional in-office appointments due to a health condition. If you fall into either category then it’s helpful to inquire with a potential therapist if they can meet clients virtually, what their policies and regulations are regarding that, and if they have previous experience doing so.
Conversely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related health risks many providers have moved to an all-remote or hybrid session schedule. Ask about your options during your initial point of contact (before your first session).