Vicki Polin
Social Justice Activist

How To Find A Therapist

When seeking therapy to help deal with past events in our lives (as either an adult and or as a child), most of us may feel clueless in how to go about finding the right mental health professional for guidance.  It’s not uncommon for individuals to ask a friend, a trust family member, your doctor, or even their insurance company for names of mental health professionals; yet that may not be all that is needed.  It is vitally important for survivors of trauma to be educated consumers.  It’s important to find someone who you feel comfortable with and trust.  A therapist who works well for one person, may not be the right person for another.

Finding a therapist is like buying a pair of shoes.  You can go to the store and see a really cool pair in the window, yet when you try them on they hurt your feet.  So you end up moving on to another pair.  How often have you tried on another pair and walk around in them in the store, and when you get them home, they are not as comfortable as you thought, so you end up storing them in the back of the closet?  Most of us have also found a pair of shoes that is so comfortable that you never want to let go of, even though they are looking pretty rundown.  The truth is that’s not so good for your feet either.

What is important is to find that perfect pair of shoes that are very comfortable, do the job, and when you’re ready to move on, you can just let them go.

When someone has been abused as a child or experienced a violent crime as an adult, self-esteem issues may come into play when searching for a good therapist who can help you grow.

Most individuals feel unsure about how to screen out potential psychotherapists to help them work through their issues.  For that reason the following list of questions have been developed in hopes of helping survivors screen out the type of therapist they feel the most comfortable working with.

You can use the questions provided in this article and or come up with your own.  There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions.  What is most important is how you feel with the responses. You can ask the following questions on the phone, prior to setting up your initial appointment or during your initial appointment.

It’s not uncommon for many to feel uncomfortable or awkward asking these questions, so only ask what make sense to you and see how you feel as you go along.

It is also important to note that it IS okay if the therapist doesn’t feel comfortable answering some of questions you are asking.  What matters is how you feel about the answers they provide or how they decline answering them.  It doesn’t mean the therapist is bad, it just shows you what boundaries they have and also provides you with information to help you make a tough decision.  Bottom line is coming up with a screening process of your own in finding someone you feel comfortable sharing some very personal thoughts and feelings with.

It’s also important to know that it is okay to ask the potential therapists if they were abused as a child or experienced some sort of trauma in their lives as an adult.  If they said yes, it’s important for you to ask if they have work through their own issues with their own therapist. It is unfair and incongruent for a therapist to expect YOU to do work with him or her if she or he hasn’t been willing to do their own work.  Please remember it is vitally important for you to be an educated consumer, and to trust your gut.

Possible Questions To Ask On The Phone Or During First Meeting With Potential Therapist:

  1. How old are you?
  2. What is your educational background?
  3. How many years have you been practicing?
  4. What populations have you worked with in the past?
  5. Do you have experience doing family or couples counseling?
  6. Do you offer group therapy?  What kinds of groups?
  7. Are you licensed by the State to practice?
  8. What kind of therapy do you practice? (e.g., cognitive, transformational, Freudian, etc)
  9. Do you use “therapeutic touch” with any of your clients?
  10. What are your professional plans in the next few years?  Do you plan to remain (city, agency) in your practice?
  11. If you left this agency or move your private practice out of the area, and we haven’t completed our work, would you be willing to continue working with me or give me a referral?
  12. How will you handle termination?  In the event you cannot give me notice of your intent to terminate me as a client, will you follow up with a written or oral communication to me to ensure closer for our work together?
  13. Have you ever treated individuals who have been abused as children (emotional, physical and sexually)? If so, what was that like for you as a therapist?
  14. What appointment times are available for me?  day time, evenings? or weekends?
  15. What are some of your hobbies and interests?
  16. Would you tell me a little about your philosophy of life?
  17. What are your fees for individual, family, couples and or group therapy?
  18. Do you offer sessions using “Skype”?
  19. Can I send you e-mail?
  20. Could I reach you in a crisis or emergency?  How would I do that?  Would there be a charge?
  21. Do you accept my insurance?
  22. Do you offer a sliding scale if my insurance doesn’t cover psychotherapy and I can’t afford your rate?
  23. Do you think sex with a client can sometimes or always be therapeutic? (If the answer is “YES”, find a different therapist).
  24. Do you think child/adult sex can sometimes or aways be beneficial?  (If the answer is “YES”, find a different therapist).
  25. Have you ever been sanctioned by a licensing or certification board or sued during your years in practice?  If yes, what happened?

Questions To Ask Yourself After Making Contact And After First Session With Potential Therapist:

  1. How did you after your initial contact with the potential therapist?
  2. How did you feel after asking the questions (if asked over the phone)?
  3. How did you feel after the initial session?
  4. Did the location of the therapists office make you feel uneasy?  If so, why?
  5. How did you feel about the furniture, paintings, books and or aroma in the therapists office or waiting room? Did the furnishings make you feel comfortable? Did you notice anything that made you feel uncomfortable or uneasy? If so, what was it? Is it something you could talk to the potential therapist about?
  6. Was the therapist direct and open in answering all your questions or did he/she “dodge” any of them?  If he/she dodged any, how did that make you feel?
  7. Did you get the impression that the potential therapist feels he/she has all the answers to every problem and or felt controlling?
  8. Did you get the feeling that the potential therapist was interested helping you explore your issues with you?
  9. Does the therapist have similar values and interests as you?  Does that make you feel more or less  comfortable?
  10. Did you get the feeling that the potential therapist was empathetic, sensitive, and someone you felt comfortable opening up to?  If not, you may want to find someone else.


TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT!  Choose a therapist that makes you feel comfortable and safe.  It doesn’t matter if you choose a licensed counselor, social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.  The most important thing is to remember is to choose someone who has the right education, training and a good track record of working with individuals who have a similar history as yours. Your potential therapist’s office should be a place where you can feel comfortable and protected, as well as a place where you can be encouraged to take risks.  Survivors of childhood trauma and also traumas as an adult need to feel they have a companion, not a crutch or someone who they feel is controlling.  It’s important to remember that YOU are in charge of your life.

Believe in yourself, and  TRUST your own gut reactions and judgement.

About the Author
Vicki Polin is a feminist who has been a Social Justice Activist since her childhood. Vicki is also an award winning, retired psychotherapist who worked in the anti-rape field for just under forty years. For fun Vicki is an artist and nature photographer.
Related Topics
Related Posts