7 Questions to Ask When Considering Therapy
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and society is making strides in de-stigmatizing mental healthcare and the act of going to therapy. No longer is it taboo to talk with a professional about your problems, whether big or small.
Even though going to therapy has become more common, there are many people who still aren’t sure about how to address their mental health needs. Many are curious and consider going to therapy but have questions about where to begin, how to go about it, and what they’ll experience during sessions. To help, we’ve put together a list of questions and answers to familiarize you with the basics when considering therapy.
1. What’s the goal of therapy?
Therapy isn’t one size fits all. Since everyone goes to therapy for different reasons, each person’s goal in therapy will be different. However, the commonality that remains is being able to set your goal(s) for therapy with the therapist who will ultimately guide and support you as you work toward achieving those goal(s). Just like with other areas in your life where goal setting applies, allow yourself to set short and long-term goals for therapy and be flexible and kind to yourself as you work toward them.
2. I have a lot of problems. Where do I start?
Much like with goal setting, your therapist will help you sort through any problems you are experiencing to determine where to begin. Together, you and your therapist will be able to prioritize the various issues you are struggling with and set goals to address and/or resolve those issues. Depending on your reasons for going to therapy and based on your access, your therapist may recommend weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly sessions. Oftentimes, therapy sessions are more frequent in the beginning and can become less frequent as you develop skills and coping strategies to navigate daily living.
3. What is the first session like, and do I have to prepare for therapy beforehand?
Your first therapy session is an opportunity for your therapist to get to know you and for you to get comfortable talking openly with your therapist. Your therapist will ask open-ended questions to get to know you better and to learn more about your reasons for seeking therapy and how to best support you. You don’t need to do anything prior to your therapy session, as therapists are trained to help you explore what’s on your mind to determine and prioritize topics to address in therapy. Even if communicating is an area of improvement for you, your therapist is equipped to guide you in identifying what you want and need in therapy.
4. How do I find the courage to share openly in therapy, and will therapy sessions make me feel better afterwards?
While some therapy sessions will leave you feeling better than others, not every session will result in feelings of happiness or relief. Therapy may consist of ups and downs because processing experiences and emotions varies from session to session. Sometimes you will need to revisit difficult memories that have caused you hurt and pain to learn from them and to heal. Other times you may need to face a fear you have to conquer and overcome it. At times, therapy requires a level of discomfort that results in growth. However, a benefit to processing uncomfortable emotions and experiences with a professional is their ability to support you with encouragement, guidance, and coping strategies when and if it all begins to feel like too much.
5. Therapy costs a lot, and my insurance doesn’t cover it. What other options are there?
Unfortunately, therapy and mental health resources are not always affordable or accessible. While increased awareness is leading to increased access, the healthcare industry still has a lot of progress to make when it comes to prioritizing mental health care. In the meantime, although there is no substitute for therapy, there are tools and resources you can utilize for guidance as you begin working on your personal development and inner self. Self-help books and interactive apps written and created by qualified, licensed, and professional therapists are valuable options when you are unable to meet with a therapist directly. However, these tools should not serve as a replacement for professional therapy.
6. How do I know if a therapist is compatible with me, and how do I even find a therapist?
Determining if you’ve found a therapist that is right for you will activate a bit of an intuitive reaction. In most cases, when you find the right therapist, it will feel right to you. However, there are instances where individuals reject a therapist because they are really avoiding therapy on account of the discomfort it may cause. Thus, it’s necessary to separate your feelings of the therapist as a professional individual from the act of going to therapy. Nonetheless, you’ll know you’ve found the right therapist when you feel safe, understood, and supported.
When it comes to finding a therapist near you, there are a couple of things to consider first: do you want in-person therapy or virtual/Telehealth therapy. While virtual/Telehealth therapy provides a wider selection of therapists to choose from, it is still important that the therapist you choose is licensed to practice therapy where you reside. If you identify as a Black woman, Therapy For Black Girls is a great place to get started when looking for a therapist. Other awesome resources include BetterHelp.com, PsychologyToday.com, and TalkSpace.com.
7. If I’m a minor, what will a therapist tell my parents?
In most therapist-client relationships, the conversations and information shared is considered confidential. Thus, therapists aren’t at liberty to discuss session details with anyone. However, there are instances when a therapist may override confidentiality in therapy. For example, if a parent is involved in the therapy of a young child, the parent is likely to know more about what occurs in sessions because of their involvement in the child’s therapeutic treatment. Another example of when a therapist may have to share what is discussed in a therapy session with a minor is when the risk of harm and/or abuse is present. If a therapist suspects a minor patient will hurt themselves or someone else or if the minor patient has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed, the therapist is obligated to report this information.
As stigmas associated with therapy continue to lessen more and more, it’s vital that we keep the conversation about therapy going to raise awareness and emphasize its valuable impact on mental health. After all, part of what contributes to being a Badass Black girl and woman includes nurturing a healthy headspace and mindset.
Nurturing your mental health is all about empowering yourself from the inside out and aligning your mind and heart. Check out M.J. Fievre’s book, Empowered Black Girl: Joyful Affirmations and Words of Resilience to support your inner work!
Meloni Capria is a Wisconsin native who currently resides in Texas with her wife, 10-year-old son, and their three pet Yorkies. Her professional background is in Secondary Education and English Language Arts and Reading. She currently serves in the role of Editorial Assistant at Mango Publishing Group and is a collaborative partner at DOPE Publishing. She enjoys writing, watching movies, and all things related to marriage, parenting, and family.