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The one question you should always ask when choosing your therapist

INSIDER logoINSIDER 12/13/2017 feedback@thisisinsider.com (Lauren Schumacker)

a man and a woman sitting at a table: how i met your mother therapy © Provided by Business Insider Inc how i met your mother therapy Oftentimes when you decide to seek therapy, there's a good reason for it. There's something that compelled you to find that therapist and make that first appointment. 

Maybe the therapist you ultimately choose to see came to you by recommendation or maybe you simply searched for therapists near you and picked one. You may know some baseline things about this person with whom you're going to work closely or you might walk into your first appointment not really knowing much more than their name and the location of their office.

If you're nervous about your appointment, you may feel as though you simply want to follow their lead. You've probably never been to therapy before, so you don't know what you're supposed to do. But it's actually really important to ask some questions so you know whether or not this therapist is the right one for you to work with.

"Many clients are uncomfortable asking the therapist questions," Jim Seibold, PhD, LMFT, told INSIDER. "Many feel intimidated to do so. It is important that potential clients understand the importance of asking questions. The research about professional connection has been very clear. If a client does not feel comfortable with the therapist, they are not likely to see much benefit in the process. Client success is directly related to the level of rapport they feel with the therapist."

There are many questions you could, and perhaps should, ask your therapist the first time you meet them, there's one that's especially important.

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You'll want to know that the therapist is capable of addressing the reason why you came to therapy in the first place.

"The most important thing a client should ask a potential therapist is, 'How can you help me and have you helped others like me or with this difficulty?'" Carol O'Saben, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist told INSIDER. In order to get a real response to this question, you'll have to be able to articulate your reason for making the appointment and what you're hoping to work on while in therapy. Once you give your therapist an idea of what you're looking for, they'll hopefully be able to share how they'll address it.

"There are a lot of amazing therapists out there," Whitney Hawkins, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, said. "But, each therapist brings a different set of skills to the session. When I refer a client, I want to know that the therapist has worked with clients with a similar issue and are comfortable treating this diagnosis. You would not see a cardiologist for a sprain; do not see a therapist who specializes in infertility issues for substance."

You want to feel comfortable not only with your therapist as a person, but also with the kind of care they'll be giving you. It's hard to do that if you're not sure if they've ever worked with someone like you before.

"I think the answer to this question can help you figure out whether this person has the expertise necessary to help you work through your presenting concern," Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, said. Feeling confident that your therapist knows how to address your concerns can help you feel more confident with the whole process.

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If you're hoping to address a very particular concern, you want someone with the necessary experience.

"It's ideal to find a therapist who has worked with people experiencing similar symptoms or difficulties as you, especially if you are seeking therapy for symptoms of a disorder for which specific treatments have been developed and tested through research (such as PTSD, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or borderline personality disorder)," Sophia Choukas-Bradley, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and the director of the university's Teen and Young Adult Lab, said. "Child therapy, family therapy, and couples therapy also require specific expertise."

And if doesn't work out with your chosen therapist? They're usually an easy fix. Hawkins said that most therapists will refer you to someone with the requisite expertise if they don't have it themselves, but if they don't volunteer to do that, you might want to ask. Chances are they'll be able to do so relatively easily.

Whether you stick with that first therapist or not, knowing if they have the experience to work with you on what you're hoping to address in therapy — and feeling comfortable — will make all the difference.

Related video: These 3 Cheaper Alternatives to Seeing a Therapist May Be The Answer to Your Mental Health Problems (Provided by Wochit News)

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