The therapeutic process can seem a little bit mysterious for people who have never been to therapy and don’t have a firsthand source of information about it. During the first therapy session, the questions a therapist will typically ask depends largely on the treatment plan, whether it's individual therapy or group therapy, and the type of therapy the client will receive. Family history and future goals may also be discussed. Finally, each client is different; therefore, the therapy questions to ask in couples therapy, for example will likely be different between each client.
If you're contemplating seeking therapy but don't know what to expect, it would be helpful to learn about a few of the most common therapy questions. It's also helpful to understand the rudimentary points about what clinical psychology is and why people typically seek therapy in order to feel safe and supported.
What Is Psychotherapy?
According to the APA, psychotherapy is “a collaborative treatment based on the therapeutic relationship between an individual and a psychologist.”
Psychotherapy is often also referred to as talk therapy and may include variations on its basic framework, including music therapy, expressive arts therapy, play therapy, solution-focused/brief therapy, and more. While most therapists focus on individual treatment, there is also couple’s, group, and family therapy involving family members too. Since therapists understand that people in your life may have different needs, many pull different techniques from various theories and therapies.
Why Do People Seek Therapy?
There are many reasons why people seek the help of a therapist. For those with long-term mental illnesses, therapy is a way to relieve symptoms and help the client cope with their illness. But therapy doesn’t have to only be about treating diagnosable disorders. Some may find it to be a useful tool for learning to cope with a traumatizing event (like the loss of a loved one). Some use it to learn how to change unhelpful behaviors or thought patterns to live a happier life or how to manage personality issues causing problems in day-to-day life. Others may utilize a therapy session to speak with someone as a sort of “mental checkup” or “maintenance.”
Therapy can be extremely helpful, and you may find that it increases self-confidence and helps you learn more about your personal relationships and feelings. Some common conditions and symptoms that therapy sessions can help with include:
- Stress and anxiety
- Physical chronic pain
- Concerns about family or relationships
- Personality and behavioral concerns
How Can You And Your Therapist Work Toward Solutions Together?
When attending your first appointment, you may be asked to fill out intake forms with responses about your medical and therapeutic history before you meet. Then, you'll sit down with your therapist and begin the process of getting to know each other during the initial meeting. Therapists understand that a person's perspective of their problems is one of the most important factors that determine how they'll progress in therapy. Your therapist may learn about your unique perspective by asking open-ended questions or follow up questions about your life feelings, and future goals.
Some common questions your therapist may ask include:
- How is your focus at work or school?
- Do you have a favorite animal or favorite dessert that brings you joy?
- Do you have a preference on how we go about focusing on these issues?
- How would you describe your childhood?
- Are there any concerns you need to address with me before we start?
Open-ended queries such as these help a therapist find out more about your condition and your views on your life and family, so they will know how to approach your situation properly. Couples therapy questions may help therapists determine the underlying issues between partners and uncover unhelpful communication patterns.
Your therapist will likely take notes while discussing these questions with you. Their observations about your answer will help them to streamline your treatment. They’ll also probably reference them in future sessions to further your treatment and provide a good benchmark for your progress.
If you reach the end of your treatment and are no longer in need of regular sessions, the therapist will address this with you. This is a positive thing — it means you have likely accomplished your current therapy goals. Sometimes this can feel like a miracle happened, but it's no such thing. It’s actually the result of the hard work and dedication you put into the therapeutic process, along with the support and guidance provided by your therapist. This accomplishment demonstrates your growth and progress in overcoming challenges and achieving a healthier mental state.
It does occasionally happen that a client doesn’t feel they have a connection with their therapist after the first session. If this is the case for you, you may think about working with a different professional, but first, be sure that you have spent adequate time with them before you decide. It often takes time to see results in therapy, and unless they say something inappropriate or make you feel uncomfortable, one session with them will not likely be enough to determine whether it will work.
On the other side of the coin, there are times when a therapist does not feel like they are the best fit for the client or the client is not benefiting from their service. In these cases, the therapist has the right to terminate treatment. It may sound strange, but this is the responsible and ethical response on the part of the therapist if this is the case.
If this happens, the therapist will explain why this decision has been made, let the client express their feelings, and offer referrals to other therapists likely to be a better fit.
For some, the barriers to treatment don’t have anything to do with a reluctance to communicate honestly. People may face time limitations due to a busy schedule or accessibility challenges that make it difficult to commute to sessions. Or they may feel uncomfortable seeing a therapist in person or encountering others in a clinical office setting.
In these cases, many people find that online therapy is the best solution. Online therapy allows the patient to attend sessions at their convenience from the comfort of home or anywhere with an internet connection. Some questions to ask a therapist can also be prepared beforehand. Patients can speak to the therapist via video chat, instant messaging, text, and phone. Group, couples, and family therapy is also available online.
Research shows that online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for treating conditions such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and more, including addressing negative thinking patterns. Many have found the psychological support they need in online therapy, and there are a variety of online platforms, such as BetterHelp, that connect people with mental health experts holding master's degrees or higher qualifications. Virtual therapy is safe, convenient, professional, and tailored to the patient to provide the best treatment program that meets each patient’s unique needs.
When choosing a therapist, the most important factor is that you feel comfortable confiding in them, and this aspect should be left unchanged. Therapy may take a few sessions, months, or years of talking- regardless of how long it takes, remember that you’re only likely to get out of it as much as you’re willing to put in. If you aren’t ready or willing to put in the effort, now may not be the time to seek therapy. If you are willing to sit through the discomfort and put in the effort, then therapy can be an extremely helpful tool for healing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the first thing a counselor asks?
What are open-ended questions in counseling?
What is the miracle question in counseling?
What kind of questions do psychologists ask?
What do I talk about in counseling?
How do I go deeper in counseling?
What are the best things to ask a counselor?
How do you start a counseling session question?
What is nothing to talk about in therapy?
Can you cry in therapy?
Do you hug your therapist?
Can I tell my therapist a secret?
Is therapy just talking?
Why do most people quit therapy?
Why do I feel awkward in therapy?
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