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12 Therapist Questions: Ask Your New Therapist These Before You Decide If They’re the One

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If, however, you ever feel like your provider isn’t listening to you or doesn’t remember you or your presentation, it’s really important that you bring it up with them. You can say, “I’m feeling like you don’t remember my story or details about me when I come to our sessions,” or, “I feel like I’ve repeated a few things in our conversations together, and I hope that my story is not getting lost on you or confused with others.” It gives them a chance to know how you are feeling and what you are noticing in session. It also gives your provider a chance to do better. We’re all human, after all. After that, if you still are unsatisfied, it is more than okay to try to find another provider who you connect with better or who seems to listen to you more.

4. How do I know you’ll respect and understand core issues of my identity?

It’s really important to have transparent conversations with a new or potential therapist about their competence with any issues of identity that are important to you. This is particularly true because, even if you try your hardest to find a therapist or psychiatrist in your area who has an identity that matches your own marginalized identity, due to sheer numbers, you unfortunately may still be unsuccessful.

Jessica Gaddy Brown, LICSW, CEO of Nia Noire Therapy+Wellness, suggests asking the following questions to help gauge a new or potential therapist’s cultural competence:

  • Have you served clients of [insert your background, identity, and/or belief system] in the past?
  • What training have you completed to effectively serve people of my background, identity, and/or belief system?
  • What work have you done to challenge your own personal biases and beliefs and increase cultural sensitivity?

Jack Turban, M.D., a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he researches LGBTQ mental health, recommends one additional screening question for his LGBTQ patients: Asking providers if they know anything about or have heard of the minority stress model, which he describes as, “the predominant framework for understanding mental health disparities among LGBTQ people.” If providers are aware of it, or better yet, can thoroughly explain it, that’s a good sign they are comfortable helping patients with it.

The answers to these questions should help you identify whether you would feel comfortable seeing that person as a mental health provider. If, after this conversation, your new or potential provider doesn’t feel like they can help or support your specific needs enough, they should provide a referral to someone with more relevant expertise. (Or, if they feel equipped but you aren’t comfortable with their answers, you can consider asking for said referrals.)

Additionally, you can find providers who either share aspects of your identity—or who don’t but are at least culturally competent enough for your needs—by word of mouth from people in your community and/or by looking for therapy group practices that may focus on that particular identity. You can also look through databases specifically meant to help people in marginalized groups find experts who understand or at the very least respect those lived experiences.

Dr. Turban points out, however, that he would not immediately trust the specialty filters on more general therapist-finder websites. He says, “I find that many of the therapists on there click all boxes offered and may not have actual expertise in caring for those patients when you actually contact them,” he says. Even better reason to ask the above kinds of identity and cultural competence questions any time you have an inkling they might be helpful.

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5. Are you going to push medication on me?

This is by far the most common question I get as a psychiatrist and also the most common stereotype of my field. Again, I can only speak for myself here, but if you are referred to me for a medication evaluation, the key word is “evaluation.” This means that I will ask you a lot of questions about your symptoms, other possible connected symptoms, your psychiatric history (including medications, diagnoses, and hospitalizations), your family history, your social history (substances, support system, your education, your background), and your medical history. I then will try to use all of that information to decide if I think what is going on with you would be managed well by medication. This has even become a bit more complicated in the pandemic, where pretty much everyone has been exhibiting some baseline anxiety and depression symptoms and it’s important for me to figure out how much it is affecting their lives.

Source: Self

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