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  • Caleb Birkhoff

Questions to ask a therapist, counselor, or psychologist in San Francisco

You did it! You decided that it was time to see a therapist, to address your mental health, find a couples therapist, and face the transition that’s been staring you in the face. The only problem is there are hundreds, if not thousands of therapists, counselors, and psychologists in San Francisco. Maybe you managed to narrow it down by what brings you to therapy by typing something like “couples therapist in San Francisco.” You then picked out a couple of friendly faces and you’re ready to find a therapist near me. Even then, it’s feeling a little overwhelming, despite having been able to schedule a consultation, or consultations, with a therapist. What are you supposed to ask? What are you even looking for? It’s natural/reasonable to feel hesitant or uncertain about the process, good news though, I’m here to help.

Questions to ask a Therapist in San Francisco

Whether it’s your first time in therapy, or you’ve been before, it’s important to ask questions before you start this relationship. Most people have made an impulsive decision about staring a relationship, often finding out later that you didn’t have all the information. Starting a relationship with a therapist is an important step in starting therapy. All the research bares out that one of the best predictors of success in therapy is your relationship with your therapist. Knowing that, why not do more than trust the process. The relationship with a therapist will grow over time, but it’s important to find a provider who you sense you can trust, connect with, and build rapport as you search for the right person.

-What kind of clients do you like to work with?

This can give you a good sense if this therapist has the experience with the reason you’re seeking therapy. Therapists often have a niche, a speciality, or an expertise that will let you know if they’re the right therapist for you. It’s important to leave this conversation with confidence that they have experience working with folks who have similar issues.

-How long have you been a therapist in San Francisco?

This can be a helpful way to gauge a general level of experience anc competence, but I would be quick to add that a newer/younger therapist isn’t a red flag, just a potential data point for you for evaluation. This often allows you to learn from the therapist you’re meeting with how they got started and why they are in the field. I think this is a great way to see how they see themselves in the process, what motivates them, and how they communicate with you.

-What specialty services do you provide or special training?

Therapists have specialty niches, meaning, they provide services that aren’t covered as a standard in graduate school, or where that therapist does their best work. One of my specializations is couples counseling, with some specific training in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). This would be a great place for a follow up question, if you require some clarification about what that means.

-What do clients say about working with you?

Ask them for the feedback, it can be a valuable reference for you to help make a decision. You might have found a therapist from a friends recommendation, but if not, now you can see how a therapist frames how it is to work with them. This is another place that a psychotherapist can let you know about who they work with, how they work with them, and what makes them different from other options.

If they’re talking about great experiences with a client who doesn’t sound like you, or for a reason you don’t resonate with, maybe they’re not the therapist for you. This is good news!! Better to know before the process really kicks off. Time to schedule another consultation with a therapist who might be a better fit, a more refined internet search, or maybe even a recommendation from this therapist.

-What do you do that’s different from other therapists?

This might be one of the most important questions to ask a potential therapist. There are lots of great therapists out there, but you’re looking for one that is a great fit for you; otherwise you’re going to end up feeling like you’re wasting your time. Additionally, there is a chance that you might outgrow the therapist you’ve been working with, and that the next phase of your treatment/process will require a new relationship. I always tell people that I’m not the typical therapist portrayed in the media; I don’t own a single cardigan, don’t like tea, and have never made a soft therapy sound. I use humor, ask lots of questions, and bring a lot of energy to sessions. Therapy has a fair amount, or potential, of discomfort; so I want to make sure there’s some levity in it. Some therapists are more directive and structured, while others prefer to allow the client to take the lead. Understanding your therapist's approach can help you determine whether it is a good fit for your personality and communication style.

-What is your availability?

Understanding the therapist's availability for appointments and potential wait times can help you plan your own schedule and ensure that you receive the care you need in a timely manner. Keep in mind those after work times/late afternoon appointments are very popular and coveted. Making time for your appointments is important, you’re worth the time. Additionally, with virtual therapy as an options, there’s a lot more flexibility available.

By asking these and other questions during a consultation, you can gather important information and gain a sense of whether a particular therapist is the right fit for your needs. Remember, therapy is a partnership and requires mutual trust, respect, and open communication between the therapist and client. Finding the right therapist can be a life-changing decision, so approach the consultation process with an open mind and willingness to explore your options.

Feel like you can tackle a Consultation?

I hope this helps you find the right therapist in San Francisco! If you are still feeling stuck and still unsure of how to find a therapist in my city, you can talk to me or ask me a quick question. Feel free to call me at (415-) 990-1452 for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening and help direct you to the right person!

If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, a life transition, discovering yourself, or therapy for men, you can read more about how I can help by clicking here!

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