Frequently Asked Questions about CounselingQuestions to ask when interviewing counselors before you start working with one.
Frequently Asked Questions to Ask a Therapist, Counselor, or Psychologist.
When you are looking for a therapist or professional counselor you might wonder what the best questions are to ask to get an idea of what it will be like to work with this person, especially if you haven’t ever worked with a counselor before.
Note: These questions and answers are written by Cathy Wilson, the Director of LifePaths. I’ve listed questions here that summarize questions people have asked us when deciding whether to go with one of our counselors. Where it makes sense to do this, I’ve answered according to how I am as a counselor.
Here are a few ideas on frequently asked questions that counselors get from clients:
How much does a counselor cost and what are your counselor fees?
Professional Counselor Fees for Littleton, CO Counselors
There is a wide range of fees for mental health support in the Littleton, Colorado area.
Typically you will see fees from $75 a session to around $350. Keep in mind that this is partly based on the type of mental health professional you see and how much experience and education that person has.
Providers with a master’s degree are usually at the lower end from $75 to $175, psychologists who would have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. will charge a little more, and psychiatrists are at the top end.
LifePaths charges $125 for a standard counseling session, and a little more if you wish to do EMDR with your therapist. EMDR is a specialized type of therapy and we are happy to talk with you about it and answer any questions you have.
Do you accept health insurance?
Not all counselors bill insurance companies directly. LifePaths doesn’t.
The best way to find a counselor that takes your insurance is to look them up in the online directory on your insurance company website, or call your insurance company and ask for counselors in the area you are looking. You can also call/email and ask the different professionals you reach. You may have found this to be pretty difficult and inefficient though!
When we don’t bill your insurance company directly, it is often referred to as “out of network.” Many counselors call it “private pay” and most of the time you can expect to pay at the time of your session.
You might wonder why someone would want to see a therapist and pay the entire cost themselves but it is common for either mental health services to not be covered, or sometimes people would rather keep their mental health support as private as possible.
Do you have an appointment cancellation policy?
A cancellation policy tells you what the counselor expects to receive for payment if you need to cancel your appointment.
LifePaths’ policy is to expect at least 24 hours notice to cancel an appointment, or you will be charged the entire fee for the session.
There is more information about our policy in our New Client Packet, which you can find here:
Do you have emergency coverage?
Therapists can provide emergency coverage in a variety of ways such as a separate emergency contact number, being on-call 24/7, having an answering service, and more.
At LifePaths each counselor determines emergency coverage for their clients, so if this is a concern, please ask your counselor.
Always keep in mind that if you are having a mental health crisis or emergency and are unable to reach your counselor or an alternate person, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for assistance. Colorado also has a crisis line, at 844-493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.
What can I expect from the first counseling session, and how does a counseling session usually go?
This question may be particularly important if you are going to a counselor for the first time.
Counseling sessions are typically 45-50 minutes long.
Often a first session may be a little bit longer so that your therapist can gather enough information from you on not only what issues you are facing but also to take care of the initial paperwork and get to know you. Some therapists call this an intake session, or an initial assessment.
Many therapists also work with you to set specific goals you have for your therapy, to be sure that he or she understands what you want to achieve and how quickly.
The first session will give you a sense of how subsequent sessions will go as well with this particular therapist.
How would you describe your style as a counselor or therapist?
This question will also give you a sense of how sessions will go with a particular therapist. In addition, it will help you understand whether this therapist may be a good match for you personally, and be someone you can trust and work with. I (Cathy) will share a little about my own style with you, as I think this will help you see what I mean by this question most clearly.
One aspect of my style is that I tend to take an indirect or collaborative approach in working with clients. More than anything else, this means that I avoid telling anyone what to do. I consider it more important to support you and your decisions for yourself. I believe my clients have all the knowledge and intuitiveness within themselves to make their way through the challenges of life. Of course I will offer suggestions, ideas, and my impressions, but ultimately the therapy is for you. My role is to provide compassion, care, guidance and teaching among many other things, but certainly not to tell people how to live or impose my own judgments on them.
Another aspect of my style is that I do not focus a great deal on the past. Of course, the past provides us important information about ourselves and our relationships, and we can take this information to make better decisions in the present and future. I focus more on providing guidance on practical skills and exploring insights that will help you in the present and future. Perhaps the best way to sum up this part of my style is to say that I prefer to learn from the past, live fully in the present, and aim for a future filled with hope, purpose, and meaning.
You might also ask a counselor about their theoretical orientation and what that means to the counselor.
Do you have any specialized area or specialization in counseling expertise?
Many counselors have an area they specialize in. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she only works with clients coping with that issue.
For instance, my own (Cathy) specialty areas are working with all types of relationship issues, trauma recovery, and supporting survivors of domestic violence.
I have a number of clients who are dealing with these but have also worked with clients on many, many other issues as well. It may be beneficial to you as a client to seek out a therapist who specializes in the issue you are currently facing.
How do I ask a counselor about how well they understand the effects of racism in a person's life?
If you have been affected by racism in a negative way, a counselor who understands the many subtle ways that racism affects people is going to be much more helpful to you than one who isn’t – in fact, you could say that one who doesn’t understand this could actually cause you harm.
But. How do you ask someone this? I would say that you simply ask in a similar way I have stated it above: “How well do you understand the effects of racism in a person’s life?” And along with this, if you want to ask whether the counselor is white or a person of color, I would absolutely support that. The counselor’s answers are going to tell you a lot. And, a counselor who does understand racism well will not be offended by any of these questions, the discussion, or your reasons for asking. Asking questions about this is a good way to understand how discussion of racism would go with this person in counseling.
I keep hearing the term "trauma-informed." What does that mean, and are you?
People that provide certain services such as healing or personal care are making it more and more obvious when they are “trauma-informed.” What does this mean?
Having a personal history with trauma in it often means that a person feels generally unsafe in the world. There are five things that can ease the difficulties associated with being traumatized:
- Safety – Creating a space where you feel emotionally, physically and even culturally safe to be yourself
- Transparency – Informing you in all aspects of your care
- Choice – Offering you a choice in how your care proceeds, whether you engage in different approaches in your care, etc.
- Collaboration – You are part of the decision process, and your care provider is a partner and not an authority figure
- Empowerment – Your strengths are recognized, used, and validated
It is very appropriate to ask this question when you are first talking to a counselor. If you have experienced trauma and the counselor you are talking to indicates they do their work in a trauma-informed way, you are likely to have more success in counseling than otherwise.
How can I find out if a therapist is LGBTQ-friendly?
Some counselors state it very clearly on their website or other identifying material that they are LGBTQ-friendly in their practice. Some who identify in this way will also be very open about it. These are both ways to know, right? You will also sometimes be able to tell by the way things are written on a website, a brochure, or the way a counselor talks. But if you aren’t sure, please ask. The way a counselor responds to this question will tell you a lot, and it is very important that you know ahead of time, before you start work with a counselor and become attached.
Can I ask a therapist personal questions?
Counselors can react very differently to the idea of personal questions and revealing information about themselves. Many of us were trained to avoid disclosing personal details about ourselves for at least a couple of reasons. One of these is that the less you as our client know about your counselor, the less those factors can become part of the relationship or influence your work in counseling. A second factor is that the time in counseling is about you, not the counselor, so the focus should be on you.
The thing is, people have different preferences about this, just like counselors have different approaches where talking about themselves is concerned. So, consider what you need in a counselor. Is it more important for you to hear that your counselor experiences a challenge in life just like you, or is it more important to talk through issues you are dealing with and not have your counselor’s perspective get in the way?
In your initial conversation with a counselor, take note about whether the counselor reveals personal details. This tells you that the counselor is likely comfortable with this, but since the counseling is for you, you decide whether this is a good thing or not. If the counselor does not do this, but you want a counselor who is more on the side of being open – you might choose to ask something like, “how do you feel about disclosing details about yourself with your clients?”
Whichever preference you have, making this clear between you and a counselor gives you the best chance of getting what you need from a relationship with a counselor.
How long have you been counseling?
This question of course will give you a sense of how much experience a therapist has. In our case we have numerous counselors to choose from so the answer varies from counselor to counselor.
You can also expand this question to ask about where the person obtained their degree, and what type of counseling experience he or she has.
Each of the counselors at LifePaths has several years of experience working as a counselor, you can find more about each of us on our website here: https://www.lifepathscounseling.com/about-us/.
Do you offer free counseling consultations?
Many counselors will offer some type of free consultation either over the phone or in person, and of varying lengths of time.
At LifePaths, we will talk with you on the phone for about 20 minutes in what we call a “phone consultation.” This is usually enough time for you to get a sense of the counselor’s personality and for the counselor to know whether he or she can help you with the problems you are facing.
Where are your offices located?
This may seem like an obvious one, and you may already know where the therapist is located from their website, directory listing, or other source.
People choose a therapist based on location to be either close to home or work to make it easier to get to and from their appointments. They may also choose a therapist far away from home and/or work for privacy concerns.
It is always a good idea to verify the location – for those of us in Littleton, the actual city area of Littleton is large. When you search for Littleton, the search is going to tend towards the more central or downtown area. However, LifePaths’ main office is in an unincorporated area of Jefferson County so we are several miles from the central areas of Littleton.
You may also find out that the counselor has more than one office. LifePaths also has a DTC/Centennial location, and two of our counselors see clients in Denver locations so depending on how you find out about us, you may not know about the other offices and one of them may be more convenient for you.