In the time since becoming a therapist, I have yet to have one client ask me where I received my master's degree, or where I did my training, or a word about my licenses. What clients want to know is, "Can you help me? Can you offer me anything at all that will bring me some relief from the pain I'm in?" Some also have other questions they may or may not be as likely to articulate, questions such as "Are you going to judge and reject me if you know the 'real' me? Are you going to understand me? Is this just going to be a supreme waste of my time and money?"
I always ask new clients that come to me if they've been in therapy before, and if so, how it went. If therapy is a new experience, I ask what their goals and expectations are going in of themselves, of me as their potential therapist, and of the therapy process. I like to borrow a question two of my favorite author-therapists, Terry Real, and his colleague, Lisa Merlo-Booth, have shared they ask their own clients- "If this therapy is a stunning success, what will that look like?"
Below I'd like to offer some tips that will increase the likelihood that your therapy experience will be worth your time, effort, and money.
1) Do your homework.
Ask yourself direct questions. What qualities are important to you in a therapist? Do you prefer they have a certain working style? background? Is a sense of humor important to you, or do you prefer a more reserved approach? How far are you willing to travel and how far will make it less likely you will attend regularly? Preferred gender or age range?
Equally important, what qualities don't you want in your therapist? I have a close friend who saw a therapist for several years whom she casually mentioned she felt little connection to. "How come?," I inquired. "Because," she replied,"she never is willing to disclose anything about her own life. She knows everything about me but refuses to breathe a word about herself." You may be the type of client who doesn't want your therapist to disclose anything about themselves, and thats fine, just be aware of your needs going in, and why.
2) Be clear on your goals, and learn to consistently ask for what you need.
Spend some time answering for yourself what a "stunning success" will look like. How will you know that therapy is working well? What will be different? How will you feel? What will your relationships look like? Your body? Your day to day habits and ways of being and thinking in the world? What will others notice about you that is different? Most importantly, what will be different about you?