If you are considering psychological services it is best to schedule a face-to-face appointment so that a clinician can best assess your difficulties and discuss treatment options with you. My associates and I are available for brief phone consultations if you are unsure whether or not to schedule an appointment.
At your first appointment, you will receive a brief history questionnaire which will help to build a map of important events from your past and present difficulties and help to assist you more quickly in getting some relief from therapy. We will also discuss psychological testing as an option to see if you would like to use that to gain momentum more quickly in the early phase of therapy.
There is no charge for the first one-half hour meeting.
The frequency of therapy and the length of treatment depends on what you are wanting to accomplish. However most patients come between once and twice per week and are able to achieve their goals in this format. Sessions last from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the type of problem and your own preference.
These questions may help you select a therapist: (print them out and take them with you)
There are many styles, including cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, humanistic, etc. The therapist should be able to tell you which style they use and why. The therapist may call themselves “eclectic”, meaning that he or she combines several styles. If that is the case, ask the therapist which styles s/he blends and what is helpful from each style.
If so, how often? What does he or she think needs to be done for you? The therapist may not have a fully-formed plan after only talking to you briefly but s/he should have some “plan of attack” for the general sort of problems that you present.
Psychologists and counselors have the opportunity to belong to many professional organizations that can offer important continuing education as well as an opportunity to consult with colleagues about cases. Most people who are truly good at therapy are active members of at least one of these organizations (if not more).
While treatment varies quite a bit depending on the problem, if a therapist sees most patients for 6 visits or less (or thereabouts) chances are people are just not finding the help they need and are moving on. It would be more reasonable to expect that patients would stay anywhere from a few months (for a short-term problem such as conflict with a co-worker or a simple phobia like fear of flying) to years for more complex problems like histories of abuse in childhood, dysfunctional relationships, etc.
If so, for what? Most counselors are licensed by the state and patients can lodge complaints if they have been treated unethically or unprofessionally. You would want to know if the therapist has had patients complain in the past about their treatment and what was done about it.
I realize this seems like very personal information and some therapists won’t be willing to answer. But in my opinion every good therapist has done a fair amount of work (at least a few years of therapy) and hopefully goes back for “touch ups” at least once every decade. So if the therapist only did 2 months of therapy in high school and hasn’t been back since, they may not be on top of their own issues and therefore may have difficulty helping you with yours.