What to expect on an initial call with a therapist

What to Expect on an Initial Call
With a Therapist

by Maggie Jordan

After you’ve visited a therapist’s online profile and learned a bit about their practice, you can book a free call to ask any specific questions you may have. This initial call, generally about 10 to 20 minutes long, is a great opportunity to decide if you’re interested in scheduling an appointment.

Here’s what to expect on this call, some helpful questions you can ask (and may be asked!), plus tips for gauging compatibility.

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What happens on an initial call

On the initial call with a therapist, you’ll typically share why you’re seeking therapy, ask questions about the therapist’s practice, and determine whether to schedule an appointment or not.

Your therapist may ask you general questions what’s causing you to seek therapy now. They may also let you guide the conversation, and make the best use of the time by asking, “How would you like to spend this time?” Finally, they may share information about their practice and sort out logistics like scheduling, fees, and insurances.

Related: What to expect at your first therapy appointment.

5 questions to ask a potential therapist

The initial call is ultimately for you! It’s your chance to learn about therapy, and the specific therapist’s practice, approach, and specialties. Here are five questions you can ask the therapist on the initial call:

1. Can you tell me a bit about your practice?

Asking this open-ended question allows you to get a better sense of the therapist’s personality, and what they see as key components of their practice.

2. Do you have experience working with clients on [X challenge]?

If you’re seeking therapy related to a particular concern, it’s okay to ask targeted questions to ensure the therapist has that specific expertise or cultural knowledge. Now is also a good time to see whether their approach feels comfortable for you.

3. What therapy approach do you use?

Most therapists use a combination of therapy approaches; however, some are trained in a specific approach, and it can be helpful to learn whether that resonates with you or not.

If your therapist uses psychology jargon to explain their approach, don’t be shy to ask them to clarify what that means, and learn about the different types of therapy here after your call!

4. How frequently and long do you typically see clients?

Most therapists see clients once a week, and require that clients see them weekly for at least the first two months. (A lot can happen in a week, and they want to make sure you’re making progress on them getting to know you and uncovering the challenges you may be facing!)

After four to eight sessions, your therapist may be open to moving to biweekly or once a month; some therapists, however, practice a therapy approach that recommends seeing clients multiple times a week.

5. What is your insurance policy?

You’ll need to make sure it’s logistically possible for you to work with this therapist, both from a financial and scheduling perspective. For more information on questions to ask about using insurance for therapy, visit our mental health insurance guide.


Questions your therapist may ask you on the initial call

For therapists, the goal of the initial call is to start to get to know you to ensure they’re the best fit for your needs, and that any questions you have about their practice are answered.

Here are some questions they may ask you on the initial call:

  1. Why are you considering therapy now?

  2. Have you been in therapy before?

  3. What are you looking for in a therapist?

  4. What has worked in the past and what hasn’t?

If possible, take a few minutes before the call to reflect on these topics, so you can have a clearer sense of your goals for therapy.

Evaluate whether you felt comfortable and heard

The relationship between you and your therapist – known as the therapeutic alliance -is the most important factor in a successful therapy experience.

While it’s difficult to be 100% sure of fit from just one phone call, here are questions you may want to ask yourself:

  1. Would I feel comfortable sharing more with this therapist?

  2. Do I feel respected and heard?

  3. Do I think this therapist is knowledgeable and can really help me?

  4. Does this therapist use language that reflects an understanding of my background and identities?

Decide whether you want to schedule an appointment with the therapist, or let them know you’re still looking

At the end of the call, you’ll typically have the opportunity to schedule an in-person appointment.

Be honest with yourself and the therapist. If you don’t think they’re the right fit, or you’re not sure, you can say so with one of these simple phrases:

“Thank you so much for your time. I’m grateful to have learned more about your practice and expertise. As it stands, I’m going to continue in my search for a therapist but I'll contact you if anything changes.”

“I’m considering a few options, but can I get back to you by phone or email?”

Therapists are professionals – it’s much better to be direct than to waste your time scheduling a session you aren’t excited to attend. Just make sure to follow up and let them know your decision so they know you’re in good hands!

If you have multiple initial calls scheduled, it’s completely acceptable to see more than one therapist for an intake appointment in order to find your best fit. At the end of the day, all therapists want you feel empowered by your decision – whomever you end up choosing.


No answer? Leave a voicemail with your contact information

If you’re calling a therapist for the first time, you may reach their voicemail — if so, don’t be afraid to leave a message! Therapists take the confidentiality of their voicemails seriously, and understand that reaching out for therapy can be a daunting task.

Make sure to leave your name, phone number, a good time for them to call back, and the reason you’re calling (to schedule an appointment, ask about insurance, etc.).

Bottom line: The initial phone call is a great opportunity to decide if a therapist is right for you. Click the button below to start exploring therapists’ profiles and introductory videos, then schedule a free call with some who you think might be a good fit!

Maggie Jordan is Zencare's Therapist Success Manager. She is deeply committed to increasing access to care by streamlining the therapist search process, and particularly enjoys connecting LGBTQ+ folks with culturally competent therapists. She is a graduate of Brown University where she competed as a varsity swimmer.