What to expect on an initial call with a therapist
by Maggie Jordan
The initial call with a therapist is a great opportunity to resolve any questions about their practice and decide if you are interested in setting up an in-person appointment.
Use this guide to assess if it would be logistically feasible to see the therapist and if their expertise and approach are a good fit for your needs!
What to prepare
Before your call with the therapist, you may wish to dial another number -- your insurance company. The only way to be absolutely sure of your mental health benefits is to call the number on the back of your insurance card or check your benefits on your insurance company’s online member portal.
If you plan to see a therapist who accepts your insurance, ask:
What is my annual deductible?
How much of my deductible has been met?
What is my session copay?
Do I have an annual session limit?
If you plan to see a therapist outside of your insurance network, ask if your plan offers out-of-network benefits. Although you’ll have to pay the therapist’s full fee at the time of service, most plans allow you to submit claims and receive partial reimbursement after meeting your annual deductible.
What to ask the therapist
1. Assess fit of approach and expertise
Many therapists have experience working with common life challenges such as anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. If you are seeking therapy related to a particular concern, it’s ok to ask targeted questions to ensure they have that specific expertise or cultural knowledge, and use an approach that feels comfortable to you:
What is your background and experience working with clients who are experiencing [X challenge]?
What approach do you use for [X challenge]?
What challenges are you best known for working with?
What does a typical therapy session with you look like?
2. Assess personality fit
The relationship between you and your therapist is the most important factor in a successful therapy experience. While it’s difficult to be 100% sure of the fit from just a phone call, consider if you feel comfortable speaking with them, and if they ask questions that reflect an understanding of your current situation and a desire to make you feel heard. You may want to ask yourself:
Would I feel comfortable sharing more with this therapist?
Do I feel like this therapist can really help me and knows what they're talking about?
Does this therapist use language that reflects an understanding of my background and identities?
3. Assess logistical feasibility
You also need to make sure it is logistically possible for you to work with this therapist, both from a financial and scheduling perspective:
Are you in-network with [X insurance and plan]
If not, can you provide billing for out-of-network benefits?
If not, do you offer a sliding scale?
How frequently do you typically see clients?
Do you typically provide longterm or shortterm therapy?
Do you have availability at [X day and time / evenings / mornings / Saturdays]?
What the therapist may ask you
Therapists also want to start to get to know you in order to ensure they are the best fit for your needs. Before the call, you may want to reflect on what you’re looking for in therapy so you can answer questions such as:
Why are you considering therapy now?
Have you been in therapy before?
What are you looking for in a therapist?
What has worked in the past and what hasn’t?
What does [X challenge] looks like for you?
Scheduling or declining
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 are the right fit, you can say so. Therapists are professionals; it’s much better to be direct than to waste your time scheduling a session you aren’t excited to attend. If you’re not sure, you can say, “I’m considering a few options, but can I get back to you by phone or email?” 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 choose.
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.