Ten questions to ask when seeking a mental health therapist

When interacting with your child that has challenges or a disability, you want to ensure that you are receiving appropriate services and not waste your time on something that is not working. Therefore, I believe it is important to answer the many questions parents have when seeking services. Here are my responses:

1. What’s your training?

In 2000, I obtained a Master of Science degree in counseling from the University of Great Falls and became a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Montana in 2001. Eleven years later, I earned a master’s degree in special education from Montana State University and soon earned status as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I have extensive experience and specialized training working with adults and children with Autism Spectrum disorders, chronic mental illness, and developmental disabilities. In addition, I have studied and utilized solution-focused therapy, cognitive behavioral interventions, and approaches for marriage and family counseling.

2. How long have you worked in this field?

I have been in the mental health field for over 15 years, with the last 10 years focused on working with adults and children with special needs. During my first five years in the field, I worked with adults with severe mental health disabilities in a group home/community setting.

3. What kind of therapy or treatment might help me?

Treatment is often geared towards the individual needs of the client. If these needs are outside my scope of practice, I will either make an appropriate referral or consult with professional colleagues about the best practice to meet the particular client’s needs.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches?

When an individual seeks treatment in the mental health field, it’s natural for them to experience challenges and discomfort as they attempt to understand the barriers and challenges in their life. Oftentimes, treatment can bring up issues that cause significant stress in a client’s life, which may affect their work, home, and/or personal life. It’s important to talk with your therapist about these issues when they arise, as they can tailor the approaches to use during your sessions together.

5. How does treatment work?

In my practice, therapy includes meeting with the client in an office, community, or home setting. Typically, I meet with clients on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for treatment or follow-up appointments. The number of sessions will depend on the needs of the individual client and the time they can devote to treatment. As treatment progresses, the client and clinician will discuss and agree upon the frequency of sessions.

6. What are the chances that treatment will work?

Treatment progress and success depends on numerous factors, with the client’s readiness for change as the frontrunner. It’s common for clients to seek treatment without knowing what they want to focus on or address. In addition, the intensity of the challenges the client brings to the session impacts treatment outcomes. It’s important for the client and therapist to identify and explore any barriers between them that may impede the success of treatment. Finally, the amount of time, effort, and energy the client devotes towards treatment has a direct effect on treatment results.

7. When should I expect to start feeling better?

Again, this differs for everyone. Among other things, it depends on the client’s readiness for change and how well the client and therapist work together.

8. How will my progress be assessed?

Goals will be developed in treatments that are used to determine progress. At times, assessment of progress can or will be subjective, but it can be more concrete through the exploration of changes in one’s life.

9. What should I do if I don’t feel better?

Be open and honest with your therapist about how you feel and what you think about treatment. A different approach may be needed or other issues need to be addressed in order to make progress or for the client to feel better. It’s important to find a “right fit” for you regarding treatment. You may need to interview, meet with, or contact multiple professionals before you find the right one to meet your needs. Your therapist should be able to put aside their personal issues and do what’s in the client’s best interest, as well as what’s considered to be “best practice” in the field.

10. How much will treatment cost?

The cost of treatment depends on the agreement between the clinician and your insurance company. A sliding fee scale is available for those without insurance. No-show fees are assessed if a client demonstrates a consistent pattern of behavior in not attending therapy sessions.

Brett Gilleo