As you set out to find a therapist, it is totally natural to have lots of questions. Here are a few commonly asked questions.

What should I look for in a therapist?
Above any other criteria, you want to find a therapist with whom you feel safe and comfortable. You will need to be able to talk openly with this person, to confide in them your thoughts and fears, and to trust that the guidance they give you is sound. You may also want to take into consideration factors like a therapist's gender, age, religion, language and cultural background. If you find a potential therapist to be difficult to get a hold of or evasive about answering questions, take that as a sign of future challenges and look elsewhere for help.

What qualifications should I be looking for in a potential therapist?
No matter which type you decide on, be sure a therapist has the proper training, credentials, and experience to treat your specific anxiety disorder. Also take note if a therapist specializes in a particular age group (i.e., child psychologist, geriatric psychiatrist) or life situation that might be appropriate to your needs.

How should I start searching for a therapist?
You could start off by asking your family doctor or your child's pediatrician to refer you to a mental health specialist. Or you can do your own research, asking friends for recommendations or looking up therapist reviews online. Call for an appointment of introduction at which you can ask questions and get a feel for the therapist's personality and therapy style.

Online resources that can be useful for searching for licensed psychologists include:

How do I prepare for my first appointment?
Consider the first appointment with a potential therapist a fact-finding mission. You will need to be prepared to both answer and ask many questions. You may be asked to list and explain your symptoms and to give a detailed medical history, including medications taken, allergies, and illnesses. And you need to ask the therapist questions to help you to decide if this is the therapist for you.

What questions should I ask a therapist?
Whether you are choosing a therapist for yourself or for a family member, there is a common set of questions to ask and points to consider:

  • Have you ever treated this particular anxiety disorder?
  • What training and experience do you have that make you qualified to treat anxiety disorders? Ask about a therapist's credentials and educational background. A psychologist is a person who possesses specific academic credentials and is licensed to practice.
  • What is your approach to treatment and therapy? Do you base your work on proven therapies?
  • Do you specialize in treating people from specific age groups?
  • Do you involve family members in treatment sessions?
  • What can I expect from a typical treatment session?
  • What sorts of techniques will you use to conduct therapy?
  • What would be the expected frequency and duration of treatment sessions?
  • How will we measure success and evaluate if treatment is working?
  • Do you prescribe medication if necessary?
  • How much will treatment cost and can I bill services to my health insurance?
  • (If a person suffers from more than one disorder, e.g. two different anxiety disorders or anxiety and depression) What is your approach to dealing with comorbidity? How do you determine which to treat first, or do you treat them at the same time?

If you are seeking a therapist for a child, ask about collaboration with the child's teachers and doctors. And if a therapist uses terms you do not understand, ask clarifying follow-up questions.

Your search for a therapist to treat your anxiety disorder may lead to a variety of mental health care specialists, including clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and clinical social workers. Learn more about the distinctions between these mental health care professionals.