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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Your First Contact with a Therapist: the Dos and Don'ts

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Once you find a therapist whom you'd like to see, your next task is to contact him or her. How do you do this? What do you say in your initial inquiry?

I hope that this blog makes your search for a therapist quicker and easier. As a therapist who receives a lot of inquiries, I will offer some dos and don'ts, from my point of view.

--These days most prospective clients make contact by email. And email inquiries are fine. But consider making contact by phone. You may hear some valuable information on their recorder: for instance, whether they are accepting new clients at this time. Calling will also render a more personal touch and make you more credible.

--What do I mean by credible? Therapists, just like non-therapists, can get some bogus inquiries, even some spam and phishing. So make sure to provide enough information that your inquiry looks legit.

For instance, I often get emails that just say, "Are you accepting new clients?" Sometimes there isn't even a name attached to this. I'm guessing that most therapists, like me, would like more information in the first contact.

So when you email or call a therapist, let them know a bit about you: for instance, your name, how you found the therapist, and something about why you are seeking help. If you received a referral from a person or an organization, it would be useful to mention this.

--Make sure to also let the therapist know your availability for a regular time slot. Your time and the therapist's schedule need to line up.

If you have a very flexible life and can come at any time, let the therapist know this. But most people have time restrictions. Perhaps you work 8 to 5 or have to pick children up after school. Make sure to let the therapist know when you are seeking a regular appointment time, Monday through Friday. (Most therapists do not work weekends.)

-It's also important to let the therapist know your payment situation. If you need a sliding scale, let him or her know this in your initial contact.

If you want to use a third party payer (for instance, your health insurance or an Employee Assistance Program), let the therapist know right away. The therapist may not be accepting your insurance at this time. Perhaps he or she got off the panel; or the therapist may be too overextended to take any more insurance.

The more information about payment the better -- and as soon as possible. I've heard of clients showing up at a therapist's office without clarifying payment -- only to find that the therapist doesn't accept their insurance. Rather than spin your wheels (or end up with a big bill) clarify your payment situation in the first contact. And do so in as much detail as possible. For instance, a therapist may be on the panel for group health insurance through your insurance plan but not Medi-cal.

--If you have any particular clinical needs, let the therapist know right away. Most therapists are trained in working with common issues, such as mild depression, anxiety, work and relationship stress, grief and loss. But if your issue is outside the routine box, let the therapist know this. They might work with the issue; but they may not.

I hope that this information will help you have a more satisfying experience looking for a therapist. Good luck!

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