The Phone Consultation

This is part 8 of a guidebook on how to find a therapist. Check out the introduction to get started.

When finding therapists, the main method of communication is phone. 99% of the time, you will go straight to voicemail. Don’t get demotivated by this, it’s standard. Leave a short voicemail - say your name, that you’re looking for a therapist, and your number.

Also, try to reach out to each therapist in as many ways as possible. On Psychology Today, you can send a message, so you should do that. Also, you’ll often find a link to a personal website.

Go there and either submit a form or find their email address and send them an email.

Therapists may take up to a week to return your call. Often, they’ll return your calls in the evening. I’ve personally gotten calls as late as 8:30 PM, so be prepared. When they return calls, you may see no caller id - you should answer these calls.

A lot of therapists will also not return your calls, especially if you’re calling about insurance. They may also call you back just to let you know they aren’t taking new clients.

If they’re available, phone calls they return are free consultation calls. They’re between 10-20 minutes long - take your time. They’re for you to explain your situation, and for you and the therapist to see if you both are a good fit for each other. The therapist will expect you to talk about why you’re seeking therapy. What they’re not meant for is providing therapy then and there over the phone, so don’t get too in-depth into your issues. 

Questions To Ask

  • “What kind of clients and issues do you usually work with?” We recommend asking this question before telling the therapist about your situation. This is because if you talk about your situation first, some therapists may convincingly say they’re a good fit even if they’re not. If you ask the therapist about their work first, you get to see if they mention your issues.

  • “I’d love to know a bit about who you are as a person. Could you tell me a bit about yourself?” You can really connect with a therapist based on their experiences and perspectives, which will make the therapy a lot more effective. On the other hand, once you discover you don’t like who the therapist is as a person, the therapy will no longer be effective, and it’s good to know that beforehand instead of a few sessions in.

  • “What is your style of therapy?”

  • “Have you worked with people similar to me before? How many?” 

  • “What is your availability?”

  • “Do you offer a superbill?” If you want to use out-of-network coverage.

Payment

Finally, you have to talk about finances. The therapist may bring up finances, otherwise you should discuss it last. Like we said earlier, a lot of providers offer sliding scale - lower prices for people who can’t afford therapy. The therapist may mention a minimum price - for example, “I offer sliding scale down to $100 a session”. Others may dedicate a certain number of their appointments to sliding scale clients, but not mention it unless it’s brought up.

We recommend directly telling the therapist your budget regardless of what they say - for example “I can only afford $90 a session - does that work for you?” Obviously, you have no control over the therapist’s decision, and nothing you say will change that. But, some therapists may already be willing to work with you, even if they don’t mention sliding scale or your budget is below the minimum they mention. The only way to find out is to ask.

Scheduling The First Appointment

If everything goes well, the provider may try scheduling an appointment at the end of the call. Remember, talk to at least 3 people on the phone! Don’t schedule an appointment with the first person you talk to and end your search. It’s really important to be able to compare to other therapists.

If you know you want to see them in person, go ahead and schedule an appointment. If they might be a good fit, but you want to talk to more people first, you don’t have to schedule an appointment - you can say something like “thank you so much for your time - I’d like to think about it and I’ll reach out to you.”

Tip: ask the provider what the best way is to contact them - phone, email, or their website.

When deciding whether a therapist is a good fit, remember - go with your gut. Do you like the therapist?

For more information, you can read our article on how to have a phone consultation.

Summary

  • You will go to voicemail 99% of the time.
  • Reach out each therapist in as many ways as possible.
  • Expect to get calls within a week of calling, during the evening or night.
  • Therapists will do a free 10-20 minute consultation call to understand your situation and for both of you to see if you are a fit for each other.
  • Questions to ask:
    • What kind of clients and issues do you usually work with?
    • I’d love to know a bit about who you are as a person. Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
    • What is your style of therapy?
    • Have you worked with people similar to me before? How many?
    • What is your availability?
    • Do you offer a superbill?
  • Regardless of what the provider says, directly tell them your budget and ask whether it works for them.
  • Talk to at least 3 therapists on the phone!
  • Go with your gut. Did you like the therapist?

We Can Help

Neb can handle this entire process for you and find you the right therapist, free. If you’re interested, please check out our website.

Next: Starting Therapy

Click here to go to the next section.