7 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Phone Consultation (2023)

The importance of chemistry and rapport between therapist and therapy-goer is undeniable.

However, as you may experience in the dating world or with friendships, chemistry can be hard to pin down. If someone looks perfect on paper, you just may not feel that “click.” On the other side, someone may seem a little different than your “type” on paper, but you may find you connect more than you would’ve expected.

To help ease the process of your connecting with a therapist you trust, at My Wellbeing, we work with therapists who offer free phone consultations before your first in-person appointment. This gives you an opportunity to gut-check your fit before investing time, energy, and money into your first appointment.

Though the phone call is a free and low-risk way to gauge your fit, getting on the phone can still feel overwhelming or anxiety-provoking.

You may be wondering things like “How will I know if this person is the right fit?” or “What do I say? How do I start?” You may simply hate talking on the phone.

Today, let’s start with the phone consultation. Below are 7 tips to make the most of your phone consultation. My hope is this helps take the edge off, and helps make that next step toward healing that much easier.

Take the leap

Phone aversion plagues many of us. Seriously.

I encourage you to consider this phone consultation to be like diving off a diving board into the pool. For many of us, you stand there for a minute fearing the cold of the water, fearing the form of your dive or cannon ball, wondering if maybe you should just not swim today, feeling as though the anxiety in your chest is going to explode so you better back away.

I encourage you not to back away, but to dive in, metaphorically. The anxiety of the phone call is real, but you can handle it, and it is worth it. Ironically, the support you will receive on the other side will help. Like the relief you usually find in the pool (if you enjoy swimming in the pool), once the rush of the cold subsides.

It may be helpful to remember: This phone call is generally only 15 minutes and will help you so much to gauge your fit with your therapist. Moreover, we have found that once you are able to connect with a real human on the other side, you already start feeling better.

The worst that can happen? You get on the phone and you hate it. The person is not a good fit for you. However, all you’ve lost is 15 minutes. We are here to help; please email your My Wellbeing guide or [emailprotected] and we will help you find a new and better fit.

The best that can happen? You do feel a strong fit. You begin to feel relieved, and you begin to look forward to your first in-person appointment and new therapy relationship.

Things to consider before your call

Therapy is a time and space for you, and you can use it however you wish.

This may sound unusual to specify, but sometimes, we are inclined to want to accommodate the therapist, the “other,” or to do what’s “normal” or “right.” Believe me, I hear you!

One of the things you will learn in therapy is that there often isn’t a “normal” or “right,” and the muscle you will be flexing is learning more about what is right for you at any given time, and how to express that need.

Assert your needs and put language to your thoughts and feelings

If you struggle with this, you are not alone. This is something we are generally not taught to do in other contexts and we need to learn it. This is part of the work.

To begin to get there, if you have a thought surface and you’re wondering “Should I ask that?” the answer is almost always yes. Of course, the same foundational rules of respect and common decency apply in therapy as they apply elsewhere.

What are your hopes and fears for therapy?

It’s okay if you don’t entirely know. However, this can be a good place to start your conversation with your therapist, and to see how they respond. You may learn more than you think.

Do you want to primarily have a safe space where you lead and unpack what’s on your mind, or do you want the therapist to take a lead?

It’s also okay if you don’t entirely know this answer to this. Many therapists can be flexible to meet you where you are, and you can work together to put language to your needs over time.

If you do have an idea, it’s important to express your needs.

What fee can you invest in therapy?

Therapists generally have a full fee, and can often accommodate a sliding scale fee.

To find a fee that is fair to both sides, therapists will often ask you what you can afford and encourage you to take the lead in the fee conversation. I encourage you to be honest.

Therapy is the type of engagement that you will get out what you put in. The therapist is a trained professional there to help you grow. Honor their fee as much as you can, and honor your needs as much as you can.

Try to avoid asking for the lowest fee possible just because “cheaper is better,” and try to avoid paying so much that you’re at risk of not paying rent. The work begins here: authenticity, honesty, and balance are key.

Discomfort does not mean don’t do it

Through therapy, you are putting yourself out there. This can be uncomfortable at first.

Discomfort does not mean you should not do it, or that you are experiencing a “bad fit.”

As you may find in work, in romantic relationships, or in friendships, a degree of challenge and discomfort is necessary to grow. The discomfort will also ease over time, particularly with the right therapist to guide you and grow with you along the way.

Have patience

It is possible you meet with a strong match for you on your first phone consult. Many therapy-goers we work with do. However, it’s also possible the fit doesn’t feel right for one reason or another. This does not necessarily mean that therapy is not right for you.

Therapy really does look different therapist to therapist. I encourage you to try again.

You can even set a frame in your mind before you begin. Commit to trying up to 3 or up to 5 phone calls. It may feel like a big time investment up front, but it can be really life changing for you and your growth.

Questions you may want to ask

What might an average session look like?

Most therapists will tell you that there is a lot of variability here.

Generally, there is no cookie cutter answer to this question. However, if having clearer expectations will ease your anxiety, it’s important to ask.

How active are you in the therapy? Do you expect me to primarily lead or do you guide me?

Similar to the above, there generally is no cookie cutter answer here. However, some therapists are going to be more active than others. No matter their approach, hearing their explanation will help give you an idea of if you’d like to move forward together.

What is your training?

If you are familiar with the psychotherapy world, or someone’s training is important to you, of course, ask! The therapist will be happy to share.

Have you ever worked with someone who…

If you are hoping to work through a particular obstacle or issue area, feel free to ask the therapist if they have worked with that issue area before. They will be able to share with you their experience.

Even if the therapist has not worked through your specific issue area before, they may still be a good fit. Remember: chemistry goes a long way. Hearing their response to your inquiry will likely inform your reaction to working together.

Things you may want to share

Why are you interested in beginning therapy?

This will help the therapist frame how to best meet you where you are and help you get the most out of your work together.

Have you been to therapy before? If so, how was your previous therapy experience? Anything that you really liked or that really didn’t resonate with you?

You can learn a lot from the past. Your therapist will be open to helping continue things that really resonated with you, and overcoming or correcting things that really didn’t.

Is there anything you’re hoping to work on?

As always, it’s absolutely okay if you don’t know yet.

If you do, the phone consultation is a great opportunity to share with the therapist and learn more about their experience with that issue area.

If you don’t know yet, let the therapist know, and they will share with you their approach to learning more and finding out.

Talking about logistics

Toward the end of your call, learning more about the logistics of the work is generally anxiety relieving for many people.

You can ask questions like:

  • What is your fee?
  • Do you offer a sliding scale?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you partner with any other professionals like psychiatrists or nutritionists?
  • How do you accept payments and when? Do you take Venmo, bank payments, cash, or check?
  • What do our interactions look like between sessions? Can I text you, or email you?

If the fit feels strong, and your make-or-break logistics are accounted for, you can also discuss any of the above with your therapist at any time, particularly during your first in-person appointment.

Gauging your fit

My main mantra always: There is no absolute “right” or “wrong.”

Have patience with yourself. The call is only 15-minutes, so it’s really meant as a primary gut-check. You will learn more about your fit over time, and you have the freedom to make a new decision any time. You are not trapped into what you choose today.

During the call, tune in to your gut and ask yourself things like:

  • Do you feel as though the therapist is listening to you?
  • Are you curious to meet with the therapist in-person to get a better understanding of your fit and the work together?
  • Do you feel as though there is potential for your trust and therapeutic bond to grow?

Schedule your next appointment

If the gut-check answers “check out,” I encourage you to schedule your first in-person. Meeting with your therapist in-person will give you a sense of what it’s like to begin working with your therapist. It will give you a deeper opportunity to gut-check.

Similar to the above, check in with yourself. You can ask again:

  • Do you feel as though the therapist is listening to you?
  • Are you curious to meet with the therapist in-person to get a better understanding of your fit and the work together?
  • Do you feel as though there is potential for your trust and therapeutic bond to grow?

Throughout this process, you do need to have a little bit of faith. Like any relationship, the therapeutic relationship takes a little bit of time to grow and deepen.

You will get a sense of your comfort level and your potential with your therapist through this phone consultation and your first appointment, but the goal here is really not to be “fixed” immediately. Therapy, and healing, can take time. You deserve to give yourself that time and space regularly.

If the unknown and undefined time ranges make you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. If this is you, I recommend giving yourself an experiment time frame. Give yourself 6 months. If within 6 months, you do not feel marginally different, or have not learned a handful of realizations about yourself, your thought or behavior patterns, or your hopes and fears, you may want to reconsider your therapist match or therapy technique.

Until then, some good rules of thumb are:

  • Be open to the potential for change and viewing things in a new light. You have done things a certain way for a long time for likely very good reasons. However, these reasons may not be serving you any more. Be open to the idea that there may be a better way. Hey, it’s worth trying. You can always go back to your way if you hate it.
  • Be curious about your thought and behavior patterns. You may be surprised how much you learn if you are open to digging a little bit. Be the observer, take note of what you see, hear, and feel.
  • Be honest and authentic with your therapist. As you begin to feel safe and build trust, the more you put in and the more you share, the more you’ll get out.
    A note here: Do not feel pressure to share before you’re ready. As mentioned above, therapy is your space for you. You can use it in any way you need, and you may need more time, particularly if something is very raw or very traumatic for you.
  • As best you can, communicate your needs. If you are thinking something could be better or worse, share with your therapist. This, too, may take time, but it will ultimately help your therapy become what you need, and it will have a ripple effect on helping your relationships in the rest of your life become stronger and more open, as well.

Thank you and keep in touch

I hope the above suggestions help you in your phone consultations and beginning stages with your therapist.

If you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions based on things that have worked especially well for you, or things that did not work well, we’d love to hear from you. Reach our team any time at [emailprotected]

As always, if you’re ready to get started with your therapist match, share your preferences here to receive your match, right to your inbox.


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