Introductory Questions Therapists Commonly Ask (2022)

Prepping for therapy? While every therapist has their own approach, there are common questions you may be asked at your first appointment.

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So, you made your first therapy appointment. It might be your first therapy session ever, or you’re just switching to a new therapist.

Either way, going to a therapist for the first time can feel overwhelming to some. You might go back and forth on whether to even go. Many schedule, cancel, and reschedule that first appointment.

Not knowing what to expect can make you even more reluctant to keep your appointment. It’s OK to be nervous. It’s natural to feel this way when meeting someone for the first time — even a therapist.

To ease those first-appointment jitters, we share the most common questions a therapist may ask during that initial meeting.

Before your first appointment, you might be asked to complete a written or online form. You can choose to answer the questions on this form, or decline to answer them at that time.

The first appointment is usually called an intake session. During an intake session, the therapist will introduce themselves and review the online form and any other intake forms with you.

One of those forms is an Informed Consent — a document you sign agreeing to enter into therapy. This document also typically includes:

  • your therapist’s information — name, credentials, and license number
  • policies, including a cancellation and no show policy
  • fees
  • limits of confidentiality
  • patient rights
  • risks and benefits

You may also be given additional questionnaires, depending on your needs and symptoms.

The questionnaire may include questions about your medical and mental health history and your family history. Try to be as open and honest as possible, as this will help your therapist tailor your treatment in a way that’s most beneficial for you.

(Video) How to Prepare for Your First Therapy Session

During your first appointment, you’ll be asked a number of questions. These will help the therapist understand your background, along with your present and future goals.

Questions may vary based on the type of therapy and type of therapist you’re seeing.

Why are you seeking therapy at this time?

People go to therapy for a variety of reasons. You’ll be asked to explain why you’re seeking therapy to give the therapist an idea of your goals.

This also allows your therapist to find appropriate referrals if they’re not well-trained in your specific issues, or allows them to consult with other therapists or professionals with knowledge in that area.

What do you expect from therapy?

There’s a common misconception about the role of therapists. Therapists aren’t there to give you advice and tell you how to feel or behave. You can get that type of advice talking with friends or family.

Therapists are there to help you become more self-aware, meet your goals, and reflect on the best choices for you.

They’re also trained to help you determine if your symptoms are caused by a mental health condition, and they can recommend treatment, if needed.

Have you been in therapy before? What was that experience like?

This question can help your therapist understand what you expect from therapy. It will also tell them if you’ve had a bad experience before so they can figure out if something heightens your symptoms.

Some people who go to therapy want tangible coping skills, while others might just be looking for a safe place with someone to listen and support them.

Whatever your reasons for seeking therapy, you don’t have to feel ashamed.

Are you having suicidal thoughts right now, or have you had suicidal thoughts within the past month?

There are only a few exceptions to confidentiality in therapy, and harm to yourself or others is one of those exceptions.

(Video) 10 Therapy Questions to Get to the Root of the Problem

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, being honest about them is the best way to get help. The therapist will work with you on a safety plan and try to find out if additional measures are needed.

Are you having homicidal thoughts, or have you had homicidal thoughts in the past month?

This is another exception to the confidentiality rule that a therapist might ask to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.

Remember that the therapist has a legal duty to warn and protect individuals if there’s a threat of harm.

Do you have supportive people in your life? If so, who?

Therapists ask this question because support systems increase positive mental health and well-being.

In fact, research suggests that having supportive people in your life is also linked with a lower chance of suicide and a quicker recovery.

How is your relationship with your family?

This allows therapists to learn a lot of information about you and your background. It can clue them in to whether you have healthy relationships with those in your life.

This question may unearth painful memories or trauma. But you don’t have to address these issues if you don’t want to do so at this time.

How do you cope with stress?

The way you handle stress will help your therapist determine treatment and coping strategies that might work for you.

If you’re having trouble coping, providing you with skills and strategies to try may be a part of your treatment plan. If you have good coping methods, they may encourage and advise you how to use these skills during times of distress.

What are some of your strengths?

If you’re open about your strengths, your therapist can help you learn to use your strengths when things feel overwhelming.

What are the goals you want to accomplish in therapy?

You may be bringing a lot to the therapy session regarding goals and what you want to work on.

This question helps you focus on what’s truly important and allows the therapist to create a plan of treatment based on your response.

Types of therapists

(Video) Ask a Therapist: Answers to most common questions

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), there are many types of mental health professionals who can provide therapy, including:

Counselors, clinicians, and therapists

These professionals have attained a master’s in therapy or a related field such as psychology, marriage or family therapy, or counseling psychology. These pros are trained to use therapeutic techniques and assess a person’s mental health.

Common licenses in this group include:

  • licensed professional counselor (LPC)
  • licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT)
  • licensed clinical alcohol and drug abuse counselor

Social worker

Social workers are very similar to LPCs, as they also have precise training in assessing and treating a person’s mental health. In addition, they hold a master’s degree in social work.

Common licenses and certifications in this group are:

  • licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • licensed independent social worker (LICSW)
  • certified social worker (ACSW)


These professionals hold a doctorate degree in psychology (PsyD), philosophy (PhD), or another type of specialty such as counseling. Psychologists usually have longer and more supervised training programs than professionals who hold a master’s degree.

While they can provide therapy, they’re also trained to do assessments and psychological testing.


Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who have studied psychiatric conditions and completed psychiatric training. They can provide therapy, prescribe and monitor medications, and diagnose mental health conditions.

Psychiatrists typically hold one of these doctoral degrees:

  • doctor of medicine (MD)
  • doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)

Psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners

These professionals hold either a master of science (MS) or a doctorate degree (PhD) in nursing, focusing on psychiatry. Together with other mental health professionals, they help monitor your condition and track your progress.

They can consult with you on medications and help determine which medication is best to help manage your symptoms. Practitioners might also provide physical and psychiatric assessments, emergency care, and evaluate treatment.

Though they can be helpful with medications and monitoring your progress, they’re not typically the first choice for psychotherapy.

Your first session can be exhausting. Sharing your emotions and bringing up painful memories and feelings can be emotionally draining.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and tired.

But don’t give up! You’ve started the work — and that’s the first step to finding some relief and improving your well-being.

After that first session, consider how you and the therapist relate to each other. If it’s not a good fit, that’s OK. Finding a good therapist that best fits you and your needs might take some time.

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Now that you know the types of questions to expect, it might ease some of your worries and make you feel more relaxed and confident as you prepare for your first appointment.

Remember that just because a therapist asks a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.

Ultimately, the answers to these questions are helpful, but you can also let the therapist know when you’re not comfortable sharing certain information.

It’s OK to hit pause on certain issues or put it to the side for now. The key is to find a therapist and build a safe space where difficult or painful issues can unfold naturally and at your pace.


What does therapist talk about in first session? ›

Your first session is a chance for you to make sure you feel comfortable with your therapist, and for them to check they have the skills and expertise to support you. It will include introductions, contracting and a chance for you to tell your story and explain the problems you're experiencing.

What are examples of open ended questions in counseling? ›

But open-ended questions are not only a useful tool in therapy, they are also a good way to start conversations in day-to-day life.
  • What's on your mind?
  • Why did you choose this field?
  • Tell me about your family.
  • What was it like living there?

What are gestalt questions? ›

To help the client gain self-awareness, Gestalt therapists ask questions like “What is happening now?” or “What are you experiencing as you sit there and talk to me?” or “How are you experiencing your anxiety?” (Corey, 2009, p. 202).

What are the most thought provoking questions? ›

365 Deep & Thought Provoking Questions to Ask Yourself (& Others)
  • When was the last time you tried something new? ...
  • Who do you sometimes compare yourself to? ...
  • What's the most sensible thing you've ever heard someone say? ...
  • What gets you excited about life? ...
  • What life lesson did you learn the hard way?

What questions do therapists ask about depression? ›

10 Questions Your Therapist Wants You to Ask About MDD Treatment
  • Why do I feel depressed? ...
  • What do I do in case of emergency? ...
  • What is therapy exactly? ...
  • Should I be in psychotherapy or counseling? ...
  • What type of therapy do you do? ...
  • Can you contact my physician? ...
  • Is depression hereditary?

How do therapists start a session? ›

At the beginning of a session, the therapist typically invites you to share what's been going on in your life, what's on your mind, what's bothering you, or whether there are any goals you'd like to discuss. You'll be invited to speak openly.

How do I prepare for a therapy consultation? ›

As your first appointment nears, here are some ways to mentally and physically prepare yourself:
  1. Set Goals. ...
  2. Have Realistic Expectations. ...
  3. Give Yourself Credit. ...
  4. Schedule Your First Session at a Convenient Time. ...
  5. Reserve Time for Yourself Before the Session. ...
  6. Dress for Comfort. ...
  7. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions. ...
  8. Be Open and Honest.
1 Jul 2020

What is Topdog Underdog technique? ›

underdog is a phrase coined by Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt therapy, to describe a self-torture game that people play with themselves in order to avoid the anxiety that they encounter in their environment.

What is empty chair technique? ›

You sit facing an empty chair. In the chair, you picture a person with whom you are experiencing conflict. Or, you may picture a part of yourself. Then, you speak to the empty chair. You explain your feelings, thoughts, and understanding of the situation.

What is the here and now technique? ›

When the here-and-now approach is used in psychotherapy, the emphasis is placed on understanding present feelings and interpersonal reactions as they occur in an ongoing treatment session, with little or no emphasis on or exploration of past experience or underlying reasons for the client's thoughts, emotions, or ...

What are probing questions in counselling? ›

Probing questions are designed to encourage deep thought about a specific topic. They are typically open-ended questions, meaning the answers are primarily subjective.

What are some good mental health questions? ›

52 Important Mental Health Questions To Ask Yourself As 2020 Draws To A Close
  • What were the best experiences you had this year?
  • When were you the most happy?
  • What people, situations or events caused you to feel sad or depressed?
  • What were the most important things you made happen this year?

What is a swing question in counseling? ›

Swing Questions – An Invitation For Deeper Client Responses (But Not With Oppositional Issues) Swing questions are essentially close-ended questions that use 'will', 'can', 'would', 'could', and 'should'. For example, “Would you be willing to do X?” Or, “Can you tell me a bit more about Y?”

What is the first therapy session called? ›

Over the years, I've learned that helping clients understand what is going to happen during their first appointment (often called the “intake session”) can be greatly helpful in putting them at ease and starting our relationship off on a warm and welcoming note.

How long does the first therapy session last? ›

The First Appointment:

Appointments usually last 30-50 minutes. You and the therapist will use the first appointment or two getting to know each other and deciding if the therapist can help you. During your first meeting with a therapist, you can expect . . .

How do you start a Counselling session with a client? ›

These six tips will help you begin to understand the value of the client and counselor bond so that you can implement them in your own practices.
  1. Make Sure the Focus is on the Client. ...
  2. Walk the Line between Pushy and Coddling. ...
  3. Stay Confidential. ...
  4. Ask for Clarification. ...
  5. Practice Your Questions. ...
  6. Structure the Session.

What are some stimulating questions? ›

  • Which teacher had the biggest influence on your life?
  • What's the most spontaneous thing you've ever done?
  • If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
  • What was your favorite toy or game growing up?
  • What's the craziest event you've ever witnessed?
  • What's the worst job you've ever had?
23 Jul 2014

What are the best open ended questions? ›

Generally, questions that start with “what” are good, non-biased open-ended questions. For example “What did you think of today's workshop?” or “What would you like to learn more about?” allow the respondent to answer without being influenced by the person asking the question.

What questions should a counselor ask a client? ›

Questions may vary based on the type of therapy and type of therapist you're seeing.
  • Why are you seeking therapy at this time? ...
  • What do you expect from therapy? ...
  • Have you been in therapy before? ...
  • Are you having suicidal thoughts right now, or have you had suicidal thoughts within the past month?

What kind of questions do psychiatrists ask? ›

Be prepared for the psychiatrist to ask you questions

“So, what brings you in today?” “Tell me what you're here for.” “How're you doing?” “How can I help you?”

Can I ask my therapist what he thinks of me? ›

7. Can I ask My Therapist What He Thinks of Me? Yes, you can, and yes you should. This is a reasonable question to ask a therapist.

What do you say to clients on first therapy session? ›

In my teletherapy sessions with first-time clients, I'll greet them by name, introduce myself, and tell them it's great to see them. I'll also ask where they are and if anyone else is in the room with them, just to ensure their privacy.

How do you make a client feel comfortable in Counselling? ›

Some strategies that may help include:
  1. Help the client feel more welcome. ...
  2. Know that relationships take time. ...
  3. Never judge the client. ...
  4. Manage your own emotions. ...
  5. Talk about what the client wants from therapy. ...
  6. Ask more or different questions. ...
  7. Don't make the client feel rejected. ...
  8. Refer to another therapist.
1 Oct 2019

What do you talk about during therapy? ›

  • “Small” issues. It's easy to feel like you need to talk about “deep” or “serious” issues in therapy But remember, there's no “correct” topic to discuss in therapy. ...
  • Patterns and behaviors. ...
  • Present feelings. ...
  • Rumination. ...
  • Relationships. ...
  • Past traumas. ...
  • New life challenges. ...
  • Avoided thoughts and conflicts.
24 Nov 2020

What is a sliding scale for therapy? ›

To make therapy affordable for everyone, regardless of ability to pay, we operate a sliding scale of fees. This means that people on higher incomes are asked to pay higher but realistic fees so that we can cover the costs of our clinical work with people on low incomes.

How can I be honest with my therapist? ›

Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, says the following tips will help you to feel more comfortable during your sessions:
  1. 1) Make a list of talking points. ...
  2. 2) Share your concerns. ...
  3. 3) Tell them if you need help opening up. ...
  4. 4) Challenge yourself.
13 Apr 2018

Is it normal to be nervous for therapy? ›

It is completely normal to be nervous or anxious before attending a therapy session, especially your first one. Many people do not know quite what to expect from their first session and feel some ambivalence or apprehension about beginning the process of counseling.

What is playing the projection in Gestalt therapy? ›

(3) Playing the projection; A patient looks around the room and picks an ob- ject that stands out vividly for him. He then identifies with his object, i.e., making statements as if he were the object; describing it by saying "I" instead of "it". Interesting knowledge occurs when using this technique (Enright, 1971).

What is making the rounds in Gestalt therapy? ›

Making the Rounds: This technique, often used in group counseling, involves expressing an emotion or feeling to each person in the group. The student becomes more aware of internal emotions and feelings through verbal expression.

What is Top Dog vs Underdog? ›

Underdogs are expected to lose the contest or struggle, as in sports or politics, and are at a disadvantage. The opposite of the underdog is the top dog, who is the favorite or the one expected to win in a competition.

What are some gestalt techniques? ›

The empty chair technique and the exaggeration exercise are two of many gestalt therapy techniques used to help people in therapy increase their awareness of immediate experiences.

What is the two-chair technique? ›

In two-chair exercises, the individual is asked to move between chairs representing different perspectives or parts of the self. For example, two chairs may be used to represent the part of the self that wants to change a behaviour and the part that does not, or one's 'rational' versus 'emotional' side.

What is an example of gestalt therapy? ›

For example, rather than saying, "If he didn't do that I wouldn't get so mad!" a client might be encouraged to say, "I feel mad when he does that because it makes me feel insignificant and I don't like that." The use of "I" statements is important in gestalt therapy.

What is process illumination? ›

Process illumination occurs when group members are able to examine themselves in the here and now, study the transactions in the group, and then transcend the pure here-and-now focus to integrate that ex- perience into learning outside of the group (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005).

What are the principles of gestalt therapy? ›

Our brains are built to see structure and patterns in order for us to better understand the environment that we're living in. There are six individual principles commonly associated with gestalt theory: similarity, continuation, closure, proximity, figure/ground, and symmetry & order (also called prägnanz).

Why is gestalt therapy effective? ›


Thus, Gestalt therapy sessions focus on helping people learn to become more self-aware and to accept and trust in their feelings and experiences to alleviate their distress. During therapy, there may be some experiential exercises which are used to help increase awareness of the client.

What questions are asked in a mental health assessment? ›

7 Group questions
  • How do you feel about the story you just heard? ...
  • What were your thoughts regarding the signs and symptoms of this mental health issue? ...
  • How would you react if you noticed these in someone you care about?
  • How might taking action benefit you and the person you care about?
7 Feb 2020

What kind of questions do psychiatrists ask? ›

Be prepared for the psychiatrist to ask you questions

“So, what brings you in today?” “Tell me what you're here for.” “How're you doing?” “How can I help you?”

What questions should I ask about mental health? ›

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is mental health? ...
  • What do I do if the support doesn't help? ...
  • Can you prevent mental health problems? ...
  • Are there cures for mental health problems? ...
  • What causes mental health problems? ...
  • What do I do if I'm worried about my mental health? ...
  • How do I know if I'm unwell?

What questions should I ask my therapist about anxiety? ›

Questions to ask a prospective anxiety therapist
  • Question number one – What is their treatment philosophy & are they are generalist or a specialist? ...
  • Question number two- What type of anxiety disorders do they specialize in treating? ...
  • Question number 3-Number for what treatment modalities do you utilize.
18 Dec 2020

What is a full psychological evaluation? ›

Comprehensive psychological evaluations assess the client's functioning in areas associated with learning, behavior, social skills, mood and anxiety, and cognitive processing. These evaluations typically take 4-6 hours of the client's time across two sessions.

What are the 5 signs of mental illness? ›

  • Feeling sad or down.
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate.
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt.
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows.
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities.
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping.
8 Jun 2019

What are the 7 disorders? ›

What Are the 7 types of Mental Disorders?
  • Anxiety Disorders.
  • Mood Disorders.
  • Psychotic Disorders.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Personality Disorders.
  • Dementia.
  • Autism.
6 Apr 2021

What do psychiatrists do for anxiety? ›

In addition to prescribing medications for people with anxiety, psychiatrists are also qualified to provide talk therapy and psychosocial interventions. Common psychotherapies associated with anxiety treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.

How do psychiatrists diagnose you? ›

Psychiatrists are medical doctors and can order or perform a variety of medical and/or psychological tests. These tests, combined with conversations about symptoms and medical and family history, allow psychiatrists to diagnose mental health conditions.

How do you ask for psychotic symptoms? ›

Tips for Talking about Psychosis
  1. ​​“You seem distracted. Can you describe what's going on in your mind right now?”​​ (or "when you're staring off," "pacing like that," etc.)
  2. "Can you help me understand what you're experiencing?"

What 3 questions can you ask about mental health? ›

7 Questions to Help People Talk About Their Mental Health
  • How have you been? ...
  • How's your stress level lately? ...
  • Have you been eating and sleeping? ...
  • Is there anything you want to talk about? ...
  • Would you be willing to talk to someone? ...
  • What can I do for you? ...
  • When is the best time to check in with you again?
22 Aug 2020

How do you manage your mental health introduction? ›

Here are some tips to help you get started with self-care:
  1. Get regular exercise. ...
  2. Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated. ...
  3. Make sleep a priority. ...
  4. Try a relaxing activity. ...
  5. Set goals and priorities. ...
  6. Practice gratitude. ...
  7. Focus on positivity. ...
  8. Stay connected.

How do you start a conversation with mental illness? ›

Start with an expression of care, followed by an observation. "I care about you and I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately. You seem more frustrated than you've been in a while, and I'm wondering how you're doing.” Normalize mental health by talking about it directly.

What are red flags in a therapist? ›

Red flags in therapy include violations of confidentiality, boundaries, and licensure, among others. Therapy can be ineffective when the therapist is unable to communicate or lacks the training to treat a patient's specific problem. Patients can raise concerns with their therapist directly.

What questions do therapists ask about depression? ›

10 Questions Your Therapist Wants You to Ask About MDD Treatment
  • Why do I feel depressed? ...
  • What do I do in case of emergency? ...
  • What is therapy exactly? ...
  • Should I be in psychotherapy or counseling? ...
  • What type of therapy do you do? ...
  • Can you contact my physician? ...
  • Is depression hereditary?

How do I prepare for a therapy consultation? ›

As your first appointment nears, here are some ways to mentally and physically prepare yourself:
  1. Set Goals. ...
  2. Have Realistic Expectations. ...
  3. Give Yourself Credit. ...
  4. Schedule Your First Session at a Convenient Time. ...
  5. Reserve Time for Yourself Before the Session. ...
  6. Dress for Comfort. ...
  7. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions. ...
  8. Be Open and Honest.
1 Jul 2020


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