8 Questions to Ask a Family Therapist in Washington DC
Families can find therapy useful when they experience any stressful event that creates tension, such as financial difficulty, divorce, or a loved one’s death. It can also help treat mental health concerns that impact the family, such as depression, substance abuse, chronic illness, food issues, or everyday situations, like communication problems, interpersonal conflict, or behavioral problems in children and adolescents. If this is your first time seeking help from a therapist for you or your family, you may not be sure where to start.
Here are Questions to Ask a Family Therapist in Washington DC to get a better feel for their background, training, and expertise:
Are you licensed?
Generally speaking, therapists are required to be licensed by the state they practice in. The following names may also know marriage and family therapists: MFT, marriage and family counselors; marriage, family and child counselors; couples counselors; couples therapists; and marital and family therapists.
This typically means that they’ve completed a master’s program, completed two years of supervised experience, and passed a licensing exam.
What’s your treatment orientation?
Orientation refers to the therapist’s approach, in which they utilize specific theories to understand and treat mental health conditions. Similar to education, the direction of a therapist varies.
Most family counseling forms borrow heavily from systems theory, though there are others based on psychological approaches such as experiential, cognitive-behavioral, and psychodynamic.
All family therapy approaches are intended to support families in improving communication, problem-solving, and coping skills to enhance their relationships with one another.
Regardless of their approach, the family therapist’s job is to facilitate conversations that act as catalysts to strengthen and improve existing connections between family members or loved ones.
Ideally, you want to make sure you’re both on the same page and view your challenges similarly.
Will the therapy be short-term or long-term?
Family therapy doesn’t always have to take a long time and typically ranges between 10-12 sessions.
Depending on the specific issues you and your family focus on will determine how many sessions you’ll need.
Asking them whether your treatment will be continuous or expected to end after a certain point could help you know what to expect in the long term.
What can I expect in family therapy?
Your therapist will take the time to get to know everyone in the room to get a good understanding of the issues.
Depending on your present circumstances, the focus can lie on:
- Expression of thoughts, feelings, behavior patterns
- Roles of family members
- Your family’s strengths and natural skills
- Homework or practice at home
- Setting goals
The family can pursue other types of adjunctive therapy treatment, especially if one member has a mental illness or addiction requiring individual therapy or rehabilitation treatment. After developing a treatment plan, therapists will typically ask various questions and guide conversations between one another throughout sessions.
Be sure to ask your therapist how they can help you and your family members communicate better, solve problems, and find new ways to work together.
Does everyone have to come to the session?
Depending on who you’re working with, they may have different suggestions and opinions. Generally speaking, it would be ideal if the whole family was involved, but this isn’t always possible.
Ask your therapist what your options are based on your family’s circumstances.
How much does each session cost?
Therapy can be expensive, so it’s essential to know how much each session will cost from the start.
If you’re using insurance, you may want to learn what your co-pay would be. Most insurance companies cover mental health services, but family therapy isn’t always considered.
Some therapists offer sliding scale fees for those who choose not to utilize insurance or have trouble affording the cost. A sliding scale is based on your income.
How are cancellations or missed appointments handled?
Learn what the standard procedure is for missed or canceled appointments. Some therapists require a sufficient advance for cancellations or have no-show fees.
Does the therapist have after-hours availability for crises?
Depending on your needs, some therapists will make arrangements with you to contact them after hours-or they’ll provide you with alternative resources in case of an emergency.
Finding the right therapist
Often the problems that families encounter before they initiate therapy have been going on for quite some time. As a result, you owe it to yourself and your family to not rush into finding the right family therapist. The first step in seeking therapy may be both the hardest and the most rewarding.
At Washington Psychological Wellness, our clinicians work with families and/or with a parent and a child to help them learn how to navigate transitions, communicate effectively, and develop an empathic, secure connection.