Fast Exit

December 5, 2023 Dec 05, 2023 5 min read

Tools for Survivors: Essential Questions to Ask a New Therapist

The following list of questions is designed to help you assess whether a therapist is right for you as a sexual trauma survivor. These questions are best asked during a consultation call or initial meeting. You can add your own questions to the list as you see fit.

"How long have you been practicing?"

Although most therapists list their credentials online, it may not be clear how long someone has been working as a therapist. As a sexual trauma survivor, aim to work with a provider who has at least a few years of experience under their belt, as sexual trauma is a complex circumstance that impacts many areas of mental, emotional, and physical health.

"What experience do you have working with sexual trauma survivors?"

This is an extremely important question to ask any potential therapist. While the therapist you’re interviewing may have training in certain trauma-informed techniques, ensure they have concrete experience working with sexual trauma survivors in their practice. A mature and trustworthy therapist will be transparent about their experience or lack thereof in this area.

"What therapeutic modalities or techniques do you practice?"

All therapists are different, and many use a variety of therapeutic approaches. For example, some practice art therapy, dance/movement therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) therapy, and more. Do some research into these different modalities if you need to, and choose a therapist whose approaches, techniques, and philosophies appeal to you.

Let’s stay in touch

We’d like to be able to share more of our resources and support with you.

"How do you approach a therapy session?"

Try to get an idea of how your therapist plans to approach their sessions with you. For example, some therapists ask lots of questions, while others orient more toward active listening and observation. Other therapists incorporate grounding exercises, guided visualizations, and creative activities, which will appeal to some clients more than others. By asking this question upfront, you can determine whether your potential therapist’s approach is compatible with your preferences and expectations.

"What is your approach to creating a safe and supportive therapy environment for survivors of abuse?"

While many therapists are trained to work with trauma survivors, some are more prepared to provide safe and supportive environments than others. Asking about a therapist’s approach to creating safe environments can provide insight into how prepared they are to do this. Find someone who can provide you with an environment in which you feel safe and supported during your healing process.

"When clients experience emotional triggers during therapy sessions, how do you navigate this?"

Because triggers are bound to come up as you work with your therapist, it’s important to understand ahead of time how your therapist plans to approach these situations. Opening up this conversation is also a great way to let a new therapist know how you prefer to be approached when you’re triggered. Ideally, a therapist will want to hear from you about the strategies that have worked or not worked well for you in the past. If so, come up with a plan together for how to navigate triggers when they arise in session.

"How do you handle crises or emergencies outside of scheduled sessions?"

While you and your therapist may plan to meet once a week, it’s important to understand how or if you’re able to contact your therapist outside of these sessions. If you find yourself in a mental health crisis situation and you want to reach out to your therapist, you’ll want to know ahead of time whether this is an option and how you can reach them. While some therapists are open to receiving calls, texts, or emails from clients at any time, others may have different limitations or boundaries. Find a therapist whose emergency availability works for you and your needs.

"How will we measure progress in therapy, and what are the expected outcomes?"

When it comes to mapping progress and outcomes, each therapist will have a different approach. While some therapists provide an open-ended approach without defined goals or progress markers, others provide more structure. Some therapists may even establish a timeline for their work with you. For example, some trauma therapists work with individual clients for just three to six months, with the expectation that the client will have progressed significantly during that time. Other therapists work with clients on an ongoing basis depending on client needs.


Find out ahead of time how your potential therapist plans to measure progress and what you can expect to gain from working with them.

"What are your beliefs and practices regarding confidentiality?"

While one would hope that all therapists practice strict boundaries around client confidentiality, it’s always important to clarify. This is especially true if you plan to work with a trauma-informed coach or life coach as opposed to someone with a degree in medicine, psychiatry, or social work. Coaches are typically not bound to the same confidentiality laws as mental health care providers, so you may need to request a separate confidentiality contract prior to working with them.

"Do you have plans to move or transition your career in the near future?"

When establishing a relationship with a new therapist, find out how long you can expect the relationship to last. If your potential therapist suspects they might move their practice out of the area or transition their career in a new direction sometime within the next 1-2 years, you may want to consider establishing a relationship with a provider who can offer more longevity.

"What is your payment and cancellation policy?"

On a practical note, use this question to establish a clear understanding of your therapist’s rates and cancellation policy before committing. This consideration is particularly important for clients who are paying out of pocket. Be sure to choose a therapist who’s rates and policies work with your budget.

For more tools and information on this topic, check out “How to Find a Trauma Therapist” and the “What to Look for in a Trauma Therapist” checklist.

Start your 14 day free trial today

We’d like to be able to share more of our resources and support with you.

Get started

Read more like this