Cherry Blossoms

Client Rights 

It's important that you know your rights as you begin your search for a therapist and when you take part in therapy sessions. 

Studies show that beyond factors such as models used by a therapist, the most significant factor in ensuring a successful therapeutic process is a strong client-therapist relationship. When there is a sense of safety, trust, and compatibility, therapy sessions can be a source of positive growth and healing. 

 

One of the most uncomfortable experiences is being in a therapy session and feeling judged, blamed, or not seen/heard by your therapist. Some clients describe this as being a traumatic experience and a source of anxiety when making the decision to reach out to professionals for support. If you’re in a place where you’re feeling ready to begin counseling, it is especially important that you do your homework and are aware of your rights as a client both prior to starting counselling and during counselling sessions.

 

Step 1) Beginning the search for your therapist: 

It's important before you connect with a therapist, that you shop around and find a few who feel like a good fit for you. 

  • If you’ve had counselling in the past, draw from those experiences (good and bad) as a guide in helping you think about qualities you’d like in your next therapist.

  • Ask family and friends who have been to therapy what they liked most about their therapy experience. See if they have any therapist recommendations. 

  • Search online: a simple google search will provide information for therapists in your area. A common listing that therapists use is called Psychology Today. 

  • Whether you find a therapist online or get a recommendation, make sure you visit the therapist's website or online listing. Therapists usually write a short blurb introducing themselves and describing their therapeutic approach. Take a read over these and see if there are any that stand out to you in particular (ie. if their approach is in line with your values, their fees fit with your financial situation, etc). 

  • Narrow your list down to therapists who offer a consultation before the initial session. This is a short meeting over the phone which will give you an opportunity to ask questions and see if the therapist is a good fit. 

Step 2) Making the consultation call: 

After you've found 2-3 therapists that feel like a good fit, pick up the phone and give them a call. 

 

Questions you have the right to ask during a consultation call: 

  • Let the therapist know what your concerns are and ask if they are familiar with supporting clients with these concerns.

  • Ask the therapist what their approach to therapy is and see how this fits with what you want the therapy process to look like (ie. is the therapist more directive or collaborative, does the therapist use talk therapy, or more of a somatic (body-based) approach).

  • What does a typical therapy session look like? 

  • What are session fees and if needed, are reduced rates available?

 

Sometimes clients are afraid to ask more personal questions during the consultation. Remember though that asking these questions will help you to evaluate whether the therapist is a good fit for you. 

  • Has the therapist ever accessed counselling for themselves? 

  • What does the therapist enjoy about being a therapist?

  • What would the therapist say some of their strengths are? 

  • What topics are the therapist most passionate about and find most meaningful?

 
 
Step 3) Deciding on a therapist: 

After completing a consultation with 2-3 therapists, use the information you’ve gathered and your gut feeling to make the final decision of whom you’d like to begin therapy with.

 

Some things to reflect on when making that final decision:

  • During the phone consultation did the therapist give you an opportunity to ask questions? Were you satisfied with the answers you were given? 

  • Were they easy to talk to (ie. were you given space to talk without repeated interruptions)?

  • Did you feel heard and validated as you were sharing your concerns during the consultation? 

  • Do you feel confident that the therapist has the knowledge to support you in managing the specific concerns you’re coming in with?



Step 4) Beginning the therapy process: 

Congratulations! You shopped around, completed your consultation calls, and hopefully found someone that you’d like to begin therapy with. Remember though that this is just the beginning of your therapy journey. It's even more crucial to be aware of your rights when the therapy process begins. As a client you have the following rights: 

  1. The right to be treated with respect and provided therapy in a courteous and honest manner.

  2. During the initial session, your therapist will go through a consent form with you which will highlight what the therapy process will look like. You have the right to voluntarily provide consent.

  3. You have the right at any point to withdraw consent and terminate services (unless the therapy is court-mandated). 

  4. You have the right to know and ask about limits to confidentiality.

  5. If you're accessing therapy services online, you have the right to know the security risks to online communication and efforts that your therapist is making to help keep your information private. 

  6. You have a right to have access to your therapy records. 

  7. You have the right to work collaboratively with the therapist to establish appropriate treatment goals and provide feedback about therapeutic intervention. 

  8. You have the right to share any concerns or complaints you have regarding a therapist’s conduct with the appropriate regulatory body.

Give yourself time! Studies show that it usually takes 2-3 sessions with a therapist to know if they are a good fit for you (ie. If they are respectful of your rights, if their therapeutic approach is effective for you, if you click with them, etc). 

When you decide to work with a therapist, you're not just investing your time and money in that person, you're also sharing your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings with them. It makes sense then that the process of finding a therapist requires that you do your homework and know your rights as a client.