Questions to Ask When Hiring a Therapist or Coach.

You are at a crossroads and have decided to hire someone to help you. But what do you want? There are so many options. No matter which route you go (and if this is a question, read my blog on How to Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist!), you want to make sure this person is a good fit for YOU. And you want to make sure they meet some standard of care so your investment ensures you are getting what you pay for.

Read on for a few questions to help you during your inquiry call.

  1. What is your niche, and how do you think you are qualified to help me?
  • Coaches and therapists often specialize in a topic (executive functioning, disordered eating, business development, substance use, parenting, career, etc.) or a demographic (teens, lawyers, entrepreneurs, women, or in my case, Seekers of Something More!). These chosen niches of practice are sometimes about the professional’s specialty or preference, but sometimes, it is really about how they market themselves and their practice is more expansive. Ask about their experience with your particular challenge or diagnosis. Get curious about them. My experience is that most of us love to talk about our work!

2. What is my commitment to you?

  • Coaching takes time. But you should not be held to a contract that requires you to stick with something that isn’t working for you. Make sure that you are signing an agreement, an understanding, or an informed consent, and not a contract. Sometimes, the relationship is just not a good fit and you want to be careful that you don’t pay in advance for something that might not work for you. If you decide it isn’t a good fit, make sure you can part ways without a large financial obligation.

3. What are your policies around confidentiality and other ethics-related issues?

  • Both coaches and social workers are held to strict ethical guidelines around confidentiality. Therapists are bound by HIPAA which are the Federal regulations that protect your privacy. It is legal for anyone to call themselves a coach or a therapist; they are not protected titles in most states. Having said that, there are certain credentials available to both coaches and therapists by regulating organizations. Knowing these might help you to know who to hire. 
    • For coaches, the International Coach Federation is the organization that administers a third party exam to credential coaches. Many coaches are certified through their own educational programs, but coaching schools vary greatly so it is difficult to know what this means. If your coach has an ICF credential, they have passed an exam, both oral and written, and have agreed to abide by a universal set of ethics. They have met an objective set of requirements, independent of their coach training. Further, they are required to complete continuing education and stay current in the field to maintain this credential.
    • There are many, many types of therapists, many of whom have the ability to be granted a license to practice in a given state. Requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but they are rigorous in all states. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a wonderful resource for educating yourself about the different types of therapists. On the NAMI website, the myriad types of mental health practitioners and their accompanying state licenses are outlined. Again, in order to receive a license to practice, a therapist must reach a certain level of education, engage in a specific number of supervised practice hours, pass state exams, and agree to uphold ethical standards. In most states, you can go to the website for the state government to check the status of someone’s license. Obtaining professional licensure is not for the faint of heart, but does demonstrate the level of education and skill set of the practitioner.
  • To be clear, there are probably many wonderful helping professionals who are unlicensed and without credentials who can competently serve you and help you to meet your goals. But buyer, beware. If you are hiring a professional, hiring someone with a credential from a statewide, national, or international credentialing organization, indicates the person has undergone a rigorous process and meets a particular set of competencies and ethical guidelines.

Finally, after having this conversation with the potential coach or therapist, ask yourself a few questions, too. 

  • How will this relationship support me to show up and do the work that is called for?
  • How honest can I be with this person?
  • Even thought I don’t know this person well, what 2% of them do I already know, like, and trust?

Want to talk more about hiring someone to help you? Reach out to me by making an appointment for a complimentary inquiry call, here

Why COVID-19 is Anything But “The Great Equalizer.”

How we’ve confused our shared vulnerability with a perceived sense of equity.

I’ve written this blog more times than I can count.

For whatever reason, I haven’t posted it. I write and I re-write. It has morphed many times.

I found myself too wordy, or feeling a little bit “soap-boxy”. I have all the drafts in my saved documents.

But I feel angst and I have to say something.

Hearing COVID-19 being referred to as the great equalizer is exhausting. Because it isn’t.

There. I said it (try to think of it as consciousness-raising and not judgement).

“Anyone can get it ~ even Hollywood is quarantining!”

I’m sure you’ve heard this or some version of this.

Don’t get me wrong… I love looking at the insides of peoples’ homes; the late night talk show hosts, the news anchors, the recording artists and the SNL cast.

But no one seems to be talking about those people for whom COVID-19 has made an already marginalized existence even more marginalized.

While the Governor emphasizes mask-wearing and social distancing as best prevention, I know people who are looking at each other, wondering, “How?”

When you are living in an overcrowded home or are doubled up because you’ve lost your housing, social distancing is a privilege for other people. Keeping high risk folks distant from low risk folks isn’t an option. When three or four generations of people live together, COVID spreads like wildfire.

When suddenly schools went on-line, we forgot about those who might not have access to the levels of information that many of us have. When information is disseminated by email, people with no internet service don’t receive the information. If you are someone who attends community college and rely on the desktop computers made available to students at the school, you didn’t have the means to do your homework once the schools closed. Adding obstacles like that to an already complicated life is just what it takes to have students drop out. The Boston Globe reported this weekend that 10,000 students in the Boston Public School system have not logged on once to access their classes.

COVID-19 has prevented many immigrant students from being able to access the one thing they came to this country for: an education. They have lost their allies in the school system. They can’t access their education because of language or internet access, and are among those still working, at risk to their health, because there aren’t other options.

I recently spoke to a social worker who was helping a high school student create a budget. This student, whose hours had been reduced, had to pay their “coyote” ~ the term used to describe the brokers who bring folks to the United States at a very high price ~ under the threat of murder to their family back home. Coyotes don’t really care that COVID-19 has gotten in the way of their payments; they want to be paid. For these young, unaccompanied minors, keeping their families safe is a priority.

Sidebar: these first generation kids who miss out on the ceremony of graduation, be it from high school or college, are still plugging along, doing their thing. Because they have to. HAVE TO. They can’t afford to lament that rite of passage. I’d like to see us lament it for them.

And masks? I would have no idea how to get a mask if I didn’t have Facebook. I know. Embarrassing. And yet, we see people of color being harassed in some areas of our country for not wearing masks.

The rate of gun violence has increased in the City of Boston. People have lost their infrastructure. They are selling their phones, cutting off their WiFi, wondering how they’ll pay back rent. They have lost their social workers and case managers.

People are lonely.

People are scared.

Because people are focusing on survival ~ maintaining an income, keeping their family healthy, and staying fed ~ their brain chemistry is actually changing. This kind of trauma closes our neural pathways and contracts our thinking. Depression and anxiety cause our executive functioning to shut down.

Asking people to jump through hoops to get services or food or medical care can feel as simple as, “This is not for you. It’s for the ‘other’ people.”

And we wonder why people rage. We judge. We separate ourselves.

Or we tell ourselves the lie that the Coronavirus has made us all the same.

It has not. It has revealed an already existing chasm and made it much bigger.

So please, stop. I know you mean well. It makes us all feel better to know we are just like John Legend or Jimmy Kimmel or Margot Robbie.

Let’s not forget about those looking to us. Many of us are the privileged; those who can get on-line and see family via zoom. Who can socially distance, even in our homes. We aren’t wondering where our next roll of toilet paper will come from (although admittedly, I have wondered this) or our next gallon of milk.

When we look to our left and see a great equalizer, but let’s also look to our right. There is a chasm there that needs to be acknowledged. We can’t do anything about it if we don’t see it. Please see it.