1. How long have you been in practice and what are your specialties?
There are obvious benefits to therapists who have been in practice many years. Over the decades, they have dealt with a variety of clients and a multitude of issues. With years of experience, they have honed their craft and may see issues that they have dealt with before more often than newer therapists. On the other hand, a therapist who has been through graduate school more recently may be more up-to-date on psychological theories and approaches. And you may prefer a therapist for whom this is a second career, who has worked and/or owned a business, or been a lawyer, or an employee in a large company. Life experience goes a long way in the art of psychotherapy.
2. Is your approach highly interactive or do you mostly let me, the client, lead the therapy while you make occasional comments?
Some clients prefer a more traditional therapist who sits back and allows the client to lead the session, interjecting the occasional question. Others may prefer a therapist who is more interactive and asks more leading questions. Either approach can be very effective, however, it's worth considering the approach that would be best for you.
3. Do you think you have a good approach to dealing with my main issue?
If you are going into therapy with a particular issue, it could serve you well if the therapist has worked in your area of need. If you were grieving the death of a partner, you would want a therapist who specializes in death and loss. If you identify as LGBT, it's not necessary that your therapist be LGBT as well, but it's paramount that he be comfortable working with you and is affirmative in his approach to non-heterosexual relationships. Don't assume that because you're speaking to a therapist that he or she is comfortable or well acquainted with particular issues.
4. How often would we meet and how what is the cost of a session?
Make sure that your scheduling and financial exceptions (expectations?) match those of the therapist. If your time and budget constraints prohibit you from coming every other week, verify that a more infrequent schedule would work for the therapist as well. Would the therapist be willing to meet every other week for a session and a half, and would he feel that would be productive. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, ask if he would offer you therapy on a sliding scale. If you find he is too expensive, ask if he can refer you to another therapist or clinic that is more affordable.
5. Are you easy to reach after hours and on weekends?
Some therapists are available after hours and on weekends, while others are not. Some therapists are willing to call you back within a few hours. If you feel you are in crisis and need a therapist who can respond to you in a couple hours, then it is imperative that you understand the availability of the therapist right from the start.
6. Do you feel like you could help me?
This is an open-ended question that allows the potential therapist to let you know if he feels comfortable working with you and confident he can help you.
7. Can you make me a referral to a therapist who you think would work well for me?
After asking the initial questions, if you find that the therapist is not right for you, share your thoughts with him and seek out a referral if possible. The conversation could go somewhat like, "After discussing my situation with you, I realize that it's important for me to see a therapist who has worked more with grief, since I lost my father last month. Do you have a referral for a therapist who has that kind of experience in this general area?"
A Question to Ask Yourself:
Do I feel comfortable with this therapist and do I feel that they can help me?
Choosing a therapist is not like selecting a good dentist or medical specialist. You may spend only a few hours with your dentist on an annual basis, and even less time with a medical specialist, but you are going to be spending many hours interacting with your psychotherapist. Your relationship with your therapist is central to the growth and healing process. In fact, there are a multitude of studies that have shown the effectiveness of therapy is much more closely correlated with the strength of the "therapeutic alliance"--which is how well client and therapist relate--than to any particular approach to therapy.
It's not necessary that your therapist be someone you might want as a friend, because it is not that kind of a relationship. However, it's important that you feel that they can relate to your issue and that they have the strength to challenge you when necessary. You are the expert on what will work for you. Trust your intuition. It is important that you have a sense that this therapist can help you. If not, keep shopping.
Good luck finding the right therapist for your needs!