Posted 8/20/2015 10:34 AM (GMT -7)
First of all. That therapist should be struck off the register for misconduct or at least have a complaint filed against him/her.
Most therapist will give you an assessment session. Often for free, but that depends on the therapist and probably in which country you live.
In an assessment, which is normally an informal chat, a therapist will ask you to give some background info. They do not need to know everything about you. Mostly they will ask questions like: Where do you live, where did you grow up, do you have siblings, do you get on with them, Are your parents still alive, do you get on with them, do you have pets, do you have friends, hobbies, school, work, what would you hope to achieve with therapy, are there any specific issues you would like to discuss, etc.....So very general questions. It's just so they have a general idea about who you are.
You can ask the therapist as many questions as you want, and I suggest you do. You are entitled to ask about their qualifications, how long they have practiced, why they chose the profession, what specialities they have, what kind of therapeutic interventions they use, etc...You can also ask some more personal questions, like if they have a partner, kids, pets etc...
Not all therapist are fond of self disclosure, but personally I feel that if you are going to pour your heart out they can at least tell you something about themselves. You don't need to know about their life, that's not why you are there, but you want to know you're not dealing with a robot if you get my drift. You want to feel good about the choice you're gonna make.
Also, some women prefer a female therapist, some men a male one, some people prefer someone of their own culture etc... You call the shots here. You pick the one that will suit you best, so don't think you have to take the first therapist that is offered to you.
Therapy is a two way stream. You have to feel good about your therapist, otherwise the therapy won't work very well. Often when you decide you want to work with that person it will take a few sessions to feel comfortable, it's only natural. So give it about 4 sessions. If you still feel uncomfortable then just tell the therapist (they should never be offended) and either you can work through that together or get referred.
As you said, you are talking to a complete stranger.
This stranger however is trained to be non-judgemental, gives unconditional postive regard, meaning that they will accept you for who you are, warts and all, they are not allowed to discriminate, no matter your colour, sexuality, religion etc...If they do then they are in the wrong job. They are bound by confidentiality and will not pass on your info to anyone, except if they suspect you could be a danger to yourself or others. In that case they would always have to tell you first that they'll have to inform your Family Doctor. They can't go behind your back, but they will have to do it.
They are bound by the rules of ethical conduct of their profession and can be struck off the register if they do not adhere to these rules and cause harm to a client.
Therapist are there to shine a light on things where you might have some lack of awareness, some blind spots. They are trained in really listening to you. They will guide you step by step for you to find a solution for whatever your issues are.
Talking to a stranger is often much easier than to a friend, believe me. A friend or family member already has a history with you and will actually be more judgemental and also more advise giving, which often doesn't work (no matter how well meant).They are often too close to stay really objective.
You might also hold back from telling them everything, sometimes because you don't want to hurt their feelings, you are afraid to lose them or that they might think less of you, you might hold back your emotions of anger, etc....
There are many different types of therapist. There is not "a one shoe fits all therapy". Do your homework and see what a therapist has to offer you. Sometimes an eclectic/integrative therapist might be the answer.
A therapist will not be offended if you decide after an assessment that you give it a miss. They know that clients need to feel good about their therapist to get the most out of the therapy. No point working with a client who feels uncomfortable with you or doesn't want to be there. That's why forced therapy hardly ever works.
I hope this helps you or anyone else who is a bit reluctant to seek professional help.
PS: A lot of therapist become therapist because they had to deal with a lot of problems themselves. They can't have lived every issue they might encounter in their clients, but it does give them the empathy needed to help others.