Common Colorado wisdom says that getting outside means getting happy. But Craig Freund, co-owner of Elevated Counseling & Wellness in Denver, says he’s seeing more people each year for therapy on top of outdoorsy self-care routines. Of course, finding the right therapist—an umbrella term that encompasses psychologists, counselors, social workers, and more—can be a lot more difficult than finding a trailhead. You need someone who makes you feel comfortable but isn’t afraid to challenge you with an extra push. It’s not the easiest mountain to climb, but having these questions on hand for your potential therapist—and yourself—can make the journey a little easier.

Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve?
Identifying your goals can help narrow down your search, Freund says. Struggling with addiction? Seek out a behavioral therapist. Trying to reduce stress? Look for someone who specializes in anxiety. Most therapists list their qualifications online, and you can always ask them about their prior experience.

Ask the therapist: What’s your opinion?
Most counselors in the Denver area offer a free consultation. Ask them for their interpretation of your story or problem. “You really want to be heard, but you also want to hear from your therapist,” says Erin Carpenter of Thrive Counseling in Denver. “They should be able to explain [their take on your situation] to you just using regular words.” Read: jargon-free.

Ask the therapist: What’s your strategy?
The various counseling strategies can sound like alphabet soup: psychodynamic; cognitive behavioral; eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Good therapists should be able to describe a treatment plan in layman’s terms, Carpenter says, as well as why they think that approach will help you.

Ask yourself: How do I feel afterward?
Both Carpenter and Freund say a therapist should ease your nerves, listen without judgment or blame, and make you feel understood. And if you don’t feel heard, speak up; the right therapist won’t be offended. “I want to be corrected so I can be on the same page as my clients,” Carpenter says. “If [a therapist] isn’t open to feedback, that’s a red flag.”

This article was originally published in 5280 Health 2019.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.