Understanding Intake Interviews for Phobias

Professional taking patient information

Hero Images / Getty Images

An intake interview is your first appointment with a therapist. During this initial appointment, he or she will ask various questions in order to make, or come closer to making a diagnosis and to create a personalized treatment plan for you. The initial appointment is also your time to ask your therapist questions.

The questions your therapist asks depend on a variety of factors, including the reason you gave for coming there, your age, and any pre-existing conditions. He or she may ask you the questions directly and/or give you a diagnostic test on paper or online.

The Three Types of Phobia

If you seek treatment for phobia, the intake interview questions will also depend on the type of phobia you have and its severity. The three types of phobia are:

  1. Agoraphobia (avoiding places or situations you fear)
  2. Specific phobia (a fear of a certain object or situation)
  3. Social phobia (social anxiety disorder)

Intake Interview for Agoraphobia

During your intake interview for agoraphobia, your therapist will see if you meet the criteria created by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for a clinical diagnosis. He or she will ask if you feel fear or anxiety when you:

  • Use public transportation
  • Are in an open space, such as a stadium or bridge
  • Are in an enclosed space, such as an elevator or classroom
  • Wait in line or are in a crowd
  • Leave the house by yourself

To make an agoraphobia diagnosis, he or she may ask you if:

  • You do what you can to avoid the situation
  • Your fear is out of proportion to the actual potential for danger
  • Your fear causes significant problems in your personal life or at work

Intake Interview for Social Anxiety

Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD). Your therapist is, again, checking the boxes for the APA-specified criteria, and also asking questions to rule out other psychological issues like depression during the intake interview.

They may ask if you have an intense and persistent fear of:

  • People judging you in social situations
  • Being humiliated by your actions
  • People noticing your signs of anxiety, including sweating and shaking

Your therapist might also question you about your overall mood, asking you to think about whether you spend more days than not feeling the following:

  • Depressed or sad
  • Disinterest in life
  • Guilty or worthless

Intake Interview for Specific Phobia

Specific phobia is one of the most common psychological problems. As with the other types of phobia, it shares symptoms with other psychological disorders, including social phobia and agoraphobia. This is why answering your therapist's questions honestly is so important to get a correct diagnosis.

Questions your therapist might ask you during an intake interview for specific phobia include:

  • Do certain situations make you feel sudden terror, fright, anxiety, worry, or nervousness?
  • Are you overcome with thoughts of bad things happening to you or of being injured?
  • Do you have a persistent fear that interferes with your daily life, including at home and at work?
  • Have you ever distracted yourself to avoid thinking about your trigger?
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.