A. You may benefit from therapy if:
• You are having trouble making important decisions or setting a direction for your life
• You seem to have a pattern of unhappy relationships at home or work
• You can’t stop thinking about something and it's affecting your ability to concentrate on other things
• You are taxing friendships by talking too much about problems
• There is no one else you can really talk to
• You are too often anxious, depressed or lonely
• You just need someone to talk to, who does not have a personal stake in your life.
Q. What is the difference between counseling and therapy?
A. These days the two terms are often used interchangeably. In the past, individual counseling, couple counseling, marriage counseling and family counseling, all were used to describe professional mental health assistance for so-called normal problems of living. Individual therapy, or psychotherapy, couple therapy, marriage therapy, and family therapy implied that there was something wrong that needed to be fixed.
Individual counselors, couples counselors, marital and family counselors counseled clients regarding their “normal” problems; psychotherapists, couple therapists, marriage therapists and family therapists treated patients who were considered to have pathological problems or pathological patterns of relating.
I call myself a therapist because one of my licenses says I am a marriage and family therapist. But I am also a licensed mental health counselor. For me, the two terms have become virtually synonymous.
Q. How does the therapy process work?
A. Therapy generally progresses in stages. First and foremost, a degree of trust and comfort have to be established. Then the issues or concerns you come in with can come to the fore. When the issues are “on the table,” it is sometimes useful to go back in time to explore and understand your own family or work history and the events and experiences which may connect to the current problem. Once the issues are fully understood, people are usually much better able to think about which decisions or actions make the most sense for them.
Next, therapy begins to bear fruit and you start to feel ready to implement some change(s). Soon after, seeing some positive results from the actions you’ve taken, you’re feeling almost ready to “fly” on your own. A summary stage in which people review their therapy experience and their new perspective completes the process.
Q. How long does therapy take?
A. The length of time people spend in therapy varies according to how long the problem(s) has been percolating, how entrenched it is, and how much time you personally need to spend getting to know me and feeling comfortable. If the problem(s) is of very recent origin or if you are lucky to have had other very good experiences and relationships in your life, you probably will need less time.
Some benchmarks: most couples spend between three months to a year in therapy; most individuals between three months to two years, and most families come in for 3-10 sessions. The bottom line is that you can take as much time as you feel you need, and progress at a pace that is comfortable for you.
Many people come for an initial period of time, then stop, but come back at a future time for other issues or to briefly address a new problem in their lives.
Q. What is your fee, and do you accept insurance payment?
A. My standard fee is $325. for a 50-minute session, payable each visit by credit card, check or cash. In some instances, a reduced fee may be possible, so please feel free to inquire. I do not “accept insurance” or work directly with insurance companies, but I will provide you with a receipt for payment, which you can submit to your provider. Most clients are able get a substantial portion of the fee reimbursed.
If cost is a concern, it may help to know that there is nothing magical about once a week appointments. At first, I usually do recommend coming once a week for a month or two. This is so we can get to know each other and establish a direction for our work. After that, coming less often, say every other week or even monthly, may work quite well.
Q. How will I know if you are the right therapist for me/us?
This is a key question, because the trust and confidence you develop in the therapist, the therapist-client relationship, is a major factor in how much growth and change is likely to happen for you. Unfortunately, there is no way to know right away. But, a good rule of thumb is to pay close attention to your own reaction to me (or any therapist) in the first session or two. Am I welcoming? Am I listening closely to what you’re trying to tell me? Do I seem to be accepting rather than judgmental or critical? Is it fairly easy to tell me your story? Am I fairly easy to understand?
Keep in mind that, while you may not be able to tell exactly how positive the whole experience will be, you will know fairly quickly if you do not like talking to me. Nobody is ever completely comfortable right away, especially if they’ve never been to a therapist before, so ask yourself if your discomfort is close to how you usually feel in a strange or new situation, or are you uncomfortable specifically here. Then trust your gut!
A good analogy for what it feels like when you find the right therapist: he or she should relate to you as would a favorite aunt or uncle. Your therapist should be someone you can believe cares about you, seems to understand your point of view, and seems equipped to help draw out your real concerns and guide you, without being over-involved.
Q. Is therapy confidential?
A. Yes, except in some extreme situations which we can discuss.