How is therapy different from talking to a friend or family member?
A friend or family member loves you and has a difficult time being objective with feedback they give about problem situations that you present to them. They want what they think is best for you, and may be inclined to give you advice or lectures. Frequently one may feel no sense of relief after talking to a friend or family member, and instead end up feeling that you have had to take care of that person, or hide your true feelings.
How is a therapist different than a "counselor"?
A therapist has generally had six to eight years of college to specialize in the art and science of psychology. The course work includes behavioral sciences such as Communication Skills (both verbal and non-verbal), Child Development Classes, Marriage and Family Development, Human Sexuality, Psychological Development, and training in treatment strategies for adults, children, couples, families, and groups. The art of therapy comes in as the therapist is trained in observation skills, in the nuance of language, behaviors, and relationships. A therapist is licensed by the state of California, which means that they have completed educational requirements deemed by the state licensing board and California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to be necessary to safely practice therapy. Therapists have had strict educational requirements, supervised internship experiences, and testing of their knowledge and skill level prior to receiving a license.
In contrast, any person may say they are a "counselor," despite the fact they have little or no formal training, background, or experience. It is good to explore the background of the person you choose to work with for his/her background qualifications before make yourself vulnerable to them. It is often surprising to me that one does not find that there is much difference in the fees charged by a "counselor" who has no formal training, and by a licensed therapist in the same geographic area.
Is therapy right for me?
Seeking out therapy is an individual choice. There are many reasons why people come to therapy. Sometimes it is to deal with long-standing psychological issues, or problems with anxiety or depression. Other times it is in response to unexpected changes in one's life such as a divorce or work transition. Many seek the advice of a therapist as they pursue their own personal exploration and growth. Working with a therapist can help provide insight, support, and new strategies for all types of life challenges. Therapy can help address many types of issues including depression, anxiety, conflict, grief, stress management, body-image issues, and general life transitions. Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.
Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy, when actively participate in, provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
How can therapy help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in psychotherapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that a therapist can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Is spiritual counseling and spiritual work the same as therapy?
The answer is no. I have seen people who have done years of spiritual practice, which develops the spiritual aspect of the self, but generally does not address the egoic (human, psychological) level of problems that we all have. We are living on Earth because we are human, which means we do have an ego, and we do have problems that are psychologically based. For many of us, unless the psychological issues are addressed, the same behavioral problems in relationships tend to be repeated over and over. In my experience it is only a very small minority of people who function at such a high awareness level that they are able to have insight into their repeated patterns, and are able to make changes on their own.
What is therapy like?
Every therapy session is unique and caters to each individual and their specific goals. It is standard for therapists to discuss the primary issues and concerns in your life during therapy sessions. It is common to schedule a series of weekly sessions, where each session lasts around fifty minutes. People often ask if they can come in less frequently, but studies have shown that to gain the most benefit from therapy, weekly scheduling or more often, gives the best outcome for changing old behavior patterns. If you consider how many years it took to get where you are today, taking one hour (really a 50 minute session) a week to focus on changing old patterns is relatively little! If you put in time between the session practicing what we discuss, you change more quickly Some therapists may be a "blank screen," asking some questions, but providing little information to the client. This is not how I practice! I am an active participant with you in the therapy session, asking frequent questions, and offering educational information. I believe education is power!
I'm concerned you will try to keep me in therapy forever!
I frequently tell people that my job is to put myself out of a job! My goal is to help you feel you have addressed and resolved the issues you come in to address.
Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues. There may be times when you are asked to take certain actions outside of the therapy sessions, such as reading a relevant book or keeping records to track certain behaviors. It is important to process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life between sessions. For therapy to be most effective you must be an active participant, both during and between the sessions. People seeking psychotherapy who are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change, and create greater awareness in their lives see the most change. Here are some things you can expect out of therapy:
- Compassion, respect and understanding
- Perspectives to illuminate persistent patterns and negative feelings
- Real strategies for enacting positive change
- Effective and proven techniques along with practical guidance
Is medication a substitute for therapy?
The answer is generally no.
I am open and supportive of judicious use of medications in some cases, when a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Having worked in physical and mental rehabilitation in hospitals for years, I have a healthy respect for the biological, as well as psychological, roots of some issues. If I am working with you and feel it would be beneficial, I will educate you regarding why I believe medications might be helpful, and then give you a written referral that you may take to you medical doctor. I do not prescribe medications, and believe the use of medications is a very personal decision, and is up to you. With the written referral I give you a list of concerning symptoms, and you can work with your medical doctor to determine what's best for you. If you choose to take medications prescribed by your physician, I will follow up with you about any side affects you might be having, and follow your symptoms, and refer you back to your physician as needed for medication adjustment. Should you give me a written consent to consult with your physician, I will exchange phone calls and/or reports as indicated.
It is well established in the literature that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.
Do you accept insurance? How does insurance work?
To determine if you have mental health coverage, the first thing you should do is check with your insurance carrier. Having your insurance card available, call the Customer Service 800 number on the front or back of your insurance card and talk with an insurance representative to find the answers to the following questions:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
As there are thousands of insurance carriers and policies, you need to call and check your coverage. It is best not to rely on insurance website information as it may not be specific to your individual group plan.
**For those on Medicare Insurance, currently the state of California does not allow Marriage and Family Therapists to be reimbursed by Medicare. This is due to a lobbying issue in the capital, and being worked on by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to be rectified!!! For those on Medicare, please look for Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) to work with, or PhD level Psychologists (either PhD or PsyD) to work with. I will be glad when this law is corrected.
Is therapy confidential?
In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and psychotherapist. No information is disclosed without prior written permission from the client.
However, there are some exceptions required by law to this rule. Exceptions include:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult, or elder abuse. The therapist is required to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person. The therapist is required to notify the police.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The therapist will make every effort to work with the individual to ensure their safety. However, if an individual does not cooperate, additional measures may need to be taken.