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Green Hills with Blue Sky

Common Questions

How can counseling help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in counseling. I 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 counselors 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

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 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. 

Why do "normal" people go to counseling and how do I know if it is right for me?

People have many different motivations for coming to counseling. Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well.  Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks.  Counseling can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods.  Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives. 
What is the difference between Psychotherapy, Counseling, Therapy or Psychiatry?  

They are mostly the same, but slightly different. Counseling is often referred to as "therapy" or "psychotherapy."   Most providers of counseing have gone through formal training and have a Masters Degree in clinical psychology or social work.  Some have even more years of training and have their doctorate degrees in psychology (PhD or PsyD).  I have over 26 years of experience doing counseling and have my PhD in Clinical Psychology.  My license to practice in California is PSY14768.  I have 14 years of education with 3 years of internship and a year of training in psychopharmacology.  

By the way, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) whom has gone to medical school, focusing on psychopharmacology, and has 6 months to a year of training in therapy.  They know mainly what medications can be prescribed to ease mental symptoms.  Typically they do not do therapy itself.   I work with psychiatrists at times to give people the best help that would work for their situation.  Sometimes your own primary care physician can help with prescriptions. 

What is counseling like?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session.  Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development.  Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your therapist (usually weekly).

I recommend this youtube video to explain what it is like during the first session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FiVVAOXiEQ   Then come back and read some more here. 

Counseling is not like going to the doctor when you have a cold.  You can benefit most by not waiting until things are bad. This is especially true for relationships or interpersonal issues at work. If you go on a regular basis, you can prevent crises from happening in the future. 
It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process.  Past clients have described me as being caring, interested, helpful, and even fun!  The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, I may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as reading a book, journaling, writing out worksheets, or taking action on your goals. People seeking psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.   
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?  
It is well established 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.  Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. 
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
You are welcome to pay your sessions through cash, check, or charge.  If you would like to use your insurance, I can give you a "superbill" which you can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.  (Please see the Rates and Insurance page). To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them.  Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers.  Some helpful questions you can ask them:
  • 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? 
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?

Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and counselor. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office.   Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone.  This is called “Informed Consent”.  

Sometimes you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, health insurance claim, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
However, state law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
* If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.

I always want to discuss these issues up front with clients and will tell if you if I need to call the authorities. 


Helpful Forms

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