Common Counseling Questions...
Ok.. I know those aren't 3 Cs above... but I like the flow of the almost alliteration ;0) Signing up for counseling, especially if it is your first time is pretty anxiety provoking, scary, and confusing. There are a couple of simple reasons for this:
1. You have never done this before. Most of the time you don't know what you don't know. You might not know what to ask. Or, you might even be nervous to ask the question that you really want to ask.
2. Most friends and family members don't chat extensively about their counseling experiences. For some it is a sense of embarrassing, while others prefer to keep their experience private.
3. On top of the fact that you may be uninformed, you are not feeling your most put together, fabulous self. While I think that just about anybody can benefit from counseling, the truth is, most people wait until they are feeling BAD before making an appointment. When you are feeling out of sorts, it is harder to put all the details together.
4. Sometimes you have all the perfect questions put together in your head. And then you get a receptionist answering the phone who rushes you or more alarming- the actual counselor answers the phone! People are often a little surprised that I take my own calls and sometimes it can throw them off a bit that they get a consultation with a counselor right then!
So, those are a few of the reasons why calling for counseling can be a bit confusing. Here are some answers to some of the most common questions I get asked:
- How does this work? The first step in the process of getting counseling is to find the right counselor. First, you check out some websites online, or sometimes people ask friends. Once you have a list of people, you will make phone calls. Often your message will go to voicemail, sometimes you will get a receptionist. Either way, try to take advantage of a free 15 minute phone consultation if one is offered. This gives you a chance to get to know your counselor, see if it feels like a good fit, and get all of your questions answered. If it feels like a good fit, you can schedule a session with your counselor at a time that works for both of you. Some counselors work only in the day, others work only in the evenings, and others work day and evening. Either before you go to your first appointment, or at the start of your first appointment, you will have paperwork to read over and complete. Be sure to give yourself time to read it carefully- you can learn a lot from it. Some counselors (like me) offer electronic paperwork. You will log on to my HIPAA compliant, secure system to read over and fill out your paperwork. This allows me to read over your history and have a little bit of background before we start meeting together. Your first session is usually a "get to know you" session focused on developing a plan for working together (if it is a good fit). At any point in the process, with any counselor, you can ask for a referral to another person or simply decide not to schedule. You are in charge of this process. If you find it is a good fit, you and your counselor will develop a plan to help you reach your goals and love life again.
- What if I want to be seen individually? I am a Marriage and Family Therapist- that means that help people who want to relate better to others in the world- partners, spouses, family, bosses, employees, and even to themselves. I often meet with people alone for individual counseling. There are pros and cons to individual therapy. However, most people can benefit from the process.
- What if I want to do couple's counseling? I also do couple's counseling. Be sure to specify when interviewing counselors what type of counseling you are looking for. Some counselors specialize in either individual or couple's work- and many have different styles. If your relationship is extremely volatile and has gotten to a point where there is pushing, shoving, light grabbing, or even mild hitting- it is important that you and your partner have some basic skills before starting couple's work. I recommend "pre-counseling where each of you will work with an individual therapist on ways to cope with the stressful times. Otherwise, the initial stress of couple's counseling could actually escalate things further and take you farther from your goal of resolving issue.
- Is it really private and confidential? Therapy is absolutely confidential. I will not share the details of your therapy with anyone unless mandated by law to do so. You can read over the specific forms here. In fact, any licensed MFT or LCSW, MFT Intern, ACSW, etc. will have the same legal protections. However, if you go to see a life coach, an unlicensed counselor, etc. you may not have the same legal protections if your counselor is subpoenaed. I do consult with other licensed professionals from time to time on cases to ensure I am providing the best services possible. Care will be taken to guard your name and identity.
- How do I know what counselor is right for me? Check out my article "Finding the Right Counselor" here. In short, you want someone that you feel comfortable talking with and who you have a sense can help you.
- How much does it cost? When thinking about how much therapy will cost, it is important to have a clear idea of your goal and the time frame overall. Counselors usually offer standard sessions of 50 minutes, and extended sessions of 80 minutes. In general, counseling with a licensed counselor can range from $60-$150 for a standard session. Regardless of the cost, it is important to find someone that can help you. It is too much money at $60, $150, or even $20 if you don't feel comfortable with the counselor! You can also find lower fee options at local non-profit organizations, usually with pre-licensed counselors. Sometimes the pre-licensed counselors are quite experienced and have been working for years, in other cases, you could be their first client. Non-profit centers sliding scale is based on your income level and usually ranges from $30-$120.
- Will my insurance cover it? The short answer- it depends! Some insurance plans will only authorize group coverage, or only authorize if you have a serious mental illness. Other insurance companies understand that unresolved relational or emotional issues greatly increase the medical costs of an individual- they are more at risk for emergency room visits, colds, flus, etc. Pull out your insurance card and check the number on the back of the card that says "behavioral health." Give them a call and start asking some questions! I am what is called an out of network provider for all PPO plans. PPO plans give you the most flexibility in choosing the person you feel most comfortable with.
- How long will this process take? Short answer- it depends. Some people need 1-2 sessions to simply talk through an issue and come up with some options. Other things like relationship struggles and bad experiences can take an extended period of 3-6 months or even longer. Make sure you to talk time frame with your counselor so you are both on the same page. I work to move things at a pace that feels comfortable for my client- not too fast and not too slow. I want people to move through counseling and get back to living a wonderful life!
I hope this blog helps to answer some of your burning questions about counseling. If you are in the Modesto area and would like help navigating this process, feel free to call me at (209) 602-1513 for your free 15 minute phone consultation.