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What is psychotherapy?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines psychotherapy as “communication between patients and therapists that is intended to help people 1) find relief from emotional distress, as in becoming less anxious, fearful or depressed, 2) seek solutions to problems in their lives, such as dealing with disappointment, grief, family issues, and job or career dissatisfaction, and 3) modify ways of thinking and acting that are preventing them from working productively and enjoying personal relationships.” In reality, psychotherapy can be difficult to describe because many factors affect the experience. These factors include the experience and skill of the therapist, the personalities of the client(s) and the therapist, the nature of the problem, and the chosen intervention. One certainty is that therapy is a collaborative effort between the psychologist and the client. A client’s progress depends on many factors including the client’s motivation/effort and the fit between the therapist’s skill set and the client’s problem. Given these and other factors, results cannot be guaranteed. This is why communication between the psychologist and the client is critical. While I have skills and tools to help me figure out whether the therapy is “working,” I will need honest feedback from you throughout the process in order to make sure we are headed in a direction that feels right to you.

Are there risks to psychotherapy?

As with any type of treatment, psychotherapy can have risks. Talking about unpleasant or painful experiences may feel uncomfortable. Some clients report feeling grief, sadness, fear, guilt, anger, or loneliness as a result of starting psychotherapy. Further, relationships may change as a result of the behavioral changes that you might make during the psychotherapy process. In most cases, people who actively engage in and complete psychotherapy, report substantial benefits. Not only can therapy reduce distressing psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, but it can yield many other benefits. Psychotherapy has been shown to help people: develop better relationship skills, understand and achieve personal goals, boost self-confidence, overcome compulsive behaviors, improve overall mood, replace negative thoughts with more rational ones, and learn effective stress-management skills.

How long will it take?

I don’t like wasting time-yours or mine. If I think I can help you reach your goals, I will let you know. If not, I will offer a referral to someone who may be able to help. All the services I provide are time-limited, so it is very important that we establish open and honest communication early on. I will need to know your goals. If you don’t have specific goals, I can help you develop ones. During the first appointment, I will work with you in planning for your treatment and will let you know how long I expect it to take. You will not begin treatment until we both agree on the total length. After starting therapy, I will help you monitor your progress. Change does not happen over night. Meaningful and lasting change typically occurs over the span of several weeks—months. If at any point you believe it will take too long to reach your initial goals, we can modify the goals to fit what your schedule and budget can afford. When you reach your goals, I can either discharge you from my clinic or we can work together to set new goals and a new treatment plan.

What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

The professions of psychiatry and psychology differ in terms of focus of education and focus of practice. Psychiatrists are medical doctors, with an M.D. or D.O. degree, who can prescribe medications. Psychologists are also doctors, with a Psy.D. or Ph.D. However, psychologists do not prescribe medications but focus on treating emotional and mental suffering in patients using behavioral interventions (e.g. psychotherapy, skill-building, education, coaching). Psychologists are also qualified to conduct psychological testing, which is critical in assessing a person’s mental state and determining the most effective course of treatment.
While the two professions are distinct, psychologists and psychiatrists both play important roles in mental health treatment. Research has shown that, for some problems, combination therapy (psychotherapy + medication) works best. This is why, so often, psychologists and psychiatrists work collaboratively to enhance outcomes for their clients.

HOW are you DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PSYCHOLOGISTS and counselors?

I’m glad you asked! First, it is important to understand the difference between a licensed psychologist and a licensed professional counselor (LPC). A psychologist and a professional counselor both provide therapy. The psychologist, however, has a doctoral degree and is qualified to conduct psychological assessments and make diagnoses. Clinical psychologists are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health using clinical interviews, psychological tests, and other assessment tools. If you aren’t sure what the problem is or have tried other therapies without success, a psychologist may be better equipped to help you figure out what’s going on and develop a efficient treatment plan. Efficiency is important to me. When someone is suffering, the faster we can achieve relief the better! This is why I offer evidence-based therapies, those that have been rigorously tested in randomized clinical trials. My practice is unlike that of many other local psychologists in that I focus exclusively on trauma and stressor-related disorders. This specialization has allowed me to deepen my compassion for people struggling with this type of problem. It has also greatly expanded my experience and expertise in treating stressor-related issues.

Is this going to remain confidential?

The privacy and confidentiality of our sessions are critical to your progress and extremely important to me as a therapist and as a human being. In all aspects of my practice, communication between my clients and me, or any other authorized party, is protected by confidentiality regulations as stipulated by federal and state laws, and by professional standards and ethics. I wont’ discuss information about your therapy to any person or organization unless you give me a written release to do so. However, be aware that there are some situations in which I am legally obligated to limit confidentiality. I will provide you with documents that explain this more thoroughly prior to our first session.

Why do some people choose to pay for therapy services privately instead of using their insurance benefits?

Insurance companies require you to authorize me to provide them with a clinical diagnosis. This diagnosis becomes part of a permanent record that may affect future applications for and cost of health or life insurance. Sometimes insurance companies will require that I provide additional information such as treatment plans or summaries prior to authorizing additional therapy sessions. This information becomes part of the insurance company files. Once they have this information, I have no control over how they store it or what they do with it. It is possible for the insurance companies to share your personal information with a national medical information databank. To avoid these risks, many of my clients choose not to use their insurance. Paying privately ensures that your personal information remains secure.