Common Questions

Is therapy right for me?

Some individuals think "therapy is for crazy people."  However, this is a stereotype that is not true.  Most individuals who participate in therapy are healthy, well-adjusted individuals seeking to gain greater insight into concerns they have.  Although the severity of a person's concerns differs from individual to individual, therapy can be beneficial to anyone who comes to a session with an open mind and a willingness to work on problems they encounter. 

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 medical diagnosis, divorce, or the death of someone close to them. Many seek the advice of counsel 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, marital concerns, grief, stress management, body-image issues, medical concerns, 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.

Therapy seems expensive.  How can I afford it with all of my other expenses?

While therapy can appear expensive on the surface, research indicates that most folks see a therapist for between 8 to 12 sessions, with a few booster sessions after that. Unlike medication, which is helpful as an adjunct to therapy for some people, therapy helps address the root causes of a problem.  When you think about it, the better question is how can you not afford therapy.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could learn new ways of addressing problems and working toward your own resolution?  Therapy can help you become more active in being a willing participant in improving your own life.  The goal of therapy is to work toward improvement, and not to remain in therapy forever.  When you consider the difference a few sessions can make in the overall scheme of your life, it's worth giving it a try.

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 cope with stress more effectivley, 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, medical concerns, 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 acceptance and peace with a medical diagnosis
  • 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

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. At the inital visit, a therapist generally asks a lot questions about your history to make sure he or she can best help you.  This is because therapists have training in different areas of practice, so you want to find a therapist who is the best fit for treating you.  Also, you want to find the best fit with a therapist to determine whether the therapist is someone you like and trust.

Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues or ongoing personal growth. 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 are willing to take responsibility for their actions, work towards self-change and create greater awareness in their lives. 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?

In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you. 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.  Research generally indicates that while medication can sometimes give you an emotional boost after several weeks, it is participating in therapy that can give you the best chance at solving problems long-term.  Additionally, research indicates that for cases of mild to moderate depression, therapy is as effective as medication and helps individuals make longer term progress.

How much training did you receive to become a psychologist?

Typically, psychologists complete an average of 7 years of school after a bachelor's degree.  Within their training, psychologists complete over 3,000 hours of counseling before completing their doctorate.  To practice in the state of Texas, psychologists must successfully pass a national examination, a written state-administered examination, and an oral state-administered examination.  Each year, psychologists must complete hours of continuing education to remain up-to-date in their training.  Individuals who are considered to be psychologists in the state of Texas have either a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.), a Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.), or a Doctorate of Philosopy in Clinical or Counseling Psychology (Ph.D.).  In the state of Texas, psychologists do not prescribe medication.  However, in some states psychologists are able to prescribe medication.

What is the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a licensed professional counselor?

Psychologists receive their training in research, counseling, and administering psychological evaluations.  As mentioned above, psychologists must receive a bachelor's degree from a college or university prior to attending graduate school.  Typically, psychologists will receive a master's degree while in graduate school earning their doctorate.  In a typical graduate program, psychologists complete between four and six years of coursework and practicum where they see clients prior to going on internship.  Also during their coursework, they complete a thesis to receive their master's degree and a dissertation to receive their doctorate.  In addition, psychologists are required to pass qualifying examinations.  Following these years of study, a psychologist must complete a psychology internship lasting one year before graduating.  Next, a psychologist must complete a year of counseling and psychological evaluations at an internship site in another location from their graduate school.  Finally, a psychologist must complete one to two years of postdoctoral training in either clinical or research, pass a national examination, a state written examination, and an oral examination before being able to see clients independently without supervision.  Psychologists do not attend medical school, as their training focuses on counseling, evaluations, and research. 

In contrast, psychiatrists attend four years of medical school before completing a three year residency after medical school.  Their training is primarily based on learning to prescribe medications, with much less emphasis on psychotherapy.  Most psychiatrists do not provide psychotherapy and instead focus on prescribing medications, preferring instead to refer individuals to psychologists or other mental health professionals for psychotherapy.  At times, mental health professionals may coordinate your care, but only with your permission. 

Licensed professional counselors earn their bachelor's degree and then attend graduate school for two to three years to complete a master's degree.  For some schools, they may complete a master's thesis.  During their training, they complete coursework and clinical training in counseling.  They then must complete a national and a state examination to become licensed before practicing independently. 

Social workers complete two to three years of coursework post-bachelor's degree before earning their master's degree.  At the end of their coursework, they complete their first examination to become licensed to practice within an agency setting only. After several years of practicing in an agency and being supervised by a social worker certified at the highest level of licensure, they take another licensure examination to be able to practice independently in the community.

When considering which type of mental health professional to work with, individuals sometimes desire to know how many years of experience a person has and how long they have been licensed.  This varies based on type of degree and length of training.  For example, someone with a master's degree may appear to have more years of experience, but in fact they have the same as someone with less years post-licensure who is a psychologist because it takes longer to become licensed as a psychologist.  Additionally, research indicates that experience is not a determinant in the quality of counseling and instead the most important quality a counselor can have is empathy.  Therefore, all mental health professionals have something to offer, provided they are a fit for your needs and are supportive and ethical.

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.  Please call our office, and we will be able to tell you if we take your insurance plan. Check your coverage carefully and 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?

Why might someone decide to pay privately, instead of billing their insurance for mental health services?

Many individuals choose to pay "out of pocket" or "fee for service" because of the privacy this allows them.  When your insurance covers services, your therapist is required to release your diagnosis and sometimes all of your personal information to the insurance company.  On occasion, some insurance companies have provided personal health data to public databases without the consent of patients.  If you choose to use your insurance, I have no control over your privacy once your health information is released.  Additionally, insurance companies sometimes do not provide coverage for a normal life-type problem, instead stating that a person must be diagnosed with a more severe mental health problem to receive coverage. 

Paying out of pocket means that an individual is not limited to a certain number of sessions as with some insurance plans and you have complete privacy over your medical records, with the exception of instances of judge-ordered subpoenas, self-harm, and abuse of children, the elderly, and the disabled.  If I am not on your insurance plan, you will pay the full price of the session at the time of service.  Then, if you request it, I will provide you with a receipt and you may submit it to your insurance company.  The amount you are reimbursed is dependent on your insurance company's coverage for out-of-network providers and any possible out-of-network deductibles.

If you are concerned about insurance and privacy, we can discuss this when you call.

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 dependent 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.
  • If a client has been harmed by a mental health professional.  The therapist is required by Texas state law to notify the district attorney's office.
  • If a subpoena is issued by a judge a mental health professional is required to respond to the subpoena.
Do you offer telephone sessions for therapy?

The answer to this question is "sometimes," but only for situations in which we have an established relationship and it seems that it would be as beneficial to the client as an in person session.  Phone sessions are not covered by insurance. 

I was referred to you by my reproductive endocrinologist because we will be using a donor to complete our family.  What can I expect when I meet with you?

Being referred to a psychologist who specializes in reproductive medicine is helpful, because working in the field of infertility requires advanced knowledge of medical procedures and the psychosocial aspects of in-vitro fertilization.  If you
were referred by an agency or by your physician, the purpose behind the consultation is to provide you with education on the common emotional aspects of utilizing a donor and raising a donor-conceived child.  During your consultation,
you will be asked to provide a brief medical history of your infertility and social history, as well as how you have coped with the stress of infertility.  Studies suggest that coping with infertility is as stressful for couples as if one partner had
been diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

Depressive and anxiety symptoms are very common while undergoing the process, and the decision to utilize a donor is both anxiety-provoking and exciting.  It's not uncommon for individuals to grieve the biological link they might have had
to a child that would have had a genetic connection to them.  This consultation will help you investigate a number of decisions that you must navigate as you consider donor conception, and will provide you with resources as you face the road ahead.
Because the consultation is not considered to be therapy, it is not covered by insurance companies.  The consultation typically occurs of the course of two hours, and all consultations occur in person.

If you and your significant other decide that you would like to meet with me past the initial consultation for additional support, it is then considered to be therapy and individuals and couples may use any mental health benefits they may have to
continue with me in therapy.  There is no pressure to continue with me in therapy, although at times I may recommend additional therapy sessions if a couple appears to be gridlocked in the decision-making process.  However, in no way does
this recommendation affect how you proceed with the process.  That decision remains between you and your physician.  In other words, unlike with psychological evaluations, I do not act as a gatekeeper in recipient parent consultations.

I am an oocyte donor candidate.  What will happen when I meet with you?

When meeting with oocyte donors, my role is to evaluate potential candidates to determine whether it is in the best interest of the candidate and the recipient parents for a person to serve as an oocyte donor.  The evaluation generally occurs over the
course of 2.5 to 3 hours, and involves a psychological interview with me followed by psychological testing.  If you have a significant other, the significant other will be asked to meet briefly with me, because serving as a donor could potentially affect
your relationship with your significant other as well as any current children or future children you intend to have.  During the psychological evaluation, my role involves providing you with education about potential risks and benefits related to being an
oocyte donor to help you decide whether you would truly like to proceed with oocyte donation. 

Psychological evaluations are good for one cycle only, because people's mental functioning can change over time.  It is important to be honest in your evaluation, and to present yourself as you would normally.  Although most donors are nervous about
the evaluation process, it is an opportunity to ask questions.  Testing results are only released to qualified medical personnel, although I will inform you whether your testing results indicate that you appear to be a good candidate psychologically for
oocyte donation. 

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