How can Psychotherapy be helpful to me?

Psychotherapy is useful for many reasons; it can be a very valuable tool to:

  • Learn about and understand yourself
  • Experience the power of a supportive and non-judgemental environment
  • Learn new problem-solving skills
  • Make links between your past history and your present concerns or challenges
  • Gain important coping strategies for managing the typical stresses of life as well as the extreme difficulties that can happen to people

Therapy can also:

  • Help support your personal development by having a clearer idea of your own goals and values
  • Assist you in having more meaningful and positive relationships - this can mean friendships, colleagues or bosses at work, and dating/intimate relationships
  • Guide you in dealing with family issues or problems - from your past or family of origin, or in your current family.
  • Offer you a new perspective on people or situations where you feel "stuck"
  • Serve to change long-standing patterns - ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving that may no longer serve you, or may be destructive or dangerous
  • Give you more options for handling stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional/psychological difficulties

In addition, therapy can:

  • Act as a mirror, reflecting things from a new angle, helping you see parts of yourself that are difficult to see on your own
  • Enhance what you already know and give you additional options for living the kind of life that is what you want
  • Help you learn more effective ways of communication your wants and needs
  • Assist you in practicing how to be appropriately assertive and how to set clear boundaries in all areas of your life
  • Aid in developing a better sense of self overall
  • When you are dealing with circumstances cannot be changed (such as with grief and loss, illness and health difficulties for you or someone close to you, or past traumas/challenges),
  • Find more ways of emotionally healthy coping, so that you are not dragged down by these situations

Of course, the benefit obtained from psychotherapy depends on how much you put into the process and how willing you are to practice using therapeutic tools. Understanding things is helpful, but true change usually comes from implementing therapeutic tools in your life.

Since I can usually manage my own problems, can therapy also help me?

While psychotherapy is not for everyone, it is one of many useful life tools that can augment the tools you may already have. Each of us will face some challenges that go beyond what we have successfully managed in the past; these are often times people choose to come to psychotherapy  -- in order to get more support and increase their mental/cognitive, emotional, practical/behavioral, and sometimes spiritual awareness and actual tools to use in many areas of life. Most people that choose to come to therapy are aware enough to know when they might benefit from getting help, and secure enough to know that asking for help is a sign of strength. Asking for help can be a sign of maturity - recognizing there is a problem - committing to do whatever possible to change.

What is going to therapy like?

Therapy is a combination of what you bring to it and my styles of working with different people and different issues. The experience of being in therapy varies quite a bit, since people come to see me for many reasons, with many different goals in mind. Usually we start by discussing the primary concern that brings you to see me, looking at the history or background of the issue and the way this concern is currently troubling you. Depending on what issues you want to address, therapy can be brief (focusing on a very specific issue), or longer-term (to address patterns that may have been in place for a long time, or to help you with personal growth and development beyond "symptom relief.") In both cases, I generally work with people that come to regular weekly sessions ; some individuals come more often than that.

The best therapy results come from your active engagement and participation in the work. If you use our work most effectively, you should be able to implement what you learn in "real life" and use it outside the therapy setting. Sometimes I will suggest you do other specific things in between our sessions. This might include: reading a book that relates to your concerns, journaling, observing your thoughts/feelings/behaviors and taking clear notes about when certain things happen, or noticing and writing down particular things you are aware of. I might also suggest you participate in an outside group or other activity as part of our work together. (This might be a particular therapeutic or support group, a 12-Step recovery program, a skills building group, a nutritionist, a physician, etc.)
Your willingness to try various things and see what is most helpful is one of the best ways to be successful with achieving your therapy goals.

What about using medication instead of going to psychotherapy, or in combination with therapy?

Research shows that the most effective long-term treatment for most mild to moderate psychological problems is psychotherapy. When mental or emotional problems are more severe, the combination of medication and psychotherapy is generally best. Medication usually treats the symptom; therapy is geared to understanding the distress and making the necessary mental/emotional/behavioral/ and spiritual changes that can allow us to not just survive the challenges we face, but actually thrive - and use those challenges as touchstones to true growth and transformation.

When I work with those that need or would benefit from medication, this is something we discuss on an "as needed" basis. I work with several excellent psychiatrists, including those that specialize in helping individuals that are in recovery. Sometimes other physicians are also knowledgeable and can prescribe what would be most helpful. While my philosophy is relatively conservative regarding use of medications, it can certainly be a very useful tool and can always be considered, depending on your specific situation and needs

Do you take insurance and how does that work?

I do not take insurance directly, because I believe this is too compromising of your confidentiality. However, I will provide you with a "Super Bill" you can turn in to your insurance company for any reimbursement. You can ask your insurance company what are the benefits for "an out-of-network" provider to know if my services are reimbursable with your specific policy.  Often if you have a PPO type of insurance, the company will reimburse a certain percentage of the fee. Usually HMO insurance plans do not cover "out-of-network" providers, although sometimes they will because of my special qualifications. Check your policy carefully and make sure you understand what is covered and what is not.

Some helpful questions you can ask your insurance company:

  • 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 between me and my clients is a critical concern. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust; you need to feel comfortable knowing that whatever you discuss with me is generally not discussed with anyone else and that what you say does not go outside my office.   My Office Policies Form contains specific information on confidentiality; by signing the Informed Consent you can be assured that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone.  If you want me to share any information or to get any information from an outside professional (your physician, psychiatrist, a previous therapist, a family member, etc.) then I will have you sign a Release of Confidential Information Form that specifically names the person you want me to speak with/get information from and what kind of information will be addressed.  Legally, I cannot ask for or share any information (including that you are even seeing me) without your written permission.
However, only in very specific circumstances, California laws and my professional ethics require me to report the following:

  • Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, dependent adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
  • If I have reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threatened to harm another person or people.