Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if counseling can help me? +
Basically, if you’re a human, counseling can help you. I’m biased, of course, but hear me out. Who else in your life can you honestly say would allow you 50 uninterrupted minutes each week to talk about whatever is on your mind and not judge you? Being seen, feeling heard, and finding acceptance are all part of the therapeutic process. Therapists are experienced in listening intuitively to your worries and supporting you in making changes in the way you think about and resolve problems. Seeing a counselor is very similar to making a healthy change in the way you eat, exercising, or deciding to spend your money more wisely. It’s a decision you make to help you reach your personal goals. If you give it a solid try and you find it doesn’t help, you can stop at any time, or you can try a different counselor.
What if I’ve never talked to a professional before? +
You gotta start somewhere, right? I see people in my practice all the time who have never been to see a therapist. I also see clients who have had a bad experience with a therapist before. If this is you, that’s ok. It’s natural to be a little nervous. It makes sense because it’s something new, and you don’t know what to expect. The initial phone consultation is very helpful for talking about these concerns and getting a little more comfortable with the idea of telling a complete stranger major details about your private life. I know, if you think about it, it is a very strange arrangement, isn’t it? Therapists know how to talk to people and ask questions in a way that encourages people to open up. If a topic comes up that you don’t want to talk about, you can say, “I don’t really want to talk about that.” No pressure. It’s your session, so you get to talk about what’s on your mind. Doesn’t that sound amazing???
My doctor prescribed medication, so isn’t that enough? +
Medication is extremely helpful for many people, so I’m a fan, for sure, but the consensus seems to be that talk therapy (specifically, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT) combined with medication yields better outcomes than medication alone. Some evidence even suggests that psychotherapy may be more effective for long-term results because the skills one learns in therapy can be used long after treatment terminates. Still, other research finds that it isn’t the type of therapy so much as the relationship between therapist and client.
Where do I even start looking for a therapist? +
Well, you’re on the right track because you found me! The best way to search is a combination of different methods. You can ask your primary care doctor or OB/GYN for recommendations, and then you can go online and research those names to find their websites to learn a bit more about their style, what they look like, read their blog, find out what they charge, etc. Some people choose to go straight to googling without checking in with their doc, and that’s fine, too. When you google “counselors near me” or “therapist specializing in postpartum depression in wake forest,” the first results will likely be Google business listings (that may not actually include therapists trained in your specific issue) with a map. Directly underneath these results will be a link to Psychology Today and possibly some other directories, such as Postpartum International’s resources page. TherapyDen.com is a great directory that is gaining some momentum lately. It’s very inclusive in its search criteria, and it has a very progressive vibe, so I’m hoping to see it show up higher in Google’s rankings soon. I’m listed there, and I would much rather help its mission than Psychology Today’s very white, very mainstream, and VERY overwhelming way of promoting therapists. Oh, but I digress. Now back to the questions!
When I’ve looked online for a therapist, I’ve seen so many different kinds of credentials behind providers’ names (e.g. LPC, LCSW, PhD). What is the difference in all of them? +
There are a lot of them, right? Some credentials indicate education level, as in PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). Others tell you the kind of license someone has. For example, my Masters Degree program trained me to be a counselor, and in the state of NC, that corresponding license is as a professional counselor, so I have LPC after my name. I’m also a Nationally Certified Counselor, a national designation as opposed to a state one. A therapist who has LCSW after their name earned a Master’s degree and license in Social Work. LPCs and LCSWs both provide mental health counseling.
How do I know if you can help me? +
I offer a free phone consultation for this very reason. We won’t know for sure until we get started, but we can at least talk briefly on the phone to discuss what you’re looking for, clear up any questions you may have, and decide if we think we might be a good fit. If so, we’ll schedule your first appointment. If not, I’ll provide some referral information to guide you to other professionals I feel would be better equipped to help you.
Should I try online counseling? +
Perhaps. It’s a terrific option for a number of reasons, and we can certainly discuss it during the consultation call. Virtual counseling (also known as tele-counseling, online counseling, online therapy, and virtual therapy) is confidential and secure as long as it is conducted using a HIPAA-compliant and encrypted platform. I use a program called VSee, and if we decide to go this route, I’ll explain everything you need to do to get up and running before our first session. You do need a pretty fast internet connection (wifi is usually fine as long as you aren’t also streaming video or downloading huge files during your session), and you have to be a NC resident to work with me virtually. The cost is the same, the platform is free for you to use, and it can be a very convenient way to access mental health services.
Why don't you accept insurance? +
How much time do you have? I am no longer participating in managed care networks for many reasons, but here’s the gist of it: My humanistic and client-focused approach to psychotherapy means that you and I collaborate to determine what your sessions look like, how often we feel we should meet, what we should focus on, how to measure a successful outcome, and anything else that comes up. When an insurance company is involved, a case manager who has never met either of us gets to decide if your issue is serious enough to warrant seeing a therapist because psychotherapy services must be medically necessary in order for your benefits to cover the cost of it. This means I must diagnose you with a mental illness. I see counseling as a valuable service that can often prevent more serious ‘medically necessary’ procedures, as an important part of your self-care routine, as a way to find validation and healing in a crazy world full of pain. But health insurance doesn’t cover any of that.
How long is a session? +
Most of my clients schedule 50-minute sessions. It goes by fast, so we can always discuss booking a 90-minute appointment if you’re going through a particularly rough patch or other various reasons. Fifty minutes is typically enough time to process how you’re feeling currently, go over how you’ve been doing since the last session, and make changes to our plan and your goals, or decide to continue on the current path.
How long will it take for therapy to work? +
Many people find that they feel some relief by the end of the first session. Some clients even tell me they started feeling better once they had that first appointment on the calendar. Yes, before they even came into the office! Is this the placebo effect at play? Perhaps. I happen to think it is the result of taking action on something you know you need to do. You will likely be a little nervous in the beginning because it is weird sharing very personal details of your life with a stranger, but it can be incredibly helpful to begin the process of getting things off your chest. Be aware that you could feel particularly vulnerable and may even feel worse now that you've begun the process of uncovering these raw emotions. It's natural and not at all a sign that therapy isn’t working. Everyone is different, and the process really can’t be rushed. Within three to five sessions, though, you should be feeling some positive results. If not, we’ll discuss it and make changes as necessary. The length of treatment varies depending on many variables, including the severity of the stress you are experiencing, the level of support you have in your life, the changes you are able to implement outside of our sessions, the frequency of your sessions (weekly appointments, especially in the beginning, typically yield faster results).
How often do I need to see you? +
I usually recommend we meet once per week in the beginning, but it is ultimately up to you. Weekly sessions are ideal because they allow just enough time in between for you to begin implementing the strategies we are discussing, but not too much time that you don’t feel supported. For example, we may decide that carving out an extra ten minutes for yourself before bedtime to read or relax could help you fall asleep more easily. If you have one week to start trying this out, it’s only a short amount of time. If you run into problems making it happen, we’ll be able to touch base one week later to tweak our plan a little, taking into account the specific barriers you faced. If you aren’t scheduled to see me for two weeks (or longer), you may get discouraged and feel tempted to give up and just wait for the next session to discuss why the plan isn’t working. Weekly appointments have the built-in accountability of coming back in to review what’s going on, and consistency is key when it comes to making changes that stick.
What if I need to cancel? +
I understand that things come up, including illnesses, family emergencies, childcare issues, etc. When possible, I expect that you will cancel within 24 hours. In the case of a true emergency, such as those listed above, no fee will be charged. Otherwise, not showing for your appointment or not canceling within 24 hours of the appointment time will result in a charge of the full fee. Unless you opt out, you will receive email reminders 48 hours before your scheduled appointment time and text reminders 24 hours before your appointment.
Do you write down what we talk about? +
Yes, I keep progress notes that summarize what each session focused on, indicators of how your treatment is going, and our plan for moving forward.
My doctor recommended counseling. Will you let her know I scheduled an appointment? +
Yes, I will request contact information for other providers involved in your care and have you sign a form permitting me to communicate with them about your treatment. This step keeps everyone in the loop and is typically referred to as ‘continuity of care.’
Do I have to do homework in between sessions? +
You don’t have to do anything! Homework can be very helpful, though, for staying focused on your goals in between sessions. You don’t get graded on it, though. Most of the time, it will be a specific strategy or technique that we’ve discussed and practiced during your appointment. We’ll decide on a plan for you to put it into use at home, and then at your next session, we’ll review to see how it went, if it was effective, if we need to change it a bit, or if we need to scrap it altogether and try something new. I don’t typically use handouts or worksheets, but if you feel a more tangible kind of assignment would be helpful, I’m happy to oblige.
How will I know when to stop going to therapy? +
You won’t have to decide that on your own. We’ll touch base occasionally (every three to four visits or so) to talk about how you’re feeling compared with where you were when we began, what’s been most effective, what hasn’t helped, and what to do next. Sometimes the decision is to continue as is, and other times, we may begin to plan an end to your treatment. The final session is called a termination session. It’s an opportunity to summarize what you’ve gained, ways to maintain the positive changes, and encouragement to reach back out at any time you’d like to come back.