Frequently asked questions
Q. You are a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, does that mean you only see married people?
Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to treat individuals, couples and/or families. This includes children and adolescents. It also includes couples who are not married. I find the most joy working with couples that want to improve their relationship, parents who want to find more balance in their parenting and individuals who want to find peace by looking at things in a healthier way.
Q. Is couples or family counseling covered by insurance?
What seems an easy question is actually quite complicated. Some insurances cover family therapy but not couples counseling. Other insurances only cover individual counseling. If your insurance only covers individual counseling then couples and family therapy is not covered. If your insurance covers family therapy, one of you has a diagnosis that is an illness, injury or disease then family therapy may be covered. The issue is that it would not cover things like "communication skills or sexual issues in a relationship". Understandably, most people want to know for sure that their sessions will be covered. It may be possible for family therapy to be covered. As I don't want you to be surprised by unexpected bills I am informing clients that couples therapy is not covered by insurance.
Q. Should I use my insurance or should I pay out of pocket?
If you use your insurance the therapist has to abide by the insurance regulations. In practical terms this means more paperwork, less privacy/confidentiality and a diagnosis. In addition, insurance only provides payment for those that have a medical/behavioral health diagnosis. Therefore, I will evaluate you and and provide an appropriate diagnosis to the insurance company. This means that you will have a mental health diagnosis (e.g. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, etc) if you are using your insurance for therapy. Insurance companies can request all of your records (including notes) and therapists have to comply with the request so that payment is not denied. This can affect your confidentiality. Who knows how many people are looking at your records? I have also heard that sometimes due to certain diagnosis people are having their life insurance denied or fees increased. Still due to costs some people may find it cost prohibitive to pay for therapy without insurance. Currently I am taking one insurance (BCBS) and can give you a statement to submit to other insurances for reimbursement.
Some people may qualify for a diagnosis but prefer to pay out of pocket so that there is no formal diagnosis being shared with a medical entity. Therefore, the option of paying without insurance is recommended if you desire a higher level of privacy and confidentiality.
Sometimes clients do not have any mental health issues but find it helpful to discuss life issues with a therapist. An example of this is therapy for personal growth. In these cases an insurance company would deny services and you would need to pay privately.
Q. How long will therapy last?
A number of factors determine the length of treatment. The reason/problem, the goals, clients' history and personalities, and external events are some of those factors. So, it is quite difficult to give a specific number. We strive to constantly communicate with our clients regarding progress. This is to ensure that treatment continues for only the absolute necessary amount of time. I have worked with clients for 3 sessions and we parted both feeling like goals were accomplished and therapy was successful. I also have worked with clients for years and know that we are making good progress in therapy. Generally speaking clients find improvement within 5-10 sessions. If are doing couples therapy we generally estimate that sessions will last from 8 to 20 sessions but some more difficult issues (e.g. trauma, infidelity, etc) can take even longer.
Q. Some therapists seem better than others. Can you explain why that is?
Effective therapists know the research, are dynamic and form a strong alliance with their clients. Good therapists are able to empathize, and communicate with their clients. They are also able to work cooperatively with their clients to make sure that progress is made and change happens. Kindness, authenticity, and my exclusive attention are some of the things that I feel I offer to my clients. Also, I have extensive training working with families and couples which a lot of therapists don't.
Q. How do I know a therapist is the right one for me?
In the first session you will be able to know if you like the therapist. Did you feel listened to? Did you feel this person was polite, friendly, professional? I believe it is important that you "click" with your therapist. Also, it is important that you feel comfortable being open, genuine and honest with the therapist.
Q. How do I know therapy is working?
You and the therapist should agree on the goal of therapy, usually that means discussing the issue that brought you to therapy in the first place. I believe therapy is a joint effort, so evaluating progress should be done together. Therapy is working when both therapist and client are able to verbalize the differences from the first day of treatment and when there is movement towards solving the issue that brought you to therapy. I frequently check with my clients to make sure we are moving in the right direction.
Q. What are your hours?
I have flexible hours. Currently (September, 2017) the earliest I meet with my clients is 7:30 am and the latest 5:30 pm.
Q. For the first couples appointment should I go by myself or should my partner go with me?
I will be glad to meet individually with you or to meet the two of you for the first appointment. I have two goals in the first session: to get to know you and to make you comfortable so that we can create a treatment plan that works for you. So, for the first session feel free to come by yourself or to bring your partner. If I met one of you individually and the goal is couples counseling, I will encourage an individual meeting with the other partner before we meet for the couples session.
Q. I would like for my child to attend therapy. How is the procedure?
If your child is under 18 I request to meet with at least one parent/guardian on the day of the appointment. I encourage both parents (or guardians) to attend the first meeting so that I can get both of your views regarding the issues your child may be experiencing. For some issues, I will meet only with your child for future appointments but may check in with you at the beginning or ending of the session to get an update on how things are progressing from your point of view. For other issues, I may invite you to join us for part of the session.
If your child is over 18, we require that they make the appointment themselves. You can attend the session if this is okay with your child and a release is signed.
Q. Do you charge for forms? For phone calls?
Please understand that there is a fee for writing letters and filling out forms; we will be happy to give you an estimated cost of the letter or form once the requested documents have been received and reviewed. Generally speaking my hourly rate is divided by the amount of time it takes me to write or fill out the forms.
Phone calls are charged at my hourly rate and not covered by insurance. Phone calls made to my office manager to schedule appointments or relay a message are not charged.
Q. Do you know any resources in the community that could help me? Like a support group?
There are lots of support groups around town. I have put some of the links below.
Baptist Health has one on Sunday
Q. I am interested in Premarital counseling. Is that covered by insurance?
No. To use insurance you must have a diagnosis (meaning a set of symptoms that are negative). Usually premarital couples are having positive interactions and look for premarital counseling more as a prevention of future issues. Premarital counseling is a wonderful way to start your marriage as it decrease changes of divorce by roughly 30%.
Q. Is therapy expensive?
Yes. There are several logical reasons for this. We are required to have an extensive academic background and thousands of hours of experience before getting licensed. Some unlicensed therapists (they are called registered interns) are able to offer more affordable therapy since they are just starting. Once licensed we are required to take a number of credits of continuing education and most licensed therapist continue to pursue extensive specializations. Sabrina Bowen for instance is a level 2 Gottman therapist and has extra training in Emotionally Focused Therapy. Both are specializations that make one more qualified to work with couples. So a therapy hour includes our education, attention, experience and time (and I have not even mentioned yet our businesses expenses). Another thing to keep in mind is how expensive divorce is. Most divorce attorneys will require a retainer usually from 5 to 20 thousand per partner. Even if a mediator is chosen instead of a divorce attorney their hourly rate are usually double ours. So, therapy is generally much more affordable than getting divorced. Please keep in mind also that therapy generally improves mental health. Keep in mind that therapy can be extremely helpful for people as it can heal relationships, bring to light unhealthy patterns and create change. So even though therapy is expensive, it is certainly worth it.