Jill Answers Some Frequently Asked Questions about Counseling
How do I make an appointment?
How long does counseling take?
That’s up to you! As with so many questions about therapy, the answer is that it’s different for each person or couple. Some people approach counseling with very definite goals that they want to achieve; others just have a general feeling of disquiet or unhappiness in their lives. If after two or three sessions you don’t feel that you have been helped at all, you need to discuss this with me; it may be that there is something major in your life that you don’t want to change which is causing some of the problems you’re experiencing; it may be that you haven’t fully communicated your problem to me; or it could be that your expectations are too high given your particular situation.
How often should I speak to you?
Most people find that once a week works well for them; but sometimes twice a week is important when you need extra support or there are deep issues that need intensive work.
When you begin to feel that you need less help you may want to phase out gradually, speaking with me once every two weeks and then maybe once a month for a while. If you find that you need more help you can always go back to once or twice a week.
What do I talk about?
Many people feel nervous that they won’t find anything to talk about, or what they say won’t be what’s most important. However, it’s quite surprising how the words come when you know that you are in a supportive and caring atmosphere. I will help you focus on the things that are important. Drawing on my training and my own experience in therapy, I will help you to explore the feelings and experiences that have helped create the situation you find yourself in today. The more open you are to discussing your experiences the more helpful you will find counseling.
The problem is really with my partner who I know won’t consider counseling- is there any point in my starting on my own?
A therapist can’t change your partner anymore than you can. Each of us can only change ourselves and a therapist can only help you to the extent that you are willing to be helped. However, it takes two to tango — if you change, your partner’s going to have to do something! So yes, I can help you by seeing you on your own; it may help you change the relationship and it will help you find better ways to live with the things you can’t change.
How confidential is therapy?
Most people want to know that everything they tell their therapist will be kept strictly confidential. You need to know that there are some things that cannot be kept confidential; if you appear to be a danger to yourself or are threatening to hurt someone else, I am legally required to report this to law enforcement. Similarly, if you talk about a child, an elder or dependent adult being abused, whoever is doing the abusing, I must report it to law enforcement or protective services. You can understand that these laws are made to protect people from harming themselves or each other.
There is one other situation that you should think about carefully. If you pay your therapist yourself she will not share your records or any information about you with anyone else. Your rights to confidentiality are protected by state law. However, if you use your health insurance, particularly if you are enrolled in an HMO, she will have to provide regular reports to your insurance company. She may have to tell them more than you want them to know, so that they’ll reimburse her. Because of this, I have stopped billing insurance companies. If you request it, I will provide you with a statement that you can submit yourself.
How is talking to someone going to make any difference?
It probably isn’t, not on its own anyway. If therapy was just talking to someone you could chat to your neighbor and save a lot of money! Therapy is a partnership with your therapist. You make a commitment to keeping your therapy session times, being as open and honest as you can about your life and your feelings, and to continuing to think about these issues between sessions. I may also suggest some things you can try, like recording your dreams, keeping a journal or joining a support group. It’s up to you how much you do, but the more committed you are to the process, the quicker you’ll see results. I am committed to providing a safe environment for you to gain greater understanding and make changes in your life; to being a non-judgmental, caring listener, and to using my full training and expertise to help you find new possibilities.
What if I don’t like therapy?
You can stop working with me at any time. It’s entirely up to you. Therapists differ, just like people do, and it’s important that you feel comfortable with the person you’re working with. However, if you’ve been talking to me or another therapist for a while and its making you angry or irritated, a breakthrough may be just around the corner and you should think twice before moving on. One way to find out is to tell me (or your current therapist) what you’re feeling. That’s not easy but her response will be helpful in your decision. One of the odd things about therapy is that it sometimes stirs up some very strong and uncomfortable feelings. If that happens for you, don’t worry it’s quite normal! In fact, it’s one of the things that helps therapy to work. So make sure you tell your therapist – she can help you to understand what’s happening.