Common Questions People Ask Before Starting Therapy

+ Why do people go to therapy?

People come to therapy for different reasons, but what they have in common is that they are at a point where they feel like they could really use some help. They may feel unhappy, stressed, anxious, depressed or want help making sense of painful experiences from the recent or more distant past. Some people come because friends or family have encouraged them to come and they are taking that suggestion to heart. All are perfectly valid reasons to consult with a psychotherapist.

+ How can therapy help me?

The focus of psychotherapy is always to help you feel differently, but it can help in a few different ways. In a fundamental way, it helps by not leaving you alone with things that are bothering you. We can work together to help you feel differently, but in a unique relationship where you don’t need to worry about the repercussions of what you’re saying or feeling in the same way you would if you shared it with a friend or family member. Therapy also helps by giving you the space to do deep, important work - both emotionally and intellectually. We rarely have the gift of time and space to be with everything that we’re feeling. Therapy is designed to give you that space. And, by giving yourself that space, you can often find new ways of being in the world that feel less burdensome.

+ What will we discuss in therapy?

We can discuss any topic of your choosing in therapy. Common topics include: how you feel about yourself, relationships (platonic, romantic, professional, familial, etc.), feelings of all kinds (negative and positive), difficult memories, thoughts/feelings/behaviors related to uncomfortable topics like sex, drugs & alcohol, etc. The most important thing to know is that you are in charge of the conversation. I will always make suggestions or point in directions that seem relevant, but I will not make you talk about anything that you do not want to talk about. Your privacy and comfort is very important to me!

+ Will you give me advice?

Sometimes people want advice, and when it is appropriate I will make recommendations. However, the focus should be talking you through what might be blocking you from taking the kind of action you want to take or what is blocking you from living your life in a way that is true to your own values, but I defer to you when it is time to really make decisions about how to live your life.

+ What is therapy like?

A therapy session is a minimum of a weekly, 50-minute session. Some people come more often or have longer sessions, which can allow for deeper work. It often begins with a brief, gentle pause to allow you to check-in with yourself and orient yourself to the work we’re going to do together. Then, we will begin wherever feels most relevant to you. People often begin with a feeling that is still with them or that has been on their mind over the last week. As you talk, I will help guide the conversation to help you connect to and process your feelings associated with what you are talking about. Usually this back and forth allows for a deeper conversation and practice to emerge, which typically take up the full amount of session time. Sometimes, more than one topic comes up in a session. We will do our best to make space for everything you want to talk about and start with what feels most important.

+ How long does therapy take?

This is a great question! My goal is for therapy to be as brief as possible while also making sure that you have gotten everything you came to me for. Every person is different and everyone moves along their own path at their own pace. The most important thing is that you feel like therapy is helping and that you can leave a session feeling that you got something positive or healing out of our work together.

+ Will my insurance cover our sessions? How does that work?

Unfortunately, the answer varies quite widely. One important caveat to keep in mind is that using insurance to pay for therapy requires you to receive a mental health diagnosis. That information is passed along to your insurance company. Some people are not comfortable with this and decide not to seek reimbursement from their insurance companies. I have found it challenging to work directly with insurance companies and have elected to be an in-network provider with only Blue Cross and Blue Shield PPO and Aetna insurance companies. However, I will support any efforts from the people I work with who are out of network to receive reimbursement. To find out if this is a viable option for you, I suggest you call your insurance company and ask the following questions: Do I have out-of-network benefits for psychotherapy? Do I have a deductible? How much is it? What percentage of my bill will be covered after my deductible is met? What is the insurance company’s usual and customary fee for CPT codes 90834 or 90837? Once you get the answer to these questions, I am more than happy to discuss next steps in using insurance to help pay for psychotherapy.

+ Do I pay every session? Monthly? How do I pay?

Generally, my preference is to be paid weekly as it makes less work for me but I can certainly work with other payment schedules. I accept just about every form of payment - I have Square for credit cards (with a 3% processing fee), cash or check. Do you offer a sliding scale? It is very important for me that therapy be accessible to a diverse group of people and I try, when possible, to accommodate those who cannot afford my full fee. Feel free to discuss this with me further and I will let you know if this is possible for our work together. If I’m unable to accommodate you, I will connect you with other therapists who might be able to.

+ What if I cannot make it to a session? (Cancellation policy).

I have a 24 hour cancellation policy, which is the full price of a session. Outside of having the flu or being ill, the 24 hour cancellation fee is always applied. Outside of vacations, my expectation is that we will work together on a weekly basis and working with me involves a commitment to that amount of time. You are welcome to reschedule due to a sudden work project or for any other reason, but, I will charge you for our originally scheduled session with the expectation that we will reschedule that appointment at your convenience.

+ How can I tell if a therapist is a good match for me?

Many research studies show that the biggest factor in a successful therapy experience is the relationship between the therapist and patient. So, making sure you’re comfortable with your therapist is really important. Two things come to mind in trying to sort out the rightness of fit:

  1. When you talk to this person, do they make you feel comfortable? Do you feel seen and listened to? Are they talking to you or past you?

  2. Does their style and approach match what you want? Some people really want, more than anything, to be listened to and be supported. Others really want to be challenged or given concrete tasks to work on. Think about what you want and ask your therapist how their style compares to your goals.

+ Should I see a male or female therapist?

All mental health professionals are qualified to do their jobs, so this question (while very common) is more about trying to figure out if a therapist is a good match for you. Broadly, when a therapist’s gender is a factor for you it likely has to do with one of two things: You have positive associations with people of that gender in your life. I have heard this many times in initial phone conversations with prospective clients: they were specifically looking to meet with a female therapist because they feel safer and more comfortable talking to women. If that’s important to you, it makes sense to ensure that therapy feels like a comfortable place to explore important parts of yourself. Sometimes people seek out therapists of a particular gender for the exact opposite reason. They have historically struggled with people of a particular gender and they want a safe space to look at that and work directly with someone of that gender as part of transforming that dynamic. This can be very powerful, meaningful work if you feel ready for it.