California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Individual and Couple Counseling and Brief Hypnotic Psychotherapy
2755 Cottage Way, Suite 5, Sacramento, CA 95825 (916) 203-5310
"The main goal of therapy is for you to find peace of mind."
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Visiting a counselor gives you a chance to sit down in a private and legally confidential setting and talk to someone who is going to listen to you carefully and who will help you solve your problem. Talking to a counselor has several distinct advantages--unlike a relative or friend, a counselor is not involved with your life and so has no personal agenda with you. (Even if you should happen to run into your counselor in the mall, he or she will no doubt say a friendly hello but will not reveal any clue to your companions about your relationship! Everything, including the fact that you are a client, is confidential.) An experienced counselor will help you access some of your "unused resources" (thinking, creative, emotional) and help you approach your problem from some new perspectives. A good counselor will help you make decisions. And a good counselor will encourage you and hang in with you, becoming a trusted part of your personal support system.
You should gather some information before your meeting. Think of some questions and write them down, then call the therapist and ask them. Do a phone interview. You can tell a lot from a phone call. Or if the therapist doesn't return your call, that tells you to look further. You will probably also have some questions at the beginning of the first session. What is your license and how long have you been licensed? Is your license clear? What is your specialty and what is your training and experience? Are you directive or do you just listen? Do you give homework? Do you have a copy of your Office Policy for me to take? Do you take insurance? Will we put together and follow a written Treatment Plan? Will I be able to give you evaluations of how we are doing at regular intervals? You may want to ask some of the questions on this page, also.
The other (MOST) important qualification is, do you "resonate positively" with him or her? This is considered the single best indicator of success in therapy.
Check their license on "Links" to the left. Ask about their training and experience. Beyond that, it is your judgment based on the information you gather.
Short-term or immediate situations: if you are in a difficult situation right now, counseling can help to find a resolution. Or sometimes our lives might be going OK, but there are some long-term or maybe even life-long issues or patterns we want to put behind us. Counseling can help us to begin a new chapter in the book of our lives.
Because Brief Therapy is time-limited, we need to develop a plan and stick to it. Many therapists say it is 10 to 20 sessions. My belief is that "therapy" takes from two to ten sessions, depending on the goals. Rule of thumb: "Three to make a treatment plan, three to implement the plan, and three to follow up." Many clients like to continue to come in longer for "support" and these visits can be spaced out at longer intervals.
Once a week or every other week is usual. If the interval stretches beyond that, we tend to lose continuity for therapy. If a person is in the support stage, he or she may choose to come in for a visit every month or two.
Of course it's much preferred that for relationship counseling, all parties are present. There are some options for persuading those who are reluctant, but the bottom line is that if you think you have a problem, you should come in, alone if necessary, and together we can make a plan. I welcome whoever comes in, and we get to work.
After a couple of meetings you and I will put together a treatment plan that states your goals for our meetings and what we will do together to reach them. The plan and goals belong to you, so you can modify anytime. In each session we'll look at these goals, assess where you are and what you think I can do to help, and go from there. You may or may not want to use hypnosis or any variety of other techniques for change. At the end of the session we will talk about some "homework" (homefun?) so you can do something between now and the next session to further your goals. Then you'll give a quick evaluation of your satisfaction with the process. The agenda and the pace for a session is always yours.
Maybe the most important question here. Think about the outcome you would like from counseling and see if you can state it clearly. You might be vague on details, so you might say something like "I want to become clearer about..." Be willing to work between sessions on changing your behavior and thinking. Keep an optimistic attitude about yourself and the process. Remember you are not there to please me, so don't worry about it. And hang in with it, be patient, understand that the groundwork has to be laid first before big changes take place.
Be patient, don't demand miracles. Take responsibility for yourself. Look for positive signs. Notice when you start to feel better.
All communication between a client and therapist is both confidential and privileged. This means that the therapist cannot reveal any information about you to anyone else without your written permission. You "own" the privilege because you have the right to grant this permission as you wish, and you are not bound by confidentiality. Specific exemptions: if you are a danger to yourself or another person, or if the therapist has reason to suspect child abuse or elder abuse, there is a legal obligation to notify authorities.
Hypnosis is physical and mental relaxation (to clear away distractions) and a focusing on words, phrases, and ideas that we want to get into our mind. Many of our thoughts are habits, and habits can be changed. It's an effective way to communicate with the "back of the mind," the subconscious, or the unconscious, whichever term you prefer, and it is a way of "delivering therapy." When our words are directed to the very deepest part of our mind, we are going right to the heart of where our problem lives, and where our unused resources lie. Hypnosis is not by itself therapy, it's an educational or communication process to get all parts of our mind working in the same direction.
Forget the stage hypnosis you may have seen and any preconceptions of a "trance." It's just focusing on something and not paying attention to distractions. Think about the last time you enjoyed a movie or became engrossed in a good book. You were involved with the action, your imagination was busy, maybe you were affected emotionally, and yet you knew where you were and what was going on around you. You could interrupt it any time without a problem. I don't use the word "trance" very much, it's not a useful term.
Hypnosis is very safe. All you are doing is relaxing and listening to some helpful words. You will hear and understand everything, and remember it after the session. You remain in complete control--you can open your eyes, close your eyes, move around, scratch your nose, speak if you want to--and you are free to accept or reject anything you hear. Your comfort is the most important goal. You are not there to please or submit to the therapist. He or she is working for you. There is no "mind control" because no one can make you do anything that is against your principles or beliefs. Most people, after a little experience, are very comfortable with it. If you don't care for it, we won't do it.
It won't make you do these things, but it will help you do them. Hypnosis works directly with the "back of your mind" to help you remember what you have decided to do, and to find your unused power. Then it's easier to break old habits of thought, feeling, and action. "When you think like a slim person or a nonsmoker, you become one."
This is a "stage hypnosis myth." You won't be doing it. In office hypnosis you hear it all, understand it all, and remember it afterward.
Yes, move around, scratch your nose, speak, whatever makes you comfortable. Your comfort is the most important goal in hypnosis.
The usual question is "What will have to happen before you are ready?" This is an open question. Sometimes it's better to wait, and sometimes it's better to get going now.
Remember, counselors don't judge people, and they are hard to shock. It is also not necessary for you to tell every little detail, and you naturally will hold back some information, it's normal. Maybe later, as your confidence builds, you will want to share more information. In any event, whatever you may say is protected by law, with the exceptions noted in question #11.
There are many kinds of therapy out there. Spending some time in the Self-Help or Psychology section of a bookstore will give you information on the various approaches, as will an internet search. "CBT" (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) is now very widely used. CBT is directly concerned with changing "patterns of thought and the emotions and behavior that derive from them." According to Andrew Weil MD, a leader in combining conventional medicine with alternative therapies, "CBT [and other similar therapies] are as effective as the latest psychiatric drugs in many studies--and they work quickly, not requiring the commitments of time and money that older forms of talk therapy do." (Time Magazine, October 17, 2005, p. 70)
But it is probably even more important that you find a counselor or therapist that you like and feel comfortable with.
Sometimes clients are very clear on the cause (a current crisis, past trauma, illness, etc), but if not, it is worth spending a little time searching for a cause. However, if we do know or don't know the cause, the much more important issue is "what are you going to do about it now?"
Because counseling is time-limited, most counselors don't want to waste time blaming the past, but it is useful to spend at least some time exploring causes for present problems.
23. I DON'T LIKE BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO, HOW IS THAT HANDLED?
Counselors don't usually tell people what to do, but they do generally have advice and suggestions. Together we might think of a number of options for change. It's your life and it's your choice. Then putting your decisions and choices into practice becomes the goal of your therapy.
"He who pays the piano player has a right to inspect the sheet music." If I accept payment from a third party, I may have a variety of obligations to the paying program. They might include submitting reports about your progress, my assessments of your mental state, and explanations of what we are doing in our counseling sessions. I am not willing to provide confidential information to someone that neither you nor I know. If you want to bill your insurance for reimbursement directly to you, I can provide you with the standard forms.
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. It is not something that is "done to you." Therapists have no magic powers. You just go along with it to see what happens. Hypnosis doesn't feel weird or strange, it's just relaxation and concentration. It is voluntary, so anybody can do it. The big benefit of the process is that we are able to communicate with the "back of the mind" or whatever term you like. That's where our "underused resources" are.
I currently am taking appointments on Wednesday evenings, and all day, including evenings, on Thursdays, and Fridays. The customary and usual fee is $110 per 1-hour session. I have a sliding fee scale for clients with financial constraints, unemployed, and students. If this is you, ask about availability. Payment is requested at the time of service. If you have insurance that will reimburse some or all of the fee, I will help you with the billing process.