It’s normal to have questions about what to expect. These are some of the most common questions about counseling that I hear. Just click on the questions below to find out the answer:
- We need couple therapy. Do both of us come for the first session?
- How long will it take for me to feel better? Will I have to go to therapy for a long time?
- Will I have to take medication to get better? Will you prescribe this to me?
- I am nervous that what we do in our sessions may conflict with my beliefs, both personal and religious. How does that work?
- What approaches do you use? I’ve heard of some different approaches used in counseling and therapy and I’m not sure which one is the best for me?
- Just how confidential are our sessions? I have a lot that I want to share, and I’m worried that you may have to tell someone.
- I would like to bring my child in to see you. Can you tell me how that works? Will I be in the room with you? Will my child be alone in the room with you? Will you tell me what happens with them?
- I want to work on my relationship, but my partner doesn’t want to come with me. What do I do?
We need couple therapy. Do both of us come for the first session?
Yes! I prefer for both of you to come to the first session together, and then I do a session with each of you individually. I’ve found it’s easier to meet with both of you first while I gather a bit of info about how you meet, how long you have been together, and basic info about what brought you in to see me. This helps both partners to feel like I’m getting an equal view and not taking one side or another by meeting with one of you first.
Sometimes, due to life, it gets reversed, and I see one partner first, and reverse the order. We do the best we can- especially to help each person feel heard and understand.
Even if we aren’t doing family or couple therapy, we will sometimes pull in other family members- because stress and worry and all of the other emotions of life don’t happen alone. We need others. So I will often suggest inviting a family member- either for all of our sessions together or as guests for some of our sessions.
*I do not work with porn/sexual addictions and I do limited work with substance abuse.
How long will it take for me to feel better? Will I have to go to therapy for a long time?
During our first session together, we will continue the “get to know you” process, and we’ll work to come up with the things you want us to focus on (aka “goals”). Depending on how far we get during our first session, I may be able to give you some personalized action steps to work on at home after that session, but often we don’t get to those until the second session.
Usually, by about the 4thsession, you will start to feel a difference. That doesn’t mean that you will be exactly where you want to end up, but you’ll begin to see some changes, either in how you view things or in your actions. Either one is a great step forward!
As we move along, we’ll start to shift how often we meet. If we were meeting weekly, then we’ll move to every other week. If we were meeting every other week, then we’ll stretch it out to every 3 or 4 weeks. This helps you to make sure that you’re still seeing the same results in a variety of situations in your life, like say your children going back to school in the fall, experiencing the anniversary of a loss, or after a health scare. If you can make it through the daily and the occasional situations, then we’re on the right path!
You will know when our work together is done when you’ve met your goals. You are free to talk to me about this at any time. I’ve found it’s often a mutual feeling because it’s clear that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
Should you need to come back later, that’s absolutely fine! Even if it’s just what I call “a check-up session,” that’s fine! I trust you to know best on that one!
Will I have to take medication to get better? Will you prescribe this to me?
Whether or not you need to take medication is a conversation for you to have with your doctor. Only a physician can prescribe medication. You are free to talk through your feelings about taking meds in our sessions, and I am happy to talk with your doctor if needed. Any decision to take or come off of your meds should be under your doctor’s care.
Many of my clients come to me and don’t want to take medication, but they do want to stop feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. You don’t have to have medication to work through those feelings. Many studies have found that the cognitive therapy approach (CBT), along with other talk therapies, can be just as helpful as taking medications (though the process and the order of things may look slightly different).
For those who are currently taking medication, research has shown that medication is the most effective when combined with talk therapy.
I am nervous that what we do in our sessions may conflict with my beliefs, both personal and religious. How does that work?
Not a problem! I’ve worked with clients of many different faiths (including Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and all forms of Christianity- including the Latter-Day Saint and Mennonite communities), and we incorporate those beliefs in as part of your strengths and what’s important to you. I will never ask you to go anything against your religious beliefs.
As far as personal beliefs, one of the promises that I make to my clients is that I will never ask you to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. When we do need to talk about a sensitive issue, I will share it in the same way I would want it shared with me. I won’t be in your face, mean, or accusatory, but supportive, friendly, and honest should we need to take a closer look at some of your thoughts that led you here.
What approaches do you use? I’ve heard of some different approaches used in counseling and therapy, and I’m not quite sure which one is the best for me.
There are many different approaches used by mental health professionals. First and foremost, it is important to me that you and I work together as a team. You are the expert on you, who you are, how you work, and where you’ve been. You know what you want to change and you know the things that you’ve tried in the past. That is vital information.
I am the geek who enjoys reading the latest research and learning more effective ways to help my clients. Together, we form a team that helps you focus on what’s important to you. I am not the boss of you. I will not judge you. My role is to walk beside you and to teach you some new things to try and new ways to see your world so that you can live happier and healthier.
I customize the individual action steps for each of my clients, based upon your needs, your personality, your beliefs, and your strengths. You are always able to speak up to share if you’ve tried something before, if you’re not comfortable with doing something just yet, or if something didn’t work quite the way you had hoped. I need that information to be helpful.
My training allows me to look at all of your life and how it’s connected (that’s what we call a “systems approach”). This is actually what makes Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists (LMFT) different from other mental health professionals. Even if you’re the only person in the room with me, I’m still going to take a peek at your relationships with your parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, significant other, children, roommates, etc., along with your relationship to your body, your dreams and goals, your faith, and every other aspect in your life (don’t be scared, it’s really fun).
Because I have a passion for anxiety—and for how fears and past hurts impact relationships- I have taken advanced training in two of the most effective approaches for working with each of those situations, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).
Regardless of the approach used by me or any other clinician, over and over the research has shown that the most important thing in whether or not counseling is helpful for you is the relationship you have with your therapist. If you feel like they understand you, the situation at hand, and they are responding to your needs, questions, and things along the way, then that’s the most important piece of all! Paired with the most effective approaches and your determination is a recipe for success.
Just how confidential are our sessions? I have a lot that I want to share, and I’m worried you may have to tell someone.
By law, I am required to report any suspected child abuse to the Department of Social Services. I will also report suspected abuse of those who are elderly or who have developmental disabilities to the Department of Social Services.
If you tell me that you are planning on hurting yourself or someone else, and we are not able to come to anagreement that you will not act on those thoughts, then I will report that to the local authorities. For instance, if you tell me that you are going to kill yourself or you are planning to commit a crime that endangers the lives of others, then I will act in order to keep you and others safe from harm.
Other things that you tell me are kept in the strictest of confidence. For example, if you are sharing about abuse that you experienced as a child or by your current romantic partner, that is kept between us unless you indicate otherwise.
If you bring in a guest to one of our sessions to focus on a specific issue, than you can indicate for us not to talk about something else that is unrelated to that issue.
If we are doing couple or family therapy, I work to provide a safe environment for all who are involved. You may share something with me that you are not yet ready to share with them. I will work with you to help share that, but keeping secrets can harm our work together and can hinder your outcome.
My office partner and I are rarely here at the same time. There is rarely a group of people waiting in the waiting room. Most of the time, as soon as one session ends, I personally escort clients out and then bring back the next client, eliminating other office personnel or having a backlog of others waiting.
Every reasonable precaution has been taken to help preserve your anonymity before, during, and after our sessions. There are sound buffers to help mute conversations at normal volume (however yelling is hard to muffle even with those precautions).
I would like to bring my child in to see you. Can you tell me how that works? Will I be in the room with you? Will my child be in the room alone with you? Will you tell me what happens with them?
For the first session with children and teens, I like for us to schedule 45 minutes. That gives me time to bring both of you in the room together to help them feel safe and at ease. Then, I will work with your children one-on-one for about 15-25 minutes, and pull you back in at the end again to go over what we talked about, to share any action steps, and to schedule the next session.
With toddlers, frequently we stay in the room together the entire time. With older children and teens, after the first session, we sometimes move to 30 minute sessions after the first session. Instead of pulling you in at the beginning and the end, we pull you in at the end.
I encourage children and teens to share with you what we talk about in the session, often at the end of the session or at home. There may be times when they aren’t quite ready to tell you what they shared. I work with them to help them feel comfortable to tell you themselves, as that truly builds a stronger relationship between you and them, but it may take a couple of weeks before they are ready. In the event of a safety concern, I will always tell you immediately, even if they aren’t quite ready to tell you themselves. Safety is of the utmost importance.
Because children are sensitive, and they have a tendency to fill in the blanks as best as their young minds can, I strive to keep them in the loop on what we talk about. Their imaginations can be quite vivid when filling in the unknowns and can often create possibilities that are much scarier than what is really happening.
That is why I like to bring you back in the room at the end of the session for the recap. I don’t want them to think that they are bad, broken, the cause of secrets, or even at fault for adult issues going on at home. However, if there are topics or concerns that I have that are not appropriate for them to hear, I will share those with you privately. Again safety comes first.
I want to work on my relationship, but my partner doesn’t want to come in with me. What do I do?
Many partners are afraid to come to any type of marriage counseling because they are afraid of the therapist taking sides with the other person, or being told that the relationship cannot work. I wouldn’t want to be told those things either!
Naturally, the most effective relationship work happens when both partners are in the room with me. That not only gives me all of the information I need to be effective, but it also allows the two of you to connect in a more meaningful way. My goal is not for couples to argue, but to feel a deeper, stronger bond both in our sessions and at home.
However, if your significant other is not able to join us in our sessions, you and I can still work together to make some improvements. How? Well, in therapy lingo, we say, “A change in one, is a change in all,” or as you may have heard, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” By helping you to feel more at ease, more confident, and to share your feelings, your love, and yourself more easily, it can definitely help your relationship, too.
Often, after spouses hear a little bit about our sessions, and they begin to see some changes at home, they are more open to coming in, even if just for one session to help give me some insight from their viewpoint. I also invite partners to send me an email that we can use in our sessions together, too.