When people call to ask me about therapy, I’m always happy to talk. Remember, there are no ‘wrong’ questions. What’s important is opening up the conversation. Here, I’ve provided some answers to help you get started:
What’s the first step? I encourage you to call for a complimentary10 minute phone consultation. I reserve time in my day for new-client calls and our first conversation is important to me. If you’re leaving a message, let me know when to call back. When we do connect, I’ll ask you to describe what prompted your call, whether or not you’ve had therapy, and what’s worked for you (or not) in the past. Afterwards, you can decide if you’d like to schedule a first appointment.
What happens in a therapy session? At our first meeting, we’ll talk about what motivated you to find a therapist and I’ll share my approach with you. I believe therapy is an active process that requires both of us to participate fully. As your therapist, I will be engaged in a mutual effort to change something about your way of living that’s hurting you. Your healing is our shared goal.
How will I know if you’re the therapist for me? A good therapist supplies the necessary ingredients for healing: A safe environment, patience, interest, humor, support, and a fresh point of view. At the end of our first session, I want first-time clients to feel empowered to evaluate me and my approach to therapy. As the client, you decide whether you’d like to schedule another session and enter into the therapy process.
How often will we meet? And for how long? To create emotional change, clients and therapists need to build a relationship. A weekly session is the best way for us to accomplish this. I also believe three months represents a good solid commitment for both individual and couples therapy. That’s a dozen visits. It’s a safe bet that the issues that brought you into therapy probably developed over many years. By comparison, three months isn’t long. At that point, you and I will evaluate the process and assess your progress.
What happens in marriage counseling? For me, the first step is looking at how partners talk to each other. Do they communicate with respect and courtesy? Do I see signs of deep friendship? Were these foundations present from the beginning? Or was their absence hidden by sexual attraction, fantasy, excuses, and rationalizations?
We’ll also explore everyday stresses like work, children, money, in-laws, and extended family. Even in healthy marriages, these issues can erode intimacy--both emotional and sexual—and we’ll talk about how they might be impacting your own marriage. We’ll also talk about how each partner’s family of origin. What kind of marriage and family-life patterns did you learn from them? Some of these patterns are good; some not so good. Once we identify them, we’ll understand the system of energy in their relationship that keeps unhealthy and frustrating patterns going. And we’ll learn ways for couples to draw comfort instead of conflict from their relationship.
How hard is it to get an appointment? If you’re schedule is tight, we’ll want to compare calendars. Can you meet during the day? Or is 6pm on Tuesdays your only available hour, ever? For marriage counseling, please provide relevant details about your spouse’s schedule, as well. It’s good to know in advance if our schedules will mesh.
Do you accept insurance? Your insurance company may provide out-of-network reimbursement for a portion of your therapy costs. Check the specifics of your policy in advance. If this is the case, you pay for sessions in full and then submit payment information to your insurance company to claim the covered portion. I am not affiliated with an insurance company and my office does not process insurance claims.
Does therapy really help? Yes. As a practitioner and beneficiary of psychotherapy, I can attest that it works. I have been in practice for about 40 years and seen people work to change the way they think, feel, and behave to transform their lives. Therapy brings clarity, improved vitality, and opens hearts to healing and growth. It’s been said that therapists introduce new worlds and I’ve seen this happen over and over again in my clients.
by John Gerson