How are you different from other therapists?
My practice is almost completely focused on working with couples. This allows me to offer an extensive set of tools to help you improve your most important relationship. I also have received advanced training on marriage counseling at the Master's and Doctoral level.
Many counselors prefer to be generalists and approach marriage counseling by relying on psychotherapy methods centered on the individual instead of on the marriage relationship. A lot of people who primarily work with individuals feel overwhelmed by the number of variables they have to deal with when they work with couples. As a couples counselor, I have to be very active in structuring a couples session to keep our work safe and under control.
How frequent are sessions?
Initially, sessions will be at a regular time at least once per week for at least a month. I will do my best to find a regular time slot that works for all of us. This can be a challenge for busy couples and will take real commitment on your part. When you feel ready, sessions will shift to every other week and then on an as-needed basis. You can read more on scheduling on the scheduling tab.
How long does counseling last?
If you are generally getting along but have an isolated problem that you want to focus on, we may be able to address it in four sessions. For example, a couple may be struggling about a parenting issue or whether to have another child. If the core of the relationship is healthy, short-term counseling may be all that is needed.On the other hand, if more serious issues exist, such as dealing with an affair, then the therapy may last longer. My typical client works with me from 3 to 6 months.
My goal is for you as a couple to achieve independence from therapy so you are able to manage your relationship challenges with the tools and insights you learned while working with me. Your life won't be perfect but you will no longer feel stuck. This sentiment is captured by the therapist, John Weakland: “Before successful therapy, it’s the same damn thing over and over. After successful therapy, it’s one damn thing after another."
How much does counseling cost?
I charge $225 for each 50 minute session. The vast majority of couples are in therapy from 3 to 6 months and end up spending from $1,000 to $3,000 on counseling.
To help put the cost of marriage counseling in perspective, there's nothing you can buy for $3,000 that will give you the same quality of life that a healthy marriage provides. If you and your spouse feel loved, respected and meet each other's emotional needs, you may be able to do without many other things and be happier in the end.
What about insurance?
I have chosen to remain an “out-of-network” provider for all insurance companies. In my experience, this allows me to provide a higher quality of care, independent from insurance-based rules or decisions. Accordingly, full payment is due from you at the beginning of each therapy session. I accept payment by cash, check or credit card.
It is your choice whether you would like to apply for insurance reimbursement or not. Although I do not accept direct payment from insurance companies, I provide a “super-bill” to you which includes the standard information (such as diagnosis and treatment codes) that most insurance companies require. You then submit the super-bill to your insurance company for reimbursement. Please note that I do NOT fill out any forms that are created by your insurance company and do NOT correspond directly with them in any way.
For couples therapy, most insurance companies will reimburse for therapy involving two people if one person has been given a diagnosis.
To find out more about your coverage, call your provider, get the name of the person you’re speaking to, and ask the following questions:
1. Does my policy cover out-of-network outpatient psychotherapy for me?
2. Is there a limit to the number of visits allowed?
3. Is a doctor’s referral required?
4. Is pre-authorization required? What is the name and number of the person to be contacted?
5. Is there a deductible and how much is it?
6. Is it a yearly deductible?
7. How much of the deductible do I have left over to meet?
8. What percentage of my therapy bills will my policy cover?
9. What is the address of the office where I should send my claims?
10. To whose attention is the claim to be sent?
Many clients have been successful in utilizing a Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for reimbursement of accrued therapy expenses. Please note, it is my standard policy to provide a monthly electronic copy of each client’s statement for personal record or reimbursement purposes. This can serve as documentation for your FSA or HSA.
I understand that financial concerns may lead you to use an in-network provider. Please be aware that there are local non-profit agencies that provide low-cost counseling services.
Do you provide extended therapy, retreats or intensives?
Yes. Sometimes couples need more than one session per week, specially if they are in crisis. You can learn more about my Private Couple Retreat at this link.
What if I struggle with depression or anxiety?
If you are in a significant relationship, one of the best ways to deal with the depression is through Couples Therapy for Depression. I work closely with both partners to bring the depression under control while working on improving how you and your partner interact.
What if my partner refuses to come?
Even if your partner is not ready for change, you can work on yourself to stop the cycle of pain in your relationship. I often work with one partner in Couples Therapy for One.
My approach in "Couples Therapy for One" is different than in individual counseling where an individual counselor is solely focused on your happiness. I am careful not to turn the non-present partner into a villain and will not to undermine a marriage by supporting a one-sided view of the marriage problems. Although I make all efforts to support the emotional health of an individual client who is distressed in a marriage, I hold a high regard for the welfare of the other spouse and the children—and for the lifelong commitment that the client once made to the marriage for "better and worse."
While in couples therapy, may I meet with you without my partner present?
My practice is to meet with both members of the couple together for the FIRST session. This has the benefit of establishing that the marriage or partnership is the client, and that the welfare of the relationship will be the top priority. With that said, I will meet with one partner alone, but for short periods or for a discreet purpose. Also, the partner not attending the session must consent to the individual session in advance. This is important because I need to maintain trust with both partners to be an effective couples counselor for you.
There are four typical reasons to meet individually:
1) Valuable information can be gathered regarding each individual’s history and commitment to the relationship and treatment.
2) The individual may be able work on his or her own issues in a less triggering environment so he or she will more open and less reactive.
3) There are things that may feel scary to say in front of a partner so it may be wise to get my help on how to express it more skillfully.
4) A partner may be thinking about ending the relationship and need to discuss it without the partner present. I will help you process your thoughts and think through your options. I am a pro-marriage therapist but totally respect your right to choose your own life.
You should be aware that the partner who is not in the individual session may feel left out, anxious, or mad. If that happens, it is a good idea to share those feelings in your next couples session. If, at any time, you feel there is an imbalance in my time and energy, speak up and tell me. It can derail good therapy if these feelings don’t get tended to. It may also be appropriate for me to meet with the other partner also so the therapy remains balanced. To be clear, as your couple's counselor, I can not be one partner’s individual therapist at the same time.
What if I tell you a secret during an individual session?
After we meet individually, I do NOT share secrets that you tell me in an individual session in a later couple session. It is healthy for you to communicate directly with your partner (not through me).
In very special circumstances, secrets have to get dealt with by the couple and may cause me to stop couple therapy. I will still NOT tell the partner. Again that is your responsibility. The three criteria that I use to evaluate whether a secret shared individually will cause me to suspend couples therapy are:
1) Is the secret information currently adversely affecting the relationship in a meaningful way? Examples of this would include an ongoing affair, current domestic violence or current substance dependence.
2) Would the partner disclosing the information have a therapeutic benefit? For example, disclosing an affair that occurred 10 years ago without recurrence may only hurt the betrayed partner but not furthering the current relationship goals.
3) Does disclosing the information put one of the partners at risk for physical harm?
If the answers to these questions indicate that disclosure would have a net therapeutic benefit, I urge the partner (again, not me) to disclose the information and support him or her in doing so. If the partner refuses, I may suspend treatment until the couple is ready to deal with the critical issue that is being held secret.
Will talking about a problem just make things worse?
You're probably asking this question because that is exactly what has happened. I work really hard to help you constructively handle reactivity and negative emotions. You will learn a highly structured way to talk that will feel different and hopefully safe. Conversations should shift from a battleground to a safe and productive place to connect.
What if our problems have gone on so long there's no way to fix them?
Research shows that on average couples endure six years of marital distress before seeking counseling. Nonetheless, therapy is very effective in dealing with long-standing problems by helping you try something different (as opposed to just trying harder). No matter how long you have been struggling, if you are willing to try, there is hope.
Are you a "religious" counselor?
My goal is to serve individuals of all walks of life and all faiths. Although I am a Christian and am affiliated with the Christian Counseling Center, more than half of my clients are not Christians. Please know that you will never be forced to discuss spiritual matters. No matter what your faith background is or if you do not believe in God, I hope that I can serve you as a trustworthy resource for excellent professional care.
Christians who specifically seek professional Christian counseling are able to receive therapy based on a scientifically sound psychological approach which is consistent with and rooted in biblical truth and ethics. Your faith can be integrated into therapy. My approach is non-denominational and my goal is to be loving and non-judgemental.
Will you tell us whether we should stay together or break up?
I am a "marriage-friendly" therapist and thus focus on restoring your relationship to full health. My goal is to guide you toward healing as long as you are willing to work at it. Nonetheless, if your decision is to end the relationship, I will fully honor the decision and support you. Staying together or breaking apart is simply not my decision to make.
Will I be blamed for all the problems?
Unless there is a severe case of neglect or abuse, you will not be labeled as "the problem". We will focus on the underlying cycles of interaction instead. Each partner has to become aware of his or her role in maintaining a pattern in order to break it. Even in cases of an affair, long-standing unhealthy patterns must be examined as contrubuting factors (but not as an excuse).
What's the first step to start therapy?
The first step is to briefly discuss your situation with me by phone at no charge so I can understand your counseling and scheduling needs. If we are a "fit" for each other, we will set up an initial appointment where we will talk in person.
May I bring my baby into the therapy session and may I leave my child in the waiting room?
Waiting room - 12 and over: You may bring your child to the waiting room if your child is 12 years old or older and is capable of remaining in the waiting area, without disruption, for the parent's full session time. Please know that responsibility for all aspects of the child's behavior rests solely with the parent, as does responsibility for the safety of the child. There will not be any staff or supervision available to assist your child if he or she is in distress or to prevent him or her from harm.
Waiting room - under 12: Due to the risk of injury and possibility of disruption to the care of other patients, all children under 12 years old in the waiting room must be under the direct supervision of an accompanying adult at all times.
Infants in therapy room: Couples therapy is generally not a place for your baby or toddler. Rather, it's a place free of distractions where a couple can focus on each other and learn how to get their needs met. Over the long term, this will better equipped the couple to meet the needs of their child. I do make exceptions if the couples session is focused on how to interact with the child; however, this should be discussed well in advance.
What is your cancellation policy?
Your appointment time is reserved exclusively for you and have a 48 hour cancellation policy. Thus, if you cancel an appointment less than 48 hours prior to your appointment or fail to show for your appointment, you will be charged the full cost of your scheduled appointment. My goal is to spend time with you so I really dislike charging for late cancellations but I hope you understand my need to do so.
What about data security and privacy?
I take the security and confidentiality of your personal information extremely seriously. I use an established software platform that follows industry best practices to ensure that your personal health information is kept secure. You can read more about their practices here.
Do you have othe questions about therapy? If so, please call me at 408 823 2822. I'd love to answer any questions you have.