Counseling That Works
If your life seems to be going well, but you still have a difficult relationship, then counseling can really help. Here’s why: even the smartest, most hard working people can’t always see themselves objectively. It sometimes takes a neutral, outside person to show us what we’re not seeing. And when that “outside person” is a licensed, experienced counselor, that valuable perspective can make a huge difference.
For successful people, relationship problems can feel like such a mystery. We are used to figuring out how to fix things, how to tackle problems, and we’re even good at building great friendships and connections with others. So when it comes to our love lives, it seems like it should be a no-brainer. When we keep finding ourselves in arguments, or stand-offs, or start to feel like room-mates, it doesn’t make sense.
You can love someone and be deeply committed, but still feel pretty lousy about things. If you are dissatisfied in your relationship, it’s hard to be satisfied with your life. But what can you do about it? You’ve probably tried the usual routes: books, articles, friends’ advice. But the strong, happy, romantic connection that you want stays out of reach.
No matter how smart and hard working you are, you can’t see yourself as others see you. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.
The reason counseling is so important and so helpful is there are things you are doing (and not doing) that you can’t even see. And your partner can’t really see them either. If there’s one thing that comes up consistently in my therapy office, it’s that people need a little help in seeing the things that will help unlock a better future. Once they can gain the advantage of someone else’s trained eye, they can usually turn things around in a very positive direction.
I’m sure there are lots of “Facebook ready” couples. They seem to be happy from the get-go and stay that way until their final days. Good for them. But for most of us, we have to work at it. What I have found is that being in a marriage or relationship is sometimes painful, because in order to have a growing connection we have to grow ourselves. Counseling is a great way to do just that.
Marriage Counseling: Because Life Is Too Short
Marriage counseling can help so much. Too many people imagine that their broken relationship is just a mismatch of people who shouldn’t have gotten together. In fact, a happy couple is more like a well maintained house. You usually get what you put into it. Therapy is a very powerful way to bring something new into your relationship and shine a light on what needs help, healing and growth.
Don’t Assume It’s Too Late
No matter how long you’ve been together, things can improve. I have seen it. People who assumed they were stuck with certain problems for life find out there is a better way. That can mean old arguments can be resolved and new memories can be made.
CHOOSING A THERAPIST
How do you know if I’m the one to call?
Maybe I can help by telling you a little about myself. I cut through all of the confusion, the tangle of emotions and thoughts. Then I walk you, one step at a time, right into a better place. Counseling will help you to clarify the most painful, confusing parts of your life so that you can feel clear, excited and empowered.
I work with people who are going through a very hard time in their lives, and who may be struggling with questions about how to move forward. My specialty is couples, or individuals who are working out relationship problems. Sometimes this means you work on yourself first, figuring out what you really want and why you’re not getting it. Other times the patterns emerge best when I have both of you in my counseling office. Then we work together to help you see solutions that just don’t seem clear no matter how much you’ve tried on your own.
As for my credentials, I have a Master’s Degree, two state licenses in the counseling and therapy fields, national certification, and a bunch of training. You can click on About Me for more details. But so what?
It turns out that research into the best outcomes in therapy all point to one thing: fit. If you feel a strong alliance with your counselor, if you like her, if she “gets” you — you have the very best chance of improvement.
Ready to Get Started?
I can help you figure out your next step.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does counseling take?
For marriage counseling, it often takes 6-8 sessions to really get a sense of improvement, and a few more to solidify progress. However, the range can be pretty wide depending on so many factors. I’ve seen couples feel much, much better in two sessions, and others who make a more long term commitment to work on more entrenched patterns. For individual counseling, again the range is very wide, but again some people feel better after just a couple of sessions, while others have been known to come for a year or two of regular sessions to overcome more difficult problems or patterns.
Does counseling really work?
This may be the best kept secret around. It is so rewarding to see how much better people can get through counseling. A lot of times they express surprise about it, as if they didn’t really expect it to help. Frequently over the years I’ve had people tell me they wish they would have come to counseling years ago. Success depends on many things, including finding the right person at the right time. But for many people, counseling absolutely makes a big difference. Sometimes a better life is about having the courage to try something new.
How can I commit to this when I don’t have time?
Good question. Between jobs, kids, commutes, chores and everything else, it can be hard to imagine setting aside regular time for therapy. I do offer telephone or online options for people who just can’t get to my office without too much disruption. Sometimes you may not realize how much of a time-suck your problems have become, so in a way investing the time to get better at solving them can really be worth it. For some people, it’s easier to take time off and come in more often to get through problems faster. Others spread it out, coming in before work, after work, or even at lunch. Most workplaces have policies that account for medical visits, and working on your emotional health is incredibly important.
I don’t want to be put on medicine. Will I be pressured to?
First of all, I am not licensed to prescribe medicine. I do work with clients who are on antidepressants or other medications, and I often suggest checking with your doctor if I believe it is a good idea. But I also know that some people avoid going to counseling because they may have heard they’ll be put on medication and they don’t want that. I understand. That’s why my focus is to help people to look at all of the many, many reasons they are struggling and to try to find ways to help get relief.
I have seen people feel much better after working with me in therapy without any medication. Those who choose pharmaceutical options also find it helpful to have counseling sessions as well. Outcome studies strongly suggest that combining medication with talk therapy can bring better and longer lasting results. There are many different ways to address your concerns, and I will not pressure you to seek a solution that does not fit for you.
Do I have to commit to a certain number of sessions or a certain time slot?
Nope. It’s important for you to decide what you want as you go along. Even if you love my approach, my skills, and my coffee, you may have a big project that comes up at work, or a bad flu bug that goes through everyone in the house. I maintain a flexible attitude for each client, and each session as we plan what will work. When I talk about commitment, I’m talking about a mindset. Therapy works the best when you really want things to get better enough to stick with the process. Having said that, many of my clients choose to carve out a regular time and day so they know they can count on my availability, and so they can plan their weeks more easily. For those who don’t choose a regularly recurring spot, that could mean you wind up having to wait a few weeks to get in.
Are you going to ask me all about my childhood and blame my parents for everything?
Therapy has a mixed reputation, and some of it is deserved. For decades we have been honing the art and science of helping people to overcome emotional pain, mental illness and relationship problems, and not always with 100% success. But that accumulated wisdom has led to some incredible expertise and proven results, over time. Yes, I will probably ask about your past. I will want to know about your family. But I don’t place blame and I don’t see value in stewing in old hurts. I am present and future focused in order to help my clients make the most of their one and only life.
What if I can’t afford counseling?
There are options for reduced fee counseling in the community and I can help you find them if necessary. If I don’t take your insurance and they won’t reimburse you for out of network options, it can seem steep. If you have the feeling I’m the counselor for you, then sometimes planning ahead can allow you to make the investment in yourself. Some people choose to come less often to spread out the cost. Others decide to change priorities, temporarily. For example, if you risk losing your 20 year marriage over constant fighting, you may decide that bicycling to work is better than a car payment. Only you know what your options are, and what the stakes are for you.
What if bringing up all this stuff makes it worse?
That is a great question. Sometimes talking about painful issues does make it feel worse, temporarily. With couples especially, I find that things can feel pretty heightened and tense. This is not always the case. Many clients feel immediately better when they can talk things out with a neutral party. But for those who find it hard at times, all I can say is that you have these emotions and problems anyway. Because they feel worse temporarily doesn’t mean they ARE worse. I will help bring a sense of neutrality and calm, take things as fast or as slowly as you would like, and help you finally feel more free of what may have been holding you back for years.
What is the first session like?
In the first session I will ask you more about what brings you to counseling. This is your chance to sort out exactly what is going wrong and why, and also how you want your life to look. More importantly, it’s a chance for you to get to know what it’s like to work with me. You can ask any questions that come up, and get a sense for what kinds of things I ask. I will explain to you what I think is going on and what might help. I will talk to you about my methods, a timetable, and any perceptions I have about how things can improve for you.
It’s important for you to decide for yourself whether it feels right, or if you want me to help you find a better fit. Occasionally I find that a client has an issue that I don’t have expertise in, and I might recommend a colleague or other resources.
What if I don’t know what’s wrong?
This is not all that uncommon. Sometimes a person can just know things “aren’t right” or they are feeling down, or anxious, but they have no idea why. For many people, therapy begins with way more questions than answers. But just knowing that you want things to feel better is valuable information. I will work with you to go from there.
Can my marriage be saved?
That is up to each of you. Yes, sometimes one person can make enough difference to turn things around. Other times, there may be a serious enough issue that growth is blocked. For instance, if someone has an active addiction, that can block progress. If there is a competing emotional attachment such as an affair, that can get in the way. Or if there is abuse, I will make a referral for individual counseling before couples counseling can be of any help. Safety is a higher concern in these instances. But if there is no active addiction, affair, or abuse, the chances of your relationship improving go up. Now we can begin to really address the underlying patterns and find ways to help you feel much more connected and happy.
There was an affair. Now what?
If the affair is truly over, this can be the very best time for couples counseling. As painful as it is, infidelity has a way of bringing problems to the forefront so that things can drastically improve. There are many steps to the process, and each couple is different. However, an affair can serve as a wake up call that many couples have found makes them stronger than they ever were before. By getting counseling after an affair, you can get great value from the pain you’ve had to go through. You can address things that probably have needed to be addressed for a long time. Or you can work through the mysteries and the doubts and the pain of it all together instead of in your neutral corners. More importantly, you can begin to join together to build a sense of security about the future.
My partner doesn’t think we need counseling, but I do.
That probably puts you in the majority. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I would recommend making an appointment, inviting your partner, and then coming alone if necessary. You can check out my blog on this for more details.
We’ve done therapy before and it didn’t work. Why try again?
Because I’m not your other therapist, for one! I have my approach, which might be the one that works for you. If your relationship, your sense of well-being, your happiness are important to you, you don’t have to take “no” for an answer. A second opinion (or third, or fourth) might just be the one that helps get you what you’ve been looking for. I have had a lot of people tell me they are surprised by the difference between me and their last therapist. I have been told, multiple times, that one session with me accomplished more than months with someone else. My guess is, it really has a lot to do with finding the right fit. When you find the right therapist for YOU, you will do best.
What about evenings or weekends?
I offer very limited slots for couples-only sessions in the evenings and on weekends. For individual sessions, I am available from 9-5 during the workweek. Couples who want longer blocks of time, or “marathon” sessions, can take advantage of Saturday hours. For busy couples who want to accomplish a lot without stretching the process out over many weeks or months, I sometimes block out an evening or a weekend day.
Can I use insurance for couples counseling?
It’s sometimes an option. Many people have medical insurance policies that will cover family therapy. Most do not cover “marriage” or “couples” counseling where the relationship is the sole focus and both people are considered clients. (Couples sessions are longer, are more relationship-intensive, and usually require out of pocket payments.) However, many policies will cover 45 minute “family therapy” sessions during which the relationship with a spouse and/or others are a part of the treatment for the individual in question.
Family therapy sessions require a mental health diagnosis for the claim to be filed. Many people are comfortable with this. Some choose to avoid the diagnosis due to concerns about employment, privacy, or the unknowns of the changing rules of health insurance and pre-existing conditions. Choosing to use insurance also allows the insurance company access to your records, which some people do not want. If you are looking for individual or family therapy, you may need to check with your insurance provider before making an appointment to make certain yours will cover some or all of each session.
I’m on the fence. Can you provide any more info that would be helpful?
I will be happy to answer any questions you have by email or by phone. Sometimes just having the chance to hear a person’s voice and get a brief sense of who they are can help you make the decision. Another option would be to come to one session and get a feel for what it’s like. That will tell you a lot about the therapy experience, what it will be like working with me, and to get some insight into your problem.
I called for a session and they told me you were full! What now?
I know how frustrating it can be to find a good option for counseling and find out the timing was wrong and the schedule is full. I do not normally keep a waiting list for new clients beyond a few weeks. This is because I know there are so many caring and skilled therapists available who can be of tremendous help right now. Sometimes putting off help can turn into not getting the help at all. I know that family, friends, your insurance company, and of course the web (including the psychology today website) can be a source of options for finding the right therapist. I often make specific suggestions as well, depending on your particular concern.
What else can I do, between sessions or prior to starting therapy, to get help?
There are many resources for help right now. Check out this page for a start.