I don’t know how to choose a therapist. Any advice?


It’s usually a good idea to look for a therapist who is licensed and has expertise in the areas you wish to discuss and work on. The part that is a little less obvious though, is how the therapist’s style suits you. Every therapist has their own way of working. Some are very active and engaged while some speak very little. There are soft nurturing approaches and more direct practical approaches. None of these styles are necessarily better than the others; it’s all a matter of how they fit with you.


My goal in our first session together is not just for me to get to know you, but also to allow you the space to decide if my therapy style “fits” with who you are as an individual or for your relationship. Also, I am always willing to do a complimentary phone consultation with you before our first session so you can get a feel for how I work.


I’m unhappy, but things aren’t completely falling apart. Is it possible my problems aren’t serious enough for a therapist?


Sometimes people get in the habit or only asking for help when they are so deeply entrenched in a crisis that there seems to be no other way out. While therapy can critical for people in crisis, therapy often provides the best results when clients come in before a situation gets dire. It may also be true that your problems don’t seem unmanageable now and I want to help make sure they stay that way.


This is especially true of relationship counseling. Hoping things will get better without doing anything to help your relationship change is not the best solution. While you are waiting to come in, your history together becomes more and more layered with misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and negative experiences. Many couples don’t appear for counseling until they are so frustrated and needing of change that this is the last-ditch effort before separating!


Addressing problems when they are still small is one of the most helpful things you can do to keep yourself and/or your relationship growing in a positive direction.


Isn’t therapy mostly talking about the past or about having a bad childhood? I would like to focus on things happening in my life right now and/or not get into all that old stuff.


The counseling I provide tackles the issues in your life that are affecting you today, in the here and now. Assisting you making change in the present is often most effective when we focus on your current life situation and your individual way of relating to others. Often, however, talking about the past can be a helpful way of learning about you, especially in the beginning of therapy. In our work together, we will use information from the life you have lived to inform us how to best make change at the stage you are in today.


Therapy costs so much! I’m not sure I can afford it.


It is true that therapy can seem like a large expense, especially if this is your first time in counseling and you have yet to see what can be gained from the experience. Good therapy brings about changes that go beyond whatever the immediate problem appears to be, because most problems are interconnected with all different parts of your life.


Also, because of our social stigmas around asking for help and seeking out counseling, many potential clients experience some concern about whether this investment will be “worth it.” It’s often easier to buy a bigger TV or a beautiful vacation as means to feel better, but these treats often only provide short-lasting relief. I encourage you to consider your financial, emotional, and time commitment to counseling as an investment in yourself that will positively impact your life forever.


For students, artists, or clients seeking counseling in times of serious financial strife, I do reserve some space for lowered-fee, sliding-scale basis based upon financial need.


Okay, but how long is this going to take?


One common fear people have with coming to counseling is that they will get “stuck” in the process and will be working on endlessly on themselves. While some clients want this type of working relationship, not everyone is interested in doing what we call “long-term therapy.”


When you and I meet for the first time, we will discuss your goals for our therapy work together. From there, we might decide that a short-term therapy will best suit your needs, or we may decide together to leave it open-ended. Many people begin therapy wanting to “solve everything” in a few weeks but find after the first sessions that they had more to talk about than they expected. Whatever time line you and I establish will be collaborative and you will never be required to stay beyond what feels helpful for you.


My partner doesn’t like the idea of couples counseling. How can I talk them into it?


Many people are hesitant about therapy for a variety of reasons: fear of being blamed by the therapist, endless talking about problems without making an action, not knowing how to “do” therapy, feeling like the situation “really isn’t that bad,” feeling hopeless that talking will be helpful, or even the difficulty of seeking out help.


I openly address all of these fears with couples in the first session to help the hesitant partner feel more at ease with their expectations of counseling. It can be helpful, especially when one of you is reluctant, to ask your partner to commit to just one appointment and assure him or her that you will not push for a second one unless you are both comfortable with me and want to continue.