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The Blog

Filtering by Tag: Finding A Therapist

How to Choose a Great Therapist or Counselor

Emily Porta

There are a ton of therapists and counselors in Orange County for you to scour the Internet for, so how do you find a GREAT one? I recommend you ask some questions in order to assess. This short article lists just a few helpful questions, in no particular order (please note, the terms “therapist” and “counselor” are used interchangeably).

1. What were they like the first time you reached out to them?

Were they warm, informative and open to answering any of your questions? Did they work to provide you with fees and a schedule that worked for you or provide you with resources that better met your needs? Your first interaction with a therapist is an indication of how it will be to work with them. Therapists are not “one size fits all” so if you sensed a disconnection it’s probably safe to say they did too. Thank them for their time and move on.

2. How did you feel when talking and meeting with the therapist?

Did you feel comfortable sharing? Did they use language that was free of judgment and criticism while providing support or was there a sense of shame and embarrassment when you shared? A therapist’s job is to create an emotionally safe environment for you to talk about whatever it is you feel you want help with and if that’s not the case, it’s time to move on.

3. Can the therapist tell you how they plan to work with you to meet your goals?

A question to ask is “Have you worked with ______ (ie: couples and infidelity; anxiety; feeling like I have no direction, etc.) before?” Followed with, “And what are some of the ways that you have helped people like me?” If you get a clear answer, even one that you don’t really understand (ie: “I utilize a structured technique called Gottman Method Couples Therapy that has 35+ years of research to prove it’s success.”) and it’s followed by, “And I’d love to meet with you and hear more about what’s going on so we can work together to decide a course of treatment,” then you’re probably in good, competent hands.

4. What is the counselor’s general philosophy or modality when working with people?

Counselors all have a specific philosophy when working with people and should be able to clearly and concisely share that with you. It may sound something like “I am a solution-focused therapist, which means I focus on identifying your strengths, looking at times when your problems is not as intense, and helping you find solutions that line up with your goals.”

5. Is the therapist licensed or are they an intern? 

A licensed therapist has completed their master’s degree in psychology, social work or marriage and family therapy, worked as an intern to gain 2,500-3,500 hours, and successfully passed their state board licensing exams (which are not easy). An intern is someone who has gained their master’s degree in the above-mentioned fields but is currently working on gaining their hours and often times are less expensive than licensed clinicians. There are phenomenal interns providing quality therapy services and it’s up to you to decide what level of professional works for you.

6. Does the counselor specialize in any treatment type or do they “help everyone?”

If you’re looking for help for your marriage, find someone who specializes in working with couples. It doesn’t make sense to go to a therapist who specializes in working with adults battling with anxiety, if you're looking for grief and loss support due a recent death in the family. Find a therapist who specializes in what you want help with.

7. What is the counselor’s social media policy?

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, the list goes on and on and in a world where most professionals have an online presence, it’s imperative that you know your therapist’s social media policy. Most counselors discourage clients from providing any sort of online reviews or testimonials as it breaks your own confidentiality and tells the world that you’re seeing a therapist. Also, it’s part of a counselor’s ethical duty to not engage in any sort of relationship with a client outside of the therapeutic one, so “friending” them on social media would be a no-no. It is quite alright to “like” their social media pages, as they typically host articles and tips appropriate for clients but choose wisely before commenting and identifying yourself publicly.

8. Have there been any complaints filed with the board against the therapist?

Find out who their governing board is (ie: American Psychological Association, Board of Behavioral Sciences, etc.) and look up their status. This is simple, as you can search by their license or intern number, which should be clearly stated somewhere on the their website, business card or email signature. If there were any complaints, have they been resolved? Are their licenses pending? 

I hope this has been helpful I know that searching for a therapist can be daunting when you're not sure what to ask and what sets GREAT therapists apart from everyone else. 

Leave a comment below and share your questions about how to choose a GREAT therapist or counselor.

The Insurance Maze

Emily Porta

Since it is the New Year, things are getting busier as people resolve to get help and start counseling. My number one question from callers..."Do you take my insurance?" And then I go into a bit of an education seminar. (Thought it would be a yes or no kind of answer? It really isn't!)

So here is what you need to know.

There are basically two different kinds of insurance HMO and PPO. HMO means you have to see their MD or therapist on their panel only. So if you use HMO, they should have a list for who is on their panel that you can see for your copay. If you don't want to use your HMO list, then that means you end up paying out of pocket. BUT you can use your flex spending account if you have one.

PPO means they have in-network and out-of-network therapists. Every PPO is different because your company negotatied the terms of contract with insurance company. So not everyone's Blue Cross PPO is the same. Your PPO will have a list of providers, but you can go outside of that list for help.

Call your insurance. Ask them a few questions. Ask them who manages your mental health benefits. You might have Aetna, but within Aetna, Cigna manages the mental health. You want to ultimately speak with a person that knows about your mental health benefits plan. Here are some other questions to ask:

-What is my coverage? You might discover you don't have any mental health benefits, so it is always good to ask. They should let you know if there is a limit to the number of sessions and the types of sessions (family vs individual).

-Let's talk about rates! So your insurance may say that you pay 20% of the fee and they pay 80%. But, you need to clarify this. Some insurance companies deterime the fee. My fee for example is $130/hr. But some insurance companies only reimburse at the rate they pay people on their panels. Typically, that rate is about $50 to $65/hr. Other insurance companies don't care what the therapist bills, they pay the percentage in the contract. 

-Is there a deductible and is it different for in-network and out-of-network providers? You might find you have a huge deductible regardless of if you stay in the network or not and this might inform your decision of which route to take.

-Do I have to have diagnosis? Every insurance takes a different stance on this since laws are changing and the government is trying to make it easier for people to get the help they need. You may or may not be comfortable with having a diagnosis. It is up to you and how you feel about that going on your medical record. 

Do you have to use insurance? NO! It is up to you. But as you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider. So after you call your insurance, give me a call. If you are still confused, I maybe I can help you sort it out :)

But no matter what you decide...don't give up and please get help. If you are struggling to pay for counseling, I have a few sliding scale slots and there are a ton of community counseling centers that have very low fees for their services. 

I was planning to do that...

Emily Porta

I decided to write a blog and noticed that...ahh! it has been a month since the last time I blogged! What? How did this happen? Where did the time go?

Ever notice yourself saying this same thing to well intended plans? I think this happens to us a lot and intentions get lost in the day to day of living. It was a nice reminder to me to continue practicing intentional living. All this means is to be mindful or aware of my thoughts, feelings, behaviors and choices. 

Have you been intending on starting therapy? What is stopping you? Why wait? Trust me. I see people that come to me years after an issue started, stating "I meant to come sooner, but I thought it would get better or go away." So like my blog, instead of expecting it to write itself, I just decided to share my thoughts right now. No need to put it off. Let go of shame or fear and trust what you want to do that is good for you!

Best wishes as your intentions become reality!

Making the Most of Your Time in Counseling

Emily Porta

So you made it to counseling. You like the therapist and you feel safe. Good for you! Now what? How do you know that you are getting the most you can out of it? Here are 3 quick tips...

1. Be honest - sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings can leave you feeling very vulnerable. Unless you expose the wounds and the pain, it makes it really hard to heal any of it. I found that the honesty becomes deeper with time as we become more comfortable. If you feel like you can't share, don't make something up, just say "I don't feel ready to talk about it." Either way, it is your time and the therapist wants you to find healing. Honesty is the best policy for this.

2. Be consistent - I get asked a lot about coming to therapy "just when I need it," or "on occasion." Some therapists may work like that, but I don't. If you aren't attending sessions regularly, in my experience, it slows the progress. Counseling is work. Think of it like exercising. If you lift weights regularly, you can increase the amount of weight lifted over time and it is great for your muscles. But if you go in cold, every so often, it makes it difficult to every increase your power and it is much more likely to hurt!

3. Be flexible - I remember when I first started counseling. I had a reason in mind why I should go but it turned out, I had other issues to work on that I hadn't even thought about. It is ok to learn about yourself in lots of areas. Your growth will be greater if you are willing to look at the big picture. Go in with an open mind. What you find, might surprise you.

Yes, there are lots of other ways to make the most of your time in the counselor's office. Call me to see if counseling is right for you 714-290-1652.

Getting Unstuck

Emily Porta

Have you ever felt stuck? You know...that feeling, deep down inside that says no matter what, you can't move forward with your life. Some of us feel stuck in our relationships. I often talk to people who end up dating the same kind of person, over and over, and are left wondering why it isn't working out for them. Some of us feel stuck in our family life. Maybe you have a family member who uses drugs and you are the one to always bail them out. The "stuckness" can almost feel like a compulsion, something that just can't be stopped. Well, that is what therapy is about. When you have your feet glued to the floor, for whatever reason, sometimes you need someone to pull you out of your shoes and help you get moving. Why wait until you are at your wits end? Start looking for a therapist now. You don't have to keep repeating patterns and going in circles. Not sure where to start looking for a therapist? Give me a call and if I am not the right fit, I can refer you to others that may be able to help. 714-390-1652

Finding the Right Therapist

Emily Porta

So here you are, trying to figure out where to find a therapist and there are a hundred questions running through your brain. Finding someone to help you in a crisis or an ongoing struggle is not something we often talk about, but, it could be the most courageous thing you can do for yourself. I have recently been asked by a lot of friends on how to choose a therapist. My hope is that this is helpful and if you have more questions, that you give me a call at 714.390.1652

Where to begin?

-Ask around, talk to people your trust - friends, family, coworkers, physicians - and see if they know of anyone. You might be surprised to find that other people have been to therapists and found it to be helpful. 

-Take advantage of free consultations - I offer a free 20 minute consultation. In that 20 minutes, you can get an idea of who I am and what to expect if you were to come see me. Write up some questions beforehand if that will help ease your anxiety about the phone call. If in that time you feel that it isn't a good fit, that is ok - read on to the next bullet point.

-Get other referrals - If after a consultation or first couple of sessions, you just feel you can't connect or trust the therapist, they can give you referrals. In my work, I am happy to give a referral to another therapist if that is what you need. I want to see my clients succeed and experience change, even if that isn't with me. 

-Trust yourself - You know yourself better than anyone else. You know when something is a good fit for you. The relationship between a therapist and a client is pivotal in transforming relationships outside of the therapist's office. That is why it is so important to have a good working relationship with your therapist. 

With that, I leave you with this thought:

When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
~Author Unknown