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Filtering by Tag: family therapy

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.


Emily Porta

I admit, I have been a little quiet around here but I don't like writing unless it comes from the heart and is something I think you could use. I am sure you are reading all sorts of things about the holidays - how to manage your time, eat healthy, have boundaries with family, be grateful - the list goes on and on. So here is my contribution to the holiday blog roll.

Do you ever recollect a time when things were joyful? It's that feeling of nostalgia. We all have it at some point but particularly during the holidays.  I know I remember as a kid how easy the holidays were and now with my own child - sometimes it feels like a lot to keep track of. (That in part is my own doing, I know..)

Here's the thing I want you to know. Nostalgia isn't reality. It is a memory, looked upon through many filters of your experience. In other words, it can be a little distorted. And while I love looking back, it can make being present very very difficult. And I have been one to use nostalgia to keep me stuck in sadness. It can be used as almost a self abuse. When end up resisting acceptance of our current place in time by longing for something that is no more, we have no where to turn but our memories. Yes, remember, be thankful and learn from our past. But our past memories no longer need to be a marker for what we have and are now. 

So this season, may you find a new way of being in the holidays and doing things in the holidays. Now is the time for new traditions and discoveries. Take the nostalgia and carry on in your life. Enjoy what is.

Why you can't afford to NOT go to therapy.

Emily Porta

"I can't afford it." It's a tough place to be in. To know you want to do something, but feeling like you can't. I know, I have been there. Here is an awesome article that talks about what to do if you can't afford it. HOWEVER, you can't afford to not get help. And here is why.

• Stress, depression, anxiety - the emotional impacts the physical. If you want to get physically fit, one of the biggest components is addressing your emotional/mental health. The sicker you are, the more you will find yourself in a doctors' office of some kind and between medications and doctor's visits - even with copays - it can get expensive. 

• Life is too short not to enjoy it. If you aren't loving your life, why are you waiting for it to change? You have the power to make a difference. If you have the tools and support you can get on the road to a happier day than if you keep doing what you are doing, because it isn't working for you right now.  

• Life will be even shorter if you don't enjoy it. Those with depression and anxiety have shorter life spans. Ick! Check it out.  

• Create better relationships. Therapy helps you get out of the crappy relationships and keep the good ones. It makes the good relationships even better. How awesome is that.  

• You can change your brain. You aren't a victim. You aren't stuck. You actually can even change the physical make up of your brain. You aren't destined to a life a sadness. You just gotta teach yourself some new ways of being in the world. Why wait for that to happen?

Bottom line...you are worth it. Your relationships to spouse, kids, family and friends are important. You could love you more. So yeah, it takes investing in ourselves to have a better life AND you are valuable and worthy of that investment. Contact me to get started today! 

Resource for Parents

Emily Porta

If I come across a great resource, I like to share it! Especially if it can help remove barriers in relationships or barriers to therapy. When I meet with parents, I like to find out what they do to take care of each other and nurture their relationships. Some think it is too selfish to take time away from the kids. (See what I think about the word "selfish" here) But another issue that can come up is simply logistical - who is going to watch the kids? It is hard to find people you trust to watch your children. This, by the way, can be a reason why a couple is avoiding going to couples therapy. I met today with a great guy, Jeremy Rose. He runs College Nannies and Tutors in Irvine. What I love about this business is that not only are their staff trained and have an extensive background check, but you don't have to have a nanny in the traditional daily, 9-5 sense. They provide nannies for a one time event, emergencies, or for those with after school needs. So if you have been putting off spending time with your partner because of childcare issues, check them out. 

Great Resource!

Emily Porta



Just wanted to share a great referral for kids and families that I use when people are looking for a therapist that has a lower sliding scale. 

Catherine Wade, MA is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. She is supervised by Jennifer Trestick and has her office is in Irvine. She has a lot of experience working with kids! You can reach her at 310-633-3006 or at catherine.j.wade@gmail.com.

Don't let the fee stop you from getting help. Whenever I find a great resource, I will share it in this blog. If you are looking for other kinds of referrals, let me know!

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!

Do you just see couples?

Emily Porta

The other day, someone asked me what I do for a living. This is a common question really. We all have different ways we respond to this question, but typically I just say "I am a Marriage and Family Therapist." To which they then say, "oh, so you do marriage counseling?" And then, I can decide to flesh out my response or just politely nod. Right now, I want to respond a little more to that assumption. Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, means I help people that have been in families or marriages...so that means, anyone. I see individuals, teens, couples (married, cohabiting, dating, etc.), and families.

I wish my title was more something like "secret keeper." I hold the hurts, pains, frustrations along with the joys, celebrations, and successes that anyone can experience in life. It really is a privilege. A privilege that not everyone understands. But when you tell your secrets, it can bring healing and freedom. When you share your pain, you are a little less alone. And when you have an accomplishment, you have someone very proud of you. So if you feel like seeing a MFT is just for people with marriage problems or parenting issues, think again. Just ask. You might find someone who can share in your journey and help you find what you are looking for...hope, healing, peace, health...you know, the good stuff.