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The Blog

Filtering by Tag: individual 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.

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! 

Grieving and Divorce

Emily Porta

Grief. Death.Divorce. Divorce is a death and if you have kids, it can feel like an aging parent with dementia...an impending death that never fully happens. Let's just look at some of the things that change when you get divorced that you may notice in the first few moments of waking up:

• Your sleep - it changes when it doesn't happen along someone else

• Your bed - you are alone in it now

• The morning routine - no more sharing the sinks, waiting for someone to get out of the shower or bathroom, or someone to be your second alarm

• Noise level - if you are by yourself, it is just quieter

• Your closet - just your stuff

• Your emotions - maybe you no longer have anxiety about dealing with your partner because they are gone, maybe you now feel more sad, or pick any other emotion that was unexpected because it is going to happen at some point

Ok, that was just the first minutes of your day...no multiply that times a billion and that is what divorce can feel like on any given day. It rocks your world. Even if it was the best decision you could have made, there is still loss and like any loss, we must grieve. Grief is cyclical and fluid. Just when you think you are "over it" or some aspect of the loss, it can come back up to say "I am still sad, help!" With every change, milestone, or new memory there can be a lingering sense of how divorce has changed your life. 

The thing to remember is to not fight the grief. Don't stuff it, minimize it, ignore it or berate it. The more you accept it, the less powerful it will be. The more you rush into feeling what you feel, the more likely the grief will let go of its grasp on your heart. It is there, just wanting some comfort and acknowledgment. Allow yourself to feel and you might find that your emotions weren't so scary after all. 

One last thing....if you are going through grieving a loss...it is important to have a guide or support network. There is counseling, but there is also support groups, activity groups, and other resources out there. If you would like to know more, please call me at 714-390-1652 or contact me here.

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.