Q: How is a social worker different from a counselor or therapist?
A: Well, the short answer is, they aren’t that different! Both social workers and counselors can be therapists. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker can do almost everything that a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor can do, and vice versa. A therapist is anybody who practices therapy as a licensed clinician, or under the supervision of a licensed clinician. Most counselors enter their field hoping to practice therapy, whereas many social workers take other career paths. To find about more about why I chose therapy as my career path, please read my about page.
Q: Can my mother / father / girlfriend / boyfriend / third cousin come to my first appointment with me?
A: Yes! It is important to me that you feel comfortable at your first appointment. Often, bringing a close family member or friend is a good idea, especially if you have memory problems or become easily confused. Please know that I will ask your companion(s) to leave the session at some point, so that I can also meet with you one-on-one. Each appointment after the first appointment will be on an individual basis.
If you are interested in family or couples therapy, that is a horse of a different color. Let me know about your interest in these services and we will discuss further.
Q: Can you prescribe psychiatric medications?
A: No, I cannot. Only a doctor or nurse practitioner can do so. If you do not have a psychiatrist and would like one, I will be happy to make a referral. If you do not want to take psychiatric medications, that’s okay too. I will talk with you further about your options, but ultimately, whether or not to take psychiatric medications is your choice.
Q: What type of therapy do you do?
A: I approach therapy from a humanistic perspective. The humanistic perspective believes that all people have positive qualities, are motivated to change, and are always doing the best that they can. We will help you identify and build upon your strengths to overcome challenges.
Your course of treatment will be tailored to meet your individualized goals and needs. Treatment will incorporate interventions from Mindfulness, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.
Q: What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. The idea of mindfulness comes from Buddhism and Eastern culture. But fear not – you do not have to be a Buddhist to use it! Anyone can be mindful.
Being mindful means being aware as each moment unfolds. Being aware… of what? Either internal things (your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations), or external things (the color of the walls, the sky, a tree). When practicing mindfulness, we try to observe non-judgmentally, just noticing things rather than labeling them as good or bad.
Research indicates that mindfulness is beneficial for everyone, and can improve physical as well as mental health. Meditation is one way of practicing mindfulness, but there are also other ways, such as breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation, guided meditations, and using of the five senses. Believe it or not, just about anything you do – from walking, to eating, to taking a shower, to driving – can be a mindful practice!
Q: What is Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)?
A: Many people develop thought patterns that don’t help us. Often, these thought patterns are filled with self-doubt (“I’m not good enough”), self-blame (“It’s all my fault”), ruminating thoughts about the past (“If only it hadn’t happened that way”), fears about the future “Things are never going to work out for me”), and so on. These thought patterns can increase anxiety and depression, actually making it worse.
CBT is a type of psychotherapy where the therapist teaches you how to examine unhelpful thoughts, and question their validity. CBT therapists believe that your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all connected and influence each other. Therefore, if change your thoughts, your emotions and behaviors will also change. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective for people coping with anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, grief and loss, life transitions, to name a few.
Because the mind and body are connected, CBT is most effective when used in tandem with mindfulness.
Q: What is Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)?
A: Dialectics is a term used by Karl Marx that points to the gray area, or the “middle path.” Dialectics teaches us to embrace the contradictions in life. When we are able to live by a dialectical perspective, we become less judgmental and more compassionate with ourselves and others.
DBT is a type of psychotherapy that was created by Marsha Linehan, a clinical expert who has lived experience with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT is helpful for many different issues; not just BPD, but also people with impulsivity, trauma histories, self-harming behaviors, substance use, mood disorders, sexual abuse histories, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, extreme emotions, and difficulties making and maintaining healthy relationships. Those who commit to DBT treatment and using the DBT skills will be taught how to live a fulfilling, meaningful life.
DBT helps people improve skills in four specific areas: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
DBT is evidence-based; research shows it is effective for helping people cope. However, DBT is only proven to be effective if clients participate in all four components. First, they must attend weekly individual therapy. Second, they must attend a weekly skills training group. Third, they will participate in phone consultations, in order to help them use skills during the rest of the week, when they aren’t in group or individual therapy. And fourth, their therapist will participate in a consultation group for therapists. This consultation group holds therapists accountable and helps them practice DBT more effectively.