Counseling & Therapy FAQ's

How long will it take for me to feel better?

Some people see results after just a session or two. On average, 6-8 sessions get many people on track for common issues. Keep in mind that everybody is different though; some people want to continue counseling once a month, or once a week for preventative maintenance. Other people will want to schedule counseling sessions on an as-needed basis when things come up. This is just fine as well. We will talk about what you are looking for and help you find what is best for your situation.

What are the different kinds of mental health professionals?

  • Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) that specializes in brain chemistry and how it impacts our thoughts and feelings. They can prescribe medications that may help you feel better.
  • Psychologist: A psychologist has a doctorate degree (Ph.D., Ed.D, DSW, or Psy.D), but it’s not a medical degree, so they cannot prescribe medications. In Texas, to call yourself a Psychologist, you must have a doctorate degree and be licensed by the state as a Psychologist (LP).
  • Psychotherapist: A psychotherapist generally refers to any licensed, master’s or doctorate level mental health practitioner that is licensed by the state:
    • LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor
    • LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
    • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    • LP- Licensed Psychologist

What is the difference between counseling, therapy, psychoanalysis, and life-coaching?

  • Counseling tends to refer to a process of working through current situations that are presenting emotional difficulty and a sense of unbalanced living.
  • Therapy (or psychotherapy) typically refers to a deeper level of emotional work involving more detail of your personal and family history, examining the influences those experiences have on your current life, and specific work to restructure the old templates that continue to pull you into discomfort and imbalance.
  • Psychoanalysis is a very intense process of examining your life from earliest memories through the present and analyzing the conscious and unconscious elements of the mind. Usually provided by doctoral level providers with a great deal of experience and highly-specialized training. Psychoanalysis requires 2-4 sessions per week, for 5-10 years, or more. Psychoanalysis is quite expensive, especially considering multiple sessions per week over a number of years.
  • Life-coaching looks at how to reach specific goals in your life using your strengths to move you towards personal, professional, emotional and spiritual contentment. A life coach may not have a graduate degree or any licensure.

Individual Counseling FAQ's

What if I want to bring my spouse or partner?

As a Gottman Method couples counselor, I can do both individual and couples counseling with a couple. Some therapists prefer to only do one or the other (individual or couples counseling), and this is fine. It is simply a matter of training and preference. I do not require couples to see me as an individual therapist though.

Can I have more than one counselor at a time?

Because there are different ways to approach a variety of life issues it’s usually a good idea to stick with one counselor so things don’t get confusing, but there are times when concurrent therapy can be helpful. In that case, both counselors will usually want to check in with each other to coordinate your care.

Does getting counseling or therapy mean I’m mentally ill?

Not at all! Most people that seek counseling and therapy don’t have any mental health issues at all. They are simply looking for support and guidance with challenging situations. Even when there is a diagnosable depression or anxiety etc., those are usually very manageable with counseling and lifestyle changes. Please be aware that I do not provide diagnostic evaluations, so assigning labels is not something you’ll need to be concerned with.

Depression FAQ's

Do I have bipolar depression if my mood fluctuates?

Probably not. Normal mood fluctuations are a common experience for all of us. Bipolar disorder is more extreme ups (manic phases) and downs (depressive phases) that causes significant impairment in daily life. Milder versions, like Bipolar II, have what are called ‘hypomanic’ phases, where the manic phase aren’t as drastic but are still more intense than normal mood shifts. If you aren’t sure, get in touch so we can talk about it.

Does depression cause people to use drugs and alcohol?

The pain that depression causes is a common reason that people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, but it doesn’t directly ’cause’ the using behaviors. People self-medicate when they feel like they cannot tolerate the pain they are experiencing and are desperate for even a temporary break from it. The trouble is, drugs and alcohol can be addictive, and the effects on the brain frequently make the depression even worse, which causes more cravings for the chemicals. A better approach is counseling, exercise, healthy diet, meditation, and sometimes proper medication that is prescribed by a psychiatrist. These drugs are specifically tailored to help depression without causing it to get worse in between doses.

What causes depression?

The causes of depression are varied. Sometimes there is a genetic link to an imbalance in neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, other times it can be related to major life events like trauma, grief, injury and major stress. Regardless of the root cause of depression, there is help.

Is depression curable?

Depression is manageable. It is not a disease that needs to be ‘cured’ like cancer or an infection. As I mentioned above, exercise, healthy nutrition, hydration, meditation, and medication are all extremely helpful in managing depression. Even massage therapy has great benefits for people living with depression. The more you engage in these activities, and the more consistently you do them, the better the results. Counseling and other non-medical methods are 2-3 times more effective than medication alone.

How long does depression last?

Depression can be a temporary symptom (i.e. not a diagnosis) of something like grief or stress, or a diagnosable condition like Major Depression or Bipolar Disorder. Diagnosable depression can be episodic (brief episodes of depression) or chronic.

Stress management FAQ's

I heard that there is ‘good stress’ and ‘bad stress.’ What is the difference?

It’s true, sort of. The brain only knows general stress, we deem it as ‘good or bad’ depending on what it relates to. Getting a flat tire would be ‘bad’ stress. If, however, you get a promotion, buy a house, or even win the lottery, your body will release the same biochemical cocktail of cortisol, adrenaline, and testosterone, but because those are generally good things, we would call them ‘good’ stress. Any kind of big change puts us in a higher alert state so that we can pay attention to the new circumstances whether its to adjust to heartbreak or new found fortune. Remember, the chemistry is the same, but our interpretation of how it feels is based on context.

If stress is supposed to help us, why do we want to get rid of it?

We don’t! Stress is a survival mechanism designed to protect us, so we want to manage it, not get rid of it. Counseling helps you recognize, interpret and manage stress so that it helps you make healthy decisions. So, what we call ‘getting rid of stress’ is actually just responding to it effectively so it can dissipate.

Why do somethings stress me out, but not other people?

Genetics, how we were taught as kids, and the environment we were raised in all come together to make us who we are. We are all wired differently, raised differently, and in different circumstances, so what stresses us out is a matter of individual differences in who we are.

Anxiety FAQ's

I’ve heard that anxiety is trying to help me. How is that?

We need an alert system that tells us when there is a danger close by. Anxiety is that system; it tells us when there is a threat, then triggers the sympathetic nervous system’s fight, flight or flee response by sending oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The protective response also involves making our senses more finely tuned so we can assess the situation more accurately. What people experience as problematic is when this alert system comes online when there isn’t an actual threat to safety.

Are there different types of anxiety?

Yes, though they may feel quite similar. Social anxiety, performance anxiety, romantic anxiety, test anxiety as well as assorted phobias are a few examples. There can be a genetic component to anxiety and worry, and some people just live in a higher alert state than others. Mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy is extremely effective in managing most types of anxiety. Meditation, exercise, and massage are also very helpful.

Is there a pill I can take to help?

Talking to your doctor to see if you might benefit from medications is an option, however, counseling and therapy are more effective than medication alone. Some anti-anxiety medications are extremely addictive and can be difficult to stop taking.

Post Traumatic Stress FAQ's

Do you have to be a combat veteran to experience PTS or PTSD?

No. And remember, dealing with PTS does not automatically mean that you have a disorder. Relationship loss, major life changes, or even just hearing about a traumatic situation often triggers Post Traumatic Stress. The key lesson is that traumatic stress can be dealt with and should not be ignored.

Is PTS or PTSD permanent?

Not usually. Being the more extreme of the two, PTSD can become a lifelong struggle for some, usually when the nature of the trauma is very extreme or long-lasting (some combat veterans, somebody that was imprisoned and tortured, etc.). With proper help though, PTS and PTSD can usually be managed with counseling and some specific techniques like EMDR, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing/Management; sometimes people will get additional recovery from medication to moderate related depression and anxiety.

Should I try and get somebody dealing with PTS/PTSD to talk about what happened to them?

If they want to talk about it, they will, but generally speaking, it is not a good idea to get them to re-live the experience by describing it because it can re-traumatize them, and you may be traumatized by just hearing about what they went through. If somebody does want to tell you about their struggle, please be honest with them about your limits . . . it is ok to tell them that you’re concerned about them re-living it. You may consider directing them to a trauma specialist or counselor. Most of the time, this will not be an issue as folks typically do not want to get into details; they may, however, want to talk about how they are feeling and how they are trying to move forward. This is a great place to support them.