Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: While these questions and answers are intended to be informative, they should not be considered professional advice. Accurate professional advice can only be given when the specific situations and unique individuals involved in the situation have been considered. That said, I hope you find the answers to the following questions helpful.

1. What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?

In practical terms, psychologists are usually doctors (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.) who are trained to provide psychotherapy or counseling, psychological testing and diagnostic or consultation services.  They do not prescribe medication. Psychiatrists are physicians (M.D., D.O.) who have specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and behavioral disorders. They are trained and permitted to prescribe medication. Psychologists and psychiatrists often collaborate in the care of clients with the psychologist providing psychotherapy or psychological testing and the psychiatrist prescribing and managing medication.

2. Does my insurance cover psychological services?

That is not a simple question to answer. Every insurance plan is different. Most insurance plans have some coverage for psychological services The best way to find out is to call your insurance company directly and inquire as to your benefits for outpatient psychotherapy. If you like, I will be happy to assist you in this process.

3. Do I have to lie on a couch?

No. I do have a couch in my office, but you are not expected to lie on it. You may if you like, as long as you take your shoes off.  This question comes from the traditional world of psychoanalysis (humorously portrayed in the cartoon ‘Ziggy’) where the client lies on a couch and the therapist sits behind the client, out of sight, while the client talks out their thoughts and feelings. I work facing my clients and am quite interactive in my approach.   

4. If my doctor suggests I see a psychologist, does it mean they think it’s all in my head?

This question usually arises when a client has gone to their physician with some kind of physical symptom and the physician has been unable to find a physical cause for the symptom. There are many real physical problems which have their root cause in issues that are best treated by psychological methods. That does not mean that you are not having real physical symptoms.  For example, one of the common symptoms of a panic attack is chest pain, or tightness in the chest. This is a real pain, not imaginary. This pain, however, is not always related to a heart problem. Make no mistake, if you are having chest pain, the first thing to do is to seek medical help. However, if your doctor finds that you have a healthy heart and there is no physical disorder that is causing the pain, they may refer you to a mental health professional. The good news is that these are often very treatable problems and they are in no way a sign of emotional weakness or failure.

5. If I see a psychologist, does it mean I’m crazy?

Most of the people I see in therapy are simply looking for ways to deal with common life situations and inner feelings that most of us encounter at some point in our lives. They have usually tried their best to do it on their own, but these situations and feelings are still getting in the way of their full productivity and enjoyment in life. The many labels (crazy, nuts, psycho, ready for the loony bin) are unfortunate leftovers from a time where we had less understanding and compassion for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

6. What is the difference between a licensed and unlicensed therapist?

Licensed therapists are required by law to meet numerous requirements of education, training and experience. They are accountable to state licensing boards to maintain standards of practice in order to keep their licenses. Unlicensed therapists may or may not have met some of these requirements. You are simply trusting their word about their credentials, if indeed you ask.

Additionally, there are many different types of professional degrees that qualify therapists to provide psychotherapy. Ph.D./Psy.D. Psychologists usually have the most, often four to six years of education and training prior to earning their degree and two years or more of experience under the supervision of a licensed psychologist after earning their degree in order to qualify for licensure. Most states then require psychologist applicants to pass a rigorous examination before granting a license.

7. Is therapy like how I see it in the movies?

Hardly ever.  First, when you are watching a portrayal of therapy, or even watching a documentary of a real therapy session, you are watching someone else’s experience. It is always a different experience to actually be working on your own life. Secondly, what is portrayed in the movies and on TV is provided for entertainment, so it is usually overly dramatized (such as In Treatment or Good Will Hunting) or reduced to slap-stick comedy (like in Anger Management, What About Bob or the Bob Newhart Show). There are many different styles of doing therapy. Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist you are considering what their approach is, what sort of training they have and if they are licensed.

8. I don’t have a problem, but my husband (daughter, friend, neighbor, co-worker) does. What do I do?

This is a question with a complex answer. First, we have to ask ourselves the question “Do they have a problem, or am I having a problem with them?” If the person has not come to you to discuss their problem, then it is most often your problem with them that is at issue. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem, but taking care of the lawn on your own side of the fence is usually best.  Trying to get help for someone who does not see themselves as having a problem doesn’t usually go very well. However, if you are observing a loved one (whether  friend or family) having what you see as some sort of difficulty, it may be helpful to simply say  “I have noticed you seem to be having a rough time. How are you doing? Is there anything I might be able to do to help?” They may open up to you and based on that conversation, you may even decide to suggest that they talk to a professional about it. If it is a family member, they may not be interested in going for themselves, but they might go with you. If the person you are concerned about is a child or adolescent, the guidelines are a little different. Talk to a professional about how to handle this.

9. How many sessions will it take?

It is impossible to say in general, but  some problems can be resolved in 2-3 sessions, some in months, some in years. It is often possible for me to give an estimate of the time it would take to resolve a situation after the first or second session. In cases where some sort of emotional trauma is playing a significant role, the more trauma there was, the earlier in life it took place and the longer it lasted, the more complex the recovery is likely to be.