How do I choose a therapist?
Friends, family, clergy, or other trusted individuals often are the best referral source, because they know you and/or the therapist personally.
The trust and rapport between a client and their therapist is vital for the success of therapy. So above all when looking for a therapist, you need to find a person who you feel at ease with, a person who you can talk to, and who you feel respects your values, beliefs, feelings, and you as a person.
Selecting a therapist is a highly personal matter. A professional who works well with one individual may not be a good choice for another person. That’s why I offer an initial 20-min phone consultation free of charge. This provides you with an opportunity to discuss your concerns and get a sense of whether I am the right therapist for you.
Is therapy confidential?
Your privacy is one of my highest priorities, and as a rule the information you discuss with me in session is confidential and can only be disclosed to a third party with your expressed written permission. One of the benefits of working independently and not as part of a health insurance is that your information will not be shared with anyone.
California State law does however provide exceptions for certain extreme situations in which a psychotherapist may breach confidentiality, and others where they are mandated by law to do so. Examples of these include
Direct court orders
A client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person.
A client has engaged in or is engaging in the abuse of a child, an elder, or a dependent adult.
A client is at risk of seriously harming her/himself.
What can I expect in a session?
Every therapy session caters to the individuals and their unique goals and needs. A typical therapy session lasts 50 minutes for individuals and 60 minutes for couples. The very first session with couples lasts 90 min in order to have sufficient time not only to assess the situation, but also to do something about it! Appointments are usually scheduled on a weekly basis. During therapy sessions we will talk about the primary concerns in your life, and work together to find solutions. Therapy can be short-term, focusing on a specific issue or goal, or longer-term, addressing more complex issues.
Some of the most important work in therapy actually happens in between the sessions. We will work together to give you tools to process what has been discussed and integrate it into your life.
What is your education and training?
I am originally from Berlin, Germany where I earned a master’s of social work degree equivalent at Freie University, and a certificate in Systemic Counseling and Therapy from the Institute of Systemic Therapy and Occupational Counseling (ISTOB) in Munich. I have lived in the Bay Area since 2002 and worked as a clinical social worker prior to getting licensed as a psychotherapist (LCSW) in 2009. Since then I have been trained in Bader-Pearson's Developmental Model as well as in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). In addition to my private practice I also work as a mediator for the San Francisco Bar Association (but I don't work with separating or divorcing couples in that role)
Over the years I have been able to work with people from all walks of life - children, adults and seniors, couples and families, all from very diverse backgrounds. I have worked as a psychiatric social worker, counselor, case manager, and mediator. This experience has greatly helped me to understand the full range of complex problems people face, and continues to shape my approach as a psychotherapist.
What is a LCSW?
A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is a mental health practitioner licensed in California by the Board of Behavioral Science to provide psychotherapy in private practice. LCSWs are approved providers for insurance companies and managed care plans, and in addition to working as psychotherapists also practice in medical facilities and mental health clinics. LCSWs must have a master’s or doctorate degree in social work with an emphasis on clinical experience, undergo a supervised clinical field internship with at least 2 years (3,200 hours) of postgraduate supervised clinical employment, and have passed the appropriate state licensing examinations.
How much does it cost?
I offer an initial 20-minute phone consultation free of charge. After that I schedule 50-minute sessions for individuals and 60-minute sessions for couples (90 min for the very first couples session). Please call me to discuss my current fee.
Therapy is a considerable investment of time and money. A therapist’s high hourly rate does not necessarily guarantee a high level of treatment, but neither are you saving money with a cheap therapist when therapy does not help you make progress. What you want to find is a skilled therapist who can help you to achieve your goals in a reasonable time frame. Additionally there is also a lot a client can do to get their money's worth out of the therapy process.
Do you take insurance?
I am not in network with any health insurance and am considered an out-of-network provider. I cannot bill an insurance company in your name, nor will I be able to interact with insurance companies directly, or advocate on your behalf. However, I would be happy to provide you with a statement (“Superbill”) that you can submit to your insurance if you want to attempt to receive reimbursement for seeing an out-of-network provider. It is your obligation to pay for my services regardless of third-party reimbursement. Additionally, you may be able to apply your employer’s "flex spending plan", applying pre-tax dollars to therapy costs, or claim the therapy costs as a tax deduction.
Preparing for couples therapy
The most important preparation is your attitude. While it is normal to wish that the therapist will get your partner to do the changing, here are some tips what you can do on your end that will save you a lot of time and money in the process:
01/ Have more goals for yourself than for your partner
Of course you want your partner to change things, or you wouldn’t be looking into couples therapy, but working on yourself in the presence of your partner is probably the most effective way to have a positive impact on your relationship. Focusing on what your partner needs to change simply doesn’t work. Ultimately you don’t get what you want. And what is it that you want? Recalling your early expectations in the beginning of your relationship will help you visualize what it is you want – your ideal picture of the relationship. How do you behave as a partner in that perfect world? What are your characteristics? Looking now at the present, your real-life situation, what are your actual attitudes and behaviors? What hinders you from being that “better person”? Where are your weak points? When you’re stressed, do you try to control, nag, or whine? Do you avoid and withdraw? The answers to these questions will make up your goals in therapy. Don’t worry, a good marriage counselor will make sure that each of you is doing work, not just you!
02/ Put yourself out there
This tip actually might save you months and months of therapy time: Try to get to the “feelings behind the feelings.” Often what we feel on an obvious level in a relationship is anger, annoyance, resentment, and judgment for the other. Try to dig deeper and get in touch with what triggered those thoughts and feelings. Did you have an open heart and became disappointed? Do you feel helpless, embarrassed, or hopeless? Are you worried about being controlled? Are you afraid to trust because of past hurt? If you notice that you feel resistant to having a cooperative attitude, this might be a hint that you’ve been avoiding certain thoughts and feelings. Maybe there is some grudge or resentment you’ve never been able to admit to yourself, let alone express openly. Once you get the courage to be more vulnerable about “what’s beneath” in front of your partner, it will likely create empathy and compassion in them. Your therapist will help make sure that the session is a safe space to do this.
03/ Put in the time
Marriage therapy can be time-intensive. The higher your level of conflict, the more regularly you may need to come to therapy. Couples therapy is seldom a quick fix. However, what happens in between the sessions may be as or even more important. You both will have to make some time to be with each other without distraction, and create a reliable space in your life for each other that you or your partner don’t have to beg for. But it’s quality, not quantity.
04/ Give the benefit of the doubt
We tend to jump to conclusions, especially with people we know well. There’s a good chance however that you’ve made some assumptions about your partner’s motives that aren’t true, and vice versa. Be honest about your assumptions and willing to put them out there for a reality-check. Stay curious about what your partner thinks and feels, pick their brain, just like you would when listening to someone you admire.
05/ Learn to be independent
Marriage was never meant to fulfill all of our needs. Even in the best of relationships, there will be times when you’re bored, lonely, have the blues, are worried, or feel embarrassed. Maybe you’ll catch your partner at a good moment and they will be able to assure you, but maybe you won’t. Rather than being a “half person” who is being “completed” by your partner, strive to be your “own full person.” That might mean learning some things you can do for yourself outside of your relationship.
06/ Take divorce off the table – at least for now
You might be feeling very little hope for your relationship right now. One or both of you may come to marriage counseling as the final attempt to save your relationship. Don’t worry, that’s very common. But consider this: It is very difficult to instill hope for the relationship when the death of the relationship is constantly looming above it. The question isn’t whether you’re committed for life, but whether you both can commit right now to working hard in therapy on your relationship by taking permanent separation off the table for the time being. There’ s always time to divorce, but there may not always be time to work on your marriage. If you make the effort of investing time and money, give it all you can.