FAQ Topics List
How do I choose a therapist?
Is therapy confidential?
What can I expect in a therapy session?
What is your education/background?
What is a LCSW?
How much does it cost? Do you accept credit cards?
Do you take insurance?
How can I prepare for couples therapy?

How do I choose a therapist?

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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 patient 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?

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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. Read more about the disadvantages of using insurance here.

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.
    (In this case I would first make every effort to enlist the client’s cooperation in ensuring their safety. If this is not successful, I may breach confidentiality in order to keep them from harm.)

What can I expect in a therapy session?

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Every therapy session caters to the individual and their unique goals and needs. Regular therapy sessions last 50 minutes for individuals and 60 minutes for couples. The very first session with couples lasts 90 min in order to have plenty of 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 or mental health problems.

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/background?

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While I have spent most of my professional career in the States, I am originally from Berlin, Germany where I earned my master’s degree in social work (MSW), and a certificate in Systemic Counseling and Therapy from the Institute of Systemic Therapy and Occupational Counseling (ISTOB) in Munich.

I am a licensed psychotherapist, and have been working in the mental health field since 1996. 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 a wide variety of backgrounds. I have worked as a psychotherapist, psychiatric social worker, counselor, and case manager. This experience has greatly helped me to understand the full range of complex problems people face, and continues to shape my approach as a therapist.

In addition to my private practice I am also a staff therapist with the renowned Couples Institute in Menlo Park.

What is a LCSW?

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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? Do you accept credit cards?

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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. Read more here about what YOU can do to ensure that you getting your money’s worth.

Paying for a Therapy Session. If you would like to pay for a therapy session using your credit or debit card, you can do this right here by clicking the button below. You will be taken to a PayPal page where you can enter the payment amount and billing information. All credit and debit card payments are made through PayPal, but you don't need to have a PayPal account to pay with your credit or debit card.

All major credit cards accepted.

Do you take insurance?

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I am not on any insurance panels 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.

You'll find more information on insurance and a discussion of the advantages of self-pay therapy here.

How can I prepare for couples therapy?

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The most important preparation is your attitude. While it is normal to wish that the therapist will help 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:

1. 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 marriage 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!

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 a famous author you admire.

5. 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 ashamed. 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.

6. 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.

I composed these tips first for an article for Goodtherapy.

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