What is counseling?

According to the American Counseling Association, counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals.

Counseling (or therapy) assists you examine the behaviors, thoughts and feelings that are causing you difficulties.  It helps you understand effective ways to deal with your problems by building upon personal strengths. A professional counselor or psychotherapist will encourage your personal growth and development in ways that foster your interest and welfare.  Therapists and clients work together to understand problems and come up with plans for fixing them. The focus is generally on changing ineffective thoughts, emotions or behaviors. Most therapy focuses on individuals, although psychotherapists also work with couples, families and groups. To find a psychologist, ask your physician or another health professional or call your local or state psychological association. Family and friends may also have recommendations, and you might consider inquiring at your church or synagogue.


When should someone seek counseling?

From childhood through late adulthood, there are certain times when we may need help addressing problems and issues that cause us emotional distress or make us feel overwhelmed. When you are experiencing these types of difficulties, you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced, trained professional. A counselor can help you identify your problems and assist you finding the best ways to cope with the situation by changing behaviors that contribute to the problem or by finding constructive ways to deal with a situation that is beyond your personal control. Professional counselors offer help in addressing many situations that cause emotional stress, including, but not limited to:

anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional disorders
family and relationship issues
substance abuse and other addictions
sexual abuse and domestic violence
eating disorders
career change and job stress
social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness
adopting to life transitions
the death of a loved one

(Source: American Counseling Association)


What is the difference between a counselor and a psychologist?

Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, and social workers are all professionals who specialize in the treatment of emotional or psychological problems.  The difference is in the type of education that each professional receives and the focus of training along the path to obtaining qualifications.  For example, licensed professional counselors have either a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related field which included an internship and coursework in human behavior and development, effective counseling strategies, ethical practice, and other core knowledge areas.  Clinical psychologists usually have a doctoral level of training, while psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialize in the branch of medicine that focuses on mental health issues.  Even more important than the type of professional you decide to see, however, is the level of comfort you feel with the professional you choose.  

All professionals who treat emotional or psychological problems adhere to a strict code of ethics that protects client confidentiality, prohibits discrimination and requires understanding of and respect for diverse cultural backgrounds.


Will my health insurance cover counseling sessions?

Many insurance and coverage plans cover mental health services by a psychologist, social worker or licensed professional counselor, including some Medicaid programs and  government-sponsored health coverage programs. If you do not have health insurance, or if your coverage does not include mental health care or the services of a professional counselor, many professional counselors (including those at Still Waters Counseling) will work with clients on a sliding-fee scale or will offer a payment plan.


How much does counseling cost?

The cost of counseling varies depending on your geographic location and whether counseling is being provided by a community mental health center or similar agency or by a counselor in private practice (such as Still Waters Counseling).  For clients with health insurance that does not cover mental health care and others who cannot afford the counselor’s standard fee, some private practice counselors will lower their fee on a sliding scale basis or will work out a payment plan. Your counselor should explain to you, prior to beginning the counseling relationship, all financial arrangements related to professional services.

At Still Waters Counseling, fees are payable at the time of service.  See our Fee Agreement form to learn more about specific costs.  A $75 broken appointment fee may be charged for appointments canceled without a 24-hour notice or for a missed appointment. There will be a $20.00 fee for each check returned for insufficient funds, plus any fees charged to us by our bank.   We are very willing to work with you regarding your bill if you have trouble paying your portion. As long as you are making an effort to pay and talk to us about it, we are willing to be very flexible. However, if you fail to communicate with us or do not follow through on making some sort of payment plan, we do reserve the right to turn your account in to collections. We do not like doing this at all and will avoid it if at all possible. In case we need to do so, you agree to give us the right to report any unpaid amounts to a credit reporting agency, to obtain a copy of your credit report to help us or our agent to collect any amounts not paid by you. You also agree that you may be held liable for attorney fees, court costs, collection fees or other costs involve in collecting any unpaid amounts.


How do I choose a counselor?

As a starting point, a client should ascertain that the psychologist, therapist or counselor he or she is considering is licensed by the state where he/she practices. Ideally, a patient would have evidence that the therapist is effective — has this therapist helped patients in the past? Because this evidence may be difficult to find easily, consumers often rely on word of mouth — the testimonial of friends who have benefited from treatment from a particular clinician. After therapy begins, the best cue is the patient’s experience: Does this therapist understand me? Does the treatment plan make sense to me? Do I believe this therapist will help me? And most important — am I making progress? Patients typically experience a positive response to psychotherapy quite rapidly. If a patient is not making noticeable progress in several sessions, the patient should discuss this with the therapist (and similarly, the therapist should initiate this conversation with the patient if adequate progress is not being attained). Together, a patient and therapist determine when treatment should end and often, this happens relatively quickly. Of course, some problems require longer treatment.

(Source:  American Psychological Association)


How long does counseling take?

Ideally, counseling ends when the problem for which you pursued counseling becomes more manageable or is resolved.  Treatment length depends on the problems or disorder, patient goals, patient history and characteristics, events occurring outside of therapy (e.g., divorce, change in employment status), and therapeutic progress. Commonly, psychotherapy lasts six to 12 sessions, with more complex difficulties benefiting from longer treatment.

Please note that some insurance companies and managed care plans may limit the number of sessions for which they pay.  You should check with your health plan to find out more about any limitations in your coverage.  During the first few counseling sessions, your counselor should also discuss the length of treatment that may be needed to achieve your goals.


Is everything I say confidential?

All licensed members of professional organizations such as the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association subscribe to strict codes of ethics and standards of practice.  This requires counselors, psychologists and other mental health professionals to protect the confidentiality of their communication with clients.  Most state licensure laws also protect client confidentiality.  As a client, you are guaranteed the protection of confidentiality within the boundaries of the client/counselor relationship.  Any disclosure will be made with your full written, informed consent and will be limited to a specific period of time.

The only limitations to confidentiality occur when a counselor or psychologist believes that there is clear and imminent danger to you or to others, or when legal requirements demand that confidential information be disclosed, such as a court case.  Whenever possible, you will be informed before confidential information is revealed.