Is counseling confidential?
The law protects the relationship between a client and a counselor, and information discussed during our work together cannot be disclosed without permission.
- Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse, for which we are required by law to report to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s, we must notify the police and inform the intended victim/s.
- If a client expresses intent to harm himself or herself, we will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in ensuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, we will take further measures without their permission that are provided to us by law in order to ensure their safety.
How many sessions do most clients attend? How long should therapy last?
The length of therapy depends on a number of factors including:
- The types of problems you are experiencing
- How long the problems or issues have been present
- The treatment approach you and your counselor are using
Research on therapy outcomes has found that, on average, it takes 4 to 5 months of weekly sessions for 50% of clients to experience significant improvement and around 50 sessions (about a year of weekly sessions) for 75% of clients to feel completely better. It is important to keep in mind that everyone is different, and some people may need more or less time given their situation or circumstances.
How soon will I start to notice things getting better?
Many people notice some improvement after just a few sessions. This can take the form of feelings of hope and optimism, or a sense of relief that comes from sharing your story with someone. These early signs of improvement are important, but they usually don’t signal lasting change. It typically takes regular sessions over a period of at least a few months to experience results that will last.
What if I feel worse?
Change can be hard work. While you should notice a general trend toward improvement over time, ups and downs during therapy are normal and may actually be a sign that you are engaged and invested in the work. The most important thing you can do if you feel worse or notice setbacks is to recognize that it could be a normal part of the process and talk to your counselor about it at your next session. Together, you can decide on the best course of action.
What treatment approach do you use?
I use a dialogical approach to counseling which draws on social-constructionist theory and methods from Collaborative, Narrative and Solution-Focused Therapy. This is a fundamentally strengths-based counseling approach and one that privileges the client’s contribution to the therapeutic process. I believe that the world we experience is always pre-interpreted, which is to say that we don’t experience things as they “are” in some objective sense, but always how they are “are for us.” Because of this, the meaning we make of our lived experience (whether ourselves, others, or the situations we find ourselves in) plays a decisive role in our psychological wellbeing. Through jointly exploring these meanings in counseling, we come to see aspects of experience that were occluded previously and we arrive at new understandings. These shifts in understanding open up new possibilities for action.
My approach is person-centered, in that I believe all individuals have a self-actualizing tendency – a core self that moves toward health and operates from an innate wisdom. As a counselor, my role is to engage with that self in the present moment. I also use an integration of strengths-based and compassion-focused approaches. These treatment methods involve identifying strengths and past successes that you can use in your current situation, as well as learning strategies that replace avoidance, rumination, and worry with acceptance and self-compassion. I will also help you identify your values – who and what is important to you – and map out actions that will move you toward the life you want.
What makes counseling effective? (Will it work?)
Counseling has been found to be effective across multiple studies, with 75-80% of those seeking therapy showing benefit. But how does it work? How can talking about your problems change things? Counseling’s effects can be grouped together in terms of 4 “N’s”:
Naming: Counseling provides an opportunity to put your feelings into words. This process alone has immediate therapeutic effects, as recent brain studies demonstrate. By verbalizing your experience with a therapist you gain some distance from your emotions and reduce their intensity. In terms of brain activity, you’re turning down the dial on your internal alarm system (the amygdala) when you put an intense emotional experience into words. This allows you up to respond freely and creatively to what’s going on, rather than being driven by the automatic responses of your limbic system. The more often you do this with a therapist, the more ingrained these emotion-regulation skills become.
Narrating: We’re always making sense of our experience by organizing life events into some kind of narrative form. Through repetition, these narratives harden into perceived “truths” that not only represent our past, but shape our actions in the future. That is, we behave in ways that are consistent with the stories we tell about ourselves. Sometimes the stories we live out are empowering and serve us well, other times they do not. Therapy can be helpful in identifying and revising the stories that are keeping us stuck.
New Experiences: Therapy enables us to have new experiences that challenge our understanding of the “way things are.” This experiential learning can occur at levels we’re not even aware of. By offering unconditional acceptance, encouragement, and undivided attention, a therapist provides us with an interpersonal experience that is different from the kind many of us are used to. New possibilities for relatedness, self-expression and discovery open up in such a space.
Neuroplasticity: Everything described above – having new experiences, capturing those experiences in language and weaving them into a narrative – leaves its mark in the brain. Repeated patterns of mental activity strengthen certain neural pathways while allowing others to wither. Over time, the “states” cultivated during therapy can become “traits,” as one’s brain is literally changed through the process. Anyone who has picked up a bad habit knows the downside of neuroplasticity; counseling is an activity that harnesses the upside.
What are your credentials?
M.Ed. – Erin has a Masters of Education degree from her previous career as a teacher.
M.S. – Master of Science. Both Erin and Matt received their counseling degrees from Mount Mary University. Matt’s degree is in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Erin’s degree is in Community Counseling.
NCC – National Certified Counselor. This is a credential given by the National Board of Certified Counselors for passing the Board exam.
LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor. This license is given to counselors who have completed 3,000 supervised, post-masters hours of clinical or community counseling.
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