Q. What is a psychologist?
A. The American Psychological Association (APA) describes practicing psychologists as clinicians with the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. After years of graduate school and supervised training, practicing psychologists become licensed by their state to provide a number of services, including evaluations and psychotherapy. Psychologists help by using a variety of techniques based on the best available research, and consider one's unique values, characteristics, goals, and circumstances.
Practicing psychologists are also trained to administer and interpret a number of tests and assessments that can help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. These tests may evaluate intellectual skills, cognitive strengths and weaknesses, vocational aptitude and preference, personality characteristics, and neuropsychological functioning.
Practicing psychologists can help with a range of health problems and use an assortment of evidence-based treatments to help people improve their lives. Most commonly, they use therapy (often referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy). There are many different styles of therapy, and the psychologist will choose the approach that best addresses the person’s problem and best fits the patient’s characteristics and preferences.
Psychologists with doctoral degrees (either a PhD, PsyD or EdD) receive one of the highest levels of education of all health care professionals, spending an average of seven years in education and training after they receive their undergraduate degrees. The American Psychological Association estimates that there are about 105,000 licensed psychologists in the United States.
Q. how were you trained?
A. I received my doctoral degree in 2000 from the Wright Institute's APA accredited Clinical Psychology program in Berkeley, after five full-time years of clinical training and academic study. In addition to three years of clinical practicum, I completed a full-time internship at the California Pacific Medical Center Department of Psychiatry in San Francisco where I was the Chief Intern. I became licensed to practice in 2002 after an additional two years of postdoctoral clinical training and exams. My coursework included areas such as ethics, statistics, diversity and individual differences, the biological, cognitive-affective, and social bases of behavior, psychopharmacology, and specific training and supervision in psychological assessment and therapy. Since becoming licensed to practice, I have maintained my knowledge by earning several hours of continuing education credits each year. I am happy to discuss any aspect of my education and training with you, and encourage you to review my credentials here.
Q. do you prescribe medications?
A. No. Although I do have training in psychopharmacology and can make recommendations about psychotropic medications, I am not authorized to prescribe medication in the state of California. Just a few states have laws that allow licensed psychologists with additional, specialized training to prescribe. California is not one of those states. I will however, consult with you and your prescribing clinician, and may make recommendations based on what I hear and observe in our sessions.
Q. Should i be taking medications?
A. In some cases, psychotropic medications may be unavoidable. In others, it may be one option to address a serious mental health problem or illness. If I believe you would benefit from pharmacologic treatment I will discuss this with you.
Many people seek medications because they are desperate to feel better, and I certainly understand that. However, treatment with medications alone is typically less effective than a combined treatment of therapy and medication. It is important to know that these medications are not meant to cure mental illness, and the affect they have on individuals can vary widely. Rather than cure illness, psychotropic medications are designed to aid in managing the symptoms associated with it. Despite positive effects for some, the difficulties and side-effects associated with psychotropic medications can be an added stress in their lives.
If you are taking psychotropic medications or are considering it, it will be important to maintain close contact with your prescribing clinician and your therapist, particularly when starting, changing, or stopping medications.
Q. what kind of therapy do you provide?
A. It is important to know that regardless of approach, your comfort and alignment with your therapist is the best predictor of success. Finding the right fit is important, so I have tried to describe my approach throughout this site and in my office policies. I am happy to discuss this with you in greater detail should that be helpful, and recognize that therapy can often be difficult to describe briefly and in general terms.
My approach is traditional, and reflects my training and experience over many years. I practice from an evidence-based, relational psychodynamic/psychoanalytic orientation. When helpful for particular individuals and problems, I also make use of other types of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused, interpersonal, and humanistic approaches. I believe that relational, cultural, and developmental contexts are important to our work, and that it is important to understand and address each person's unique personality, experience, and circumstance.
The goal in all of my work is to provide a safe, non-judgmental space to help others create healthier, more adaptive, and more authentic ways of being in the world, as evidenced by improvements in their relationships, performance, and enjoyment in life.
Q. how long will it take to help me?
A. Most people can experience a benefit from therapy in just a few sessions. However, the time it takes to feel that your problem has been resolved or made more manageable varies depending on your unique circumstance and how ambitious your goals are. It is helpful to be clear about what you are looking for when starting therapy so we can discuss an effective treatment plan.
If you have concerns about the length of therapy or our projected termination date, I encourage you to discuss that with me.
Q. should i use my health insurance or pay privately?
A. Information about my professional fees and how to pay them can be found in my office policies and practice information. There are pros and cons associated with this choice that I encourage you to consider. Despite having health coverage, you can choose whether or not to use insurance to pay for your mental health treatment.
Some people choose not to use insurance to pay for therapy even if they have it. First, using your full insurance benefit will limit your choice of therapists to those who are contracted with your insurance company—and of those, only those therapists who have openings for new patients. Second, your insurance company may place certain limits or restrictions on your therapy, such as the scope of our work, the number of sessions, treatment length, or whether to pay to address your problem at all. Many people who benefit from therapy do not have a formal diagnosis, which is required to authorize payment. In order for my services to be covered, I must provide your insurance company with a formal psychiatric diagnosis and other information that will become part of your permanent record. In some cases, I may even be required to provide notes on our sessions or other details as to your condition and treatment. Once I provide these things to your insurance company, I no longer have control of your confidentiality and cannot be sure how or to whom this information will be disclosed. For some people, certain diagnoses can affect future employment, security clearances, or eligibility for some kinds of insurance. Keep in mind that the same is true when using your insurance with an out-of-network provider.
Paying privately for therapy is a way to maximize confidentiality, minimize intrusion by your insurance company, and maintain maximum control of your personal information and treatment. It allows you to be the one to decide whom you work with, when, how long, and how frequently. And importantly, it allows you to decide what to work on in therapy, regardless of your diagnosis—or lack thereof.
Many people feel there is inherent value in paying out-of-pocket for therapy, as the sacrifice it entails fosters a different level of commitment on your part. Your investment in therapy can lead to therapeutic gains, and help shed light on other issues of importance to your treatment. The significance of payment and the conditions surrounding your choice should be considered seriously, so I welcome these discussions.
If you would prefer to pay for therapy privately but feel you cannot afford it, please let me know. I do maintain some reduced fee spaces in my schedule, and can adjust my fees in cases of financial hardship.
Q. where can i get accurate and up-to-date mental health information?
A. The American Psychological Association (APA) is the world's largest organization of psychologists, and leads the way in regard to scientific research, ethics, advocacy, and resources for professionals and the public. The APA website provides a Psychology Help Center with a number of excellent articles designed to answer your questions.
If you have questions that are not addressed here, please let me know and I will assist you in finding the answers you need.