FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Many people experience anxiety or depression at times in their lives and some people experience signs or symptoms of these common mental health problems most of the time for many years or even most of their lives. Clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans every year. It causes people to lose interest or motivation in their daily lives, complicates medical conditions and sometimes leads people to suicide. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance, tearfulness or instability of mood, weight loss or weight gain, and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. It can happen to anyone and it is never just a normal part of living. When the symptoms persist for many months or years, the condition is serious and should be treated with a combination of medication and counseling. Sometimes depression is related to a stressful event or change in a person’s life and with help to correct one’s thinking, can usually be alleviated rather quickly with counseling.Likewise, anxiety is a disorder of emotions and thoughts that can make people’s lives extremely difficult. Although everyone worries sometimes and we can all have big worries in the face of a challenging event, anxiety disorders are much more serious than “ordinary worry”. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by chronic, exaggerated, and excessive worry, physical and emotional tension, irrational fears, pessimism or “catastrophization”. Many people with this condition experience insomnia, fatigue, physical trembling, and periodic panic attacks that feel something like heart attacks. Other forms of anxiety disorders include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in which a person feels compelled to perform repetitive or ritualistic behaviors that they know to be unnecessary and time-consuming or to be consumed by excessive orderliness or counting; and Panic Disorder in which a person has repeated panic attacks often causing them to become fearful of themselves, situations which they think might trigger panic, and of the possibility of panic itself.Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is being reported more and more frequently among both Iraq and Afganistan veterans and Vietnam vets. Rape victims, people who were sexually or physically abused as children, and people who have been through a life-threatening situation such as a major car accident, a robbery or a serious natural disaster also commonly experience it. PTSD is marked by nightmares and/or flashbacks, exaggerated startle reflex, anxiety or panic, eating disturbance, moodiness, emotional reactivity, grief reactions and feelings of helplessness. There are a number of treatment options for PTSD and if you are experiencing these symptoms and have been exposed to a traumatic event or suspect you may have been as a child, you should talk to a counselor. Another increasingly diagnosed condition is Bi-polar Disorder, sometimes called manic-depression. People with this illness experience significant mood swings over a day or a week in which they are clearly not thinking or acting in a consistent manner. Sometimes these mood swings are noticed more by others than by the person him or herself, but people with this disorder have usually had at least one period of really deep depression and/or one episode of being extremely elated or irritable, needing little or no sleep, and behaving in reckless or dangerous ways. Counseling is a useful and often necessary treatment intervention for anyone who has symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or Bi-polar disorder. If you are having any of the signs or symptoms outlined above please talk to your doctor or call a counselor for an assessment Anyone who is taking medication for any mental health disorder should also be seeing a counselor at least periodically.
Coaching is an excellent way for mentally healthy people to get outside assistance in setting and following through on goals, making changes in their life, or managing a difficult transition. It is a process that is completely driven by and controlled by the individual, couple, or family who has hired the coach. Think of any other kind of coaching you are familiar with. Sports or music or singing or acting probably come to mind. In all these activities, the coach uses the client’s skills, talents, and resources to help them become better. There is teaching involved sometimes, but more often the coach, listens, watches, evaluates and based on his expertise makes suggestions, asks questions, gives assignments, and holds the athlete or artist accountable for his or her own change and progress. It’s the same with any kind of life-coaching. Everyone can make excellent use of an outside, supportive, encouraging influence who can hold us accountable for the goals we set for ourselves and who can remind us of how capable and resourceful we are or who can draw from us ideas, values, and inspiration we didn’t even know we had. That’s what a coach can do for you.
If you go onto the websites of virtually anyone who offers life coaching, you will probably find an array of somewhat confusing answers to this question. I will try not to add to that confusion by keeping my answer concrete and simple. Counseling is a mental health intervention that is needed by and intended for people with a mental health disorder. A good deal of coaching occurs within the counseling relationship, but counseling is intended to alleviate the symptoms of a mental health diagnosis while coaching is directed at helping a client who does not have a mental health issue to reach his or her goals, to grow within a relationship or life transition, to manage and teach a difficult child, or to develop skills to compensate for the challenges of ADD/ADHD. Counseling is practiced in many ways from teaching coping skills to healing from trauma or the existential wounds of the past to gaining insight about how and why we have problems with ourselves, our emotions or other people. Coaching is designed for well-functioning people who want to get even better and/or who want to reach specific goals. The coach assumes that the client has all the capabilities and resources he or she needs, and needs to activate them, potentiate them, or be held accountable for utilizing them. Much of counseling has to do with the past and understanding how problems have become as they are. Coaching is future oriented and specifically goal directed. Both counseling and coaching can help individuals be happier and more successful and reach higher levels of functioning. Whether you choose counseling or coaching may depend a great deal on where you are starting from.
Counseling is an intervention which may take anywhere from a couple of sessions to many years, depending on the problems presented, the level of distress of the client, the severity of the symptoms, and the motivation of the client. Coaching might take the form of a few hours of consultation or, more typically, occurs within the parameters of an engagement which is typically 3 to 6 months but can be both longer and shorter. During your first session with me, whether for counseling or for coaching, I can usually give you an estimate of the time commitment, but often I leave that decision to you on an on-going basis. Whichever service you choose, we will revisit the reason for the intervention, the goals and the progress you can see continually throughout our time together.
Most people with insurance coverage have a mental health benefit for individual counseling for a diagnosed condition. I am covered by most insurance, so your cost for counseling will be whatever your deductible, co-payment, and co-insurance is. Most insurance does NOT cover marriage, relationship, or family counseling, although some do as long as there is a specifically identified “patient” who has a diagnosis. Coaching may be paid on an hourly basis but is usually paid for per engagement. As everyone’s insurance and circumstances are different, I will talk with you about the specifics of costs and payment options during our first meeting.