People often want to know, “what happens when you call for psychotherapy?” Or, at this moment in time, more accurately, “what happens when you call for teletherapy in Washington DC,” with me?
In the COVID-19 era, where here in Montgomery, Maryland and Washington DC, we continue to see spikes in the Coronavirus, I am practicing online psychotherapy. This means that I’m “seeing” people either via video conference or telephone. I value the in-person relationship and I prize working with people in real time. But, for now, I’m providing psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, virtually.
Here’s what happens when you call for psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. I’ll ask you to tell me a bit about yourself — how are you are hoping I might be of help? Whether you are calling about relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression, the imposter syndrome, work-life balance, workaholism, writer’s block, COVID anxiety, feeling lost or stuck or a wish to deepen your understanding of yourself, to learn more about you, I’ll ask you questions. This allows me to assess whether I think I can be helpful and, if so, how.
Of course, in the COVID-19 era, I’ll want to know how things are going for you during the pandemic. I recognize that these are challenging times, but, I promise not to attribute all of your difficulties to cabin fever or loneliness. These difficulties are real and, in addition, we have many of the same struggles that we had prior to the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, for many, these challenges are exacerbated.
This phone conversation will allow you to determine whether you would like to “meet” with me. If your difficulties are in my bailiwick, I’ll ask if you’d like to meet. Or, if I don’t have the requisite expertise that you need, I’ll tell you so – and, I’ll do my best to recommend someone who does. Most importantly, if you feel that you would like to see me, and I feel that I can be of help, we can make an appointment.
If we decide to meet for a consultation, during this initial phone call I will tell you more about what to expect in the first appointment.
Also, you may have questions for me. Often, people are interested in learning something about my professional background. You may know that I am a Training and Supervising Analyst and a Board Certified Psychoanalyst. However, you may want to know a bit about me. Most importantly, you will wish to know whether I have the expertise to help you.
Sometimes people are calling to seek out information about my fees and their insurance. When you call, feel free to ask me about my fees. Regarding insurance, I am an out-of-network provider, this means people pay me, directly, and file for reimbursement with their health insurance company. Therefore, if you planning to use insurance out-of-network, it’s a good idea to reach out to your insurance company to clarify the nature of your benefits.
I see people for 45 minutes sessions. During the initial consultation, I’ll ask what prompted you to reach out at this time. For me, the better I can get to know you the more helpful I can be. So, I will want to learn as much as I can about you. I will ask you to tell me about yourself, past, present – and, your hopes for the future.
Sometimes people have thought a lot about what has led them to seek consultation at this time. Perhaps you have had previous psychodynamic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis or you are very “psychologically-minded.” Maybe you are the kind of person who thinks in terms of metaphors, and patterns; and you have ideas about what “makes you tick.” If this is the situation, I am eager to hear what you have to say.
Or, you may be one of those folks who hasn’t really focused much on their feelings. You may be uncertain about why you are seeking consultation at this time. Rather, you may only be aware of difficulties in intimate relationships, family troubles, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety about abandonment, the imposter syndrome, difficulty sleeping, school or workplace dissatisfaction or frustration, a feeling of being lost or stuck, or a gnawing sense of unhappiness.
If this is the situation, I am very interested in learning more about what that has been like for you. There’s no correct approach. We are all unique individuals. One thing that most of the people who I see share in common is an interest in learning more about themselves with an eye toward leading more satisfying lives. I will try to help you deepen your understanding of your feelings and your thoughts. Often increased self-awareness leads to greater satisfaction and an improved capacity to focus on life and work goals.
I will ask questions about what you are telling me. I will try to understand you in your unique, individual, family and cultural context. Not only do I want to learn more about your hopes for the future, I would like to know more about what’s going on in your life today. Who are the key people in your world? What’s important to you? How do you spend your time; and, how do you feel about it? In addition to the “here and now.” I want to know what it was like for you in your family, in your school and in your community, growing up. To me, your past, present and future ~ and, your unique feelings about them are vitally important.
At the end of the first session, typically, two things happen. First, you have been asking yourself, “is this the person with whom I’d like to work?”
Second, I will have been trying to deepen my understanding of you. I am asking myself, can I be helpful here? And, if so, how? The most common recommendation I make is that we do a more extended evaluation. At the end of several sessions, I will tell you how I understand your difficulties and how I feel that I can be of help. Please note that you may ask me to give you a “diagnostic code” for insurance purposes, and I will do so. However, this is not how I think about the people who I see. Rather, I try to understand the unique experiences that have led you down your current path. I try to understand you in the context of your strengths and struggles. Beyond this, I will be thinking about how we can use your strengths to help you understand and master your struggles.
Sometimes people tell me that this extended evaluation is more like a short-term, psychotherapy. I agree with that appraisal. Sometimes this extended evaluation is sufficient to address your concerns. However, more often, people who seek me out are searching for a deeper, more abiding, ongoing understanding of themselves. They have been struggling with certain challenges or they have been unhappy for many years; they seek a thorough going approach that will help them to find a deeper resolution to their difficulties. Frequently, this entails psychodynamic therapy or psychoanalysis.
When I first began providing teletherapy in Washington DC, I was uncertain as to how it would effect the work. However, both the people who I see and I were concerned about everyone’s personal safety. Therefore, we agreed to work via online therapy or phone. While this has required some adjustments for all us, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that for most people this is an effective therapy modality. True, I think of “in person” meetings as optimal. Still, I am finding this method, in most situations, to be effective and even to sometimes have particular benefits.