Information about Psychological Services

Pursuing psychological treatment is not an easy decision. People often don't know what to expect and can feel anxious about the idea of talking to a stranger about their innermost feelings. Some people may also feel wrongly stigmatized or worry that people will say that they're "crazy" because they see a psychologist. The information below will help you understand more about clinical psychology as a health profession. Hopefully, you will gain practical information to help you know what to expect, find the right professional, and think about a trip to your psychologist the same way you would a trip to your physician.

What to Look for in a Therapist

Once you've reached the decision to pursue treatment, how do you decide which therapist is right for you? The first thing to think about is that there are many different orientations to understanding psychological difficulties. An orientation is simply the way a psychologist thinks about your symptoms, which informs what he/she will do to try to treat your difficulties. Some of these orientations are well-defined and developed using research evidence, whereas others are not. Before you commit to psychological treatment you should know something about your potential therapist's orientation, skill set, and the specific processes involved in receiving treatment. Here is a short list of questions that may help you evaluate:

  • What is your clinical orientation?
  • How do you know that the services you provide are effective?
  • What is the process for your initial assessment? What about ongoing assessment?
  • How often can I expect to attend sessions?
  • How long does it typically take to complete therapy?
  • How will our meetings be organized?
  • What do your services cost, and do you take insurance?

Generally speaking, these questions should be fairly easy for your therapist to answer. Estimates of how long you can expect to attend are, of course, just estimates, but this helps you get a sense of how long a therapist typically sees patients. If the therapist cannot answer your questions, or expects you to attend therapy for years, then you have information to help guide your decisions. Further, if evidence for a treatment's effectiveness sounds more like an opinion than a scientifically-driven conclusion, this also gives you information. For example, if you ask a therapist "how do you know what you do works?" which of the following answers would you rather receive?

"Because my patients generally seem okay and no one complains. A lot of them tell me that I'm doing a good job, and that they really get something out of coming here. I feel like what I'm doing helps, and I can see it in people's faces that they're getting better."

"The treatments that we provide have been carefully researched and have evidence to support their use. Additionally, we do thorough assessments to be sure that we're targeting the right problems, using tools that have also been strongly supported by science. We continue to assess your progress throughout treatment and can show you the data we gather to help determine whether or not you're getting better."

Another way to think of this is "would I accept this rationale for services from a physician?" If you were worried that you had strep throat, for example, would you accept a test from a doctor that involved him looking at you from across the room to conclude whether or not you were sick? Or a treatment that was based on lighting a candle and chanting to rid your body of germs in the event that he determined you had strep throat? Probably not – you'd insist on being examined, having your throat swabbed for bacteria, and receiving antibiotics, because those are the steps supported by science as effective in dealing with strep throat. You should demand the same level of capability and evidence from your therapist, and asking questions in advance will help you evaluate how likely you are to get it.

The Difference that Science Makes

Science in psychological treatment refers to two main things that will affect your care. First, it involves understanding the existing evidence for a given treatment, which is based on your psychologist's familiarity with research literature published in scientific journals. As you might expect, these are not exactly page-turning beach reading, and require a great deal of work to access, understand, and use in providing psychological treatments. The contents of these publications are critical to understanding where to start, however, and any treatment based on evidence is much more likely to be effective than one not based on evidence. Not every problem has a scientifically-supported treatment to address it, but most do, and these treatments represent the best possible chance for you to get better through therapy.

Second, science in practice refers to a general mindset that involves developing ideas about what will happen in the future, testing those ideas, and carefully monitoring the results. It goes beyond familiarity with research literature and influences the way that people think. In good psychological treatment you are likely to learn a lot of scientific approaches to understanding your own life, and methods of knowing when a given thought, behavior, or emotion is helpful or not-so-helpful. In short, a scientific approach allows people to be realistic in understanding their world and their place in it.

Cognitive-Behavioral Orientation

Combining information from our sections on what to look for in a therapist and the difference that science makes may lead you to the question "which orientation has the most scientific evidence?" The answer to that question is concise: cognitive-behavioral. This is definitely not the only orientation with evidence to support its usage, but it is the most widely researched and broadly supported set of techniques. Put differently, psychological treatments built using a cognitive-behavioral orientation tend to help more people with more problems more of the time than anything else we know.

These treatments are generally referred to as cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT. Briefly, CBT operates on the basis that your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all related, and difficulty with one or more of these processes results in psychological suffering. Treatments are built to help you understand more about the relationship between what you think, what you do, and how you feel, and focus directly on the things you can control (thoughts and behaviors). CBT helps you learn new skills to address practical problems that you currently experience, in the hope that you will develop strong tools to solve similar problems in the future. Some examples of techniques common to many forms of CBT are cognitive monitoring and restructuring, behavioral activation, exposure, relaxation, and problem solving.

Insurance and Payment

Delta Autumn Consulting is a network provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicare. What that means is that we have agreements with these companies to accept their insurance as payment for services. If you are a policyholder, your deductible is met, and your mental health benefits are administered by one of these companies, then you typically owe only a copayment/coinsurance for our services.

For all other insurances we are considered out-of-network providers. This means that we do not have agreements with these companies and you would be responsible for all fees. In these instances we will assist you with filing claims with your insurance, which often enables you to recover some of this money. We are unable to answer questions about your specific coverage, however, since companies will not provide us with that information.

Payment is due at the time of your appointment. We accept cash, checks, and major credit cards (including American Express). If you have questions about our fees or your insurance coverage please contact us.