Frequently Asked Questions About Therapy

For many people, making the decision to see a counselling therapist comes after some thought and deliberation. You’re likely filled with questions about what you can expect during the first session, and what the process of therapy will be like. In this article, I will address many of the frequently asked questions about therapy. I’ve written this article from my perspective of what clients can expect from working with me as their therapist.

It is important to note that not all counsellors are the same in their approach. The questions that I’ve provided however are useful questions to ask any new therapist you are working with. I’ve included a downloadable PDF of these questions here for you to bring with you when you meet a new therapist, to determine if they are the right fit for you and your counselling goals. You may also read more about myself and Christine, and our individual approaches to working with clients at Parallel Wellness.

What are your areas of expertise?

My counselling therapy practice has focused on working with individuals and families. I recognize the importance that relationships with others play in our daily lives, and often work with clients and their families to support the client in working towards their goals for therapy. Part of my practice focuses on working with adolescent or teenage clients. Adolescence is a complicated point in development. I’ve worked with clients experiencing challenges with peers, friends, school and their relationships at home. I’ve also worked with youth experiencing difficult emotions such as depression and anxiety.

Another area of specialty in my practice is working with clients and their families to address disordered eating and eating disorders. I’ve worked in private practice, community program and residential programs at all levels of treatment.

How long will I need to participate in therapy before I feel better?

Clients often report that they begin to feel better after only working with a therapist for one session. This is not to say that their issue has completely been resolved, but you may find that speaking openly with a non-judgemental and supportive individual, such as a therapist, provides you with some relief almost immediately.

Depending on the reason you are seeking counselling services, effective therapy typically takes 5-12 sessions, and sometimes longer to complete. Goals set with a therapist enable you to have a clear plan for where you would like you sessions and therapy experience to go. Together, you and I can determine what will fit best given your goals for therapy.

What type of training do you have?

I began my journey of becoming a therapist by completing Bachelor of Science degree at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Knowing that I wanted to work directly with clients to make positive changes in their lives, I completed a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology at Adler University in Vancouver, British Columbia. This degree allows me to be registered with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors as a Registered Clinical Counsellor.

I have additional training in cognitive-behaviour therapy, the Gottman Method for couples therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and emotionally-focused family therapy (EFFT). I attend various training opportunities on a consistent basis to stay current with the techniques that have been proven to be helpful for clients. I also started a new academic adventure in September 2016 when I began my PhD in Counselling Psychology at the University of British Columbia. I’m a bit of a nerd for knowledge and always knew I’d want to continue my education so I could provide the best possible therapy for my clients. When I complete this degree I will take the appropriate licensing exams to become a psychologist.

What’s your theoretical orientation?

Research has repeatedly shown that it’s not the therapist’s theoretical orientation that makes therapy effective, but the non-judgmental relationship between the therapist and client that enables change to happen. That being said, a theoretical orientation provides a roadmap for planning therapy session and providing a smooth trip to reaching your goals.

I work from an integrated approach rooted in Client-Centred or Rogerian Therapy. It is my belief that my clients are able to make the bravest and most difficult changes when they feel secure, genuinely accepted and supported when working with me. Our capacity for connection as human beings has always amazed me, and I worked to develop a healthy working alliance with my clients.

Additionally, there are specific therapeutic techniques that are effective in working with specific issues that clients often work with me on in therapy. I integrate these techniques into my client-centred practice to enrich and support the goals that we are working on together. The ever-growing list includes:

Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
Emotion-Focused Therapy for individuals, couples, and families (EFT, EFFT)
Gottman Method for working with couples

What can I expect to happen in a therapy session?

The first therapy session is unlike other sessions as it’s a time for both myself and the client to get to know one another. The majority of the session is spent with me collecting information about your past, and specifically your experiences related to what you’ve come to therapy to work on – when did it start, what’s happened since what have you tried that works and doesn’t work, etc. We will also discuss what your goals, or what you’d like to achieve from our work together. This allows me to have a good idea of what we’ll be working on and I can then take what I know about treating other clients with similar concerns to collaboratively create a plan of how we’ll work to meet your goals together in therapy.

The first session is also a time to begin developing our working relationship.Trust is incredibly important in therapy and it all starts in the first session. With time, this relationship can grow to be a powerful space for you to explore parts of yourself that you never have, and make changes in your life that you never imagined possible.

Sessions after this will be focused on working towards your therapy goals. I firmly believe that you as a client are the expert in your own life. While I provide my clinical knowledge and support to try what might be too scary to try on your own, you know yourself better than anyone. Together, we’ll utilize various therapeutic techniques, with feedback from you on what you find to be the most helpful.

As a therapist, trained in working with clients who have experienced trauma, I always take care in my sessions to be helpful and not harmful. This includes taking steps to ensure that my clients are grounded in session and not using techniques that may lead to re-traumatization. If this is a concern for you, it is important to speak with your therapist about it.

What are your hours?

I provide therapy session options to fit the different needs of my clients; with day, evening and weekend appointments available.

What are the costs of seeing a therapist? Do you have low-fee or sliding-scale options?

Cost per session is dependant on the length of the session and whether the client is attending individually or with their partner or family member. Sessions are subject to 5% sales tax. As a Registered Clinical Counsellor by fees are as follows:

Individual Session, 60 minutes – $115

Individual Session, 90 minutes – $165

Couple/Family Session, 60 minutes – $125

Couple/Family Session, 90 minutes – $185

I also offer a sliding-scale fee option for students and clients with financial hardship. This option can be discussed when we speak one-on-one.

Do you accept my Extended-Health Insurance coverage?

Some employee benefit insurance programs cover the costs associated with seeing a Registered Clinical Counsellor, however not all do. You will need to check with your particular insurance company and group plan to ensure exactly what type and amount of coverage you have. If your employee benefit insurance plan does cover these services, you will simply need to submit a copy of your receipt to them. If your insurance plan does have counselling coverage but does not acknowledge the professional counselling services of a Registered Clinical Counsellor it may be possible to have your employer make a small change to the insurance plan.

What type of payment do you accept for counselling services?

You are able to pay for your counselling session by cash, credit card or email money transfer, at the time of your session.

If I need medication, can you prescribe or refer me to someone who does?

The decision to begin medication to treat your mental health concern is ultimately your own, under the supervision of your medical doctor and consultation with your counsellor. If you do not currently have a family doctor, I would be happy to assist you in this search. Working with a counsellor is highly recommended, even when a client is prescribed medications. While the medication may help subside some of the unpleasant symptoms of the mental health issue you are experiencing, working with a counsellor will enable you to identify the unhelpful traps you have fallen into in the past, learn new strategies for coping more effectively and support your transition should you and your medical doctor choose to discontinue medication use at any time. Imagine the medication as your training wheels as you learn to ride the bike.

This being said, there are some mental health issues that require consistent medical monitoring and medication to treat, and unfortunately, counselling alone will not remedy. Talk to your counsellor and medical doctor before making any decisions about beginning or stopping a medication regime.

Besides counselling therapists, there are also other mental health professionals who may be of help to you.

Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Social Workers, Oh My! The Differences between Mental Health Professionals

Do you give homework or reading to do between sessions?

Homework should be a four-letter word with the amount of anxiety it can create in a person! Let’s call it self-work or anything that you find more fitting. While our therapy sessions together will often be very productive, the various triggers, people, environments, and contexts that contribute and are affected by what you’ve come to work on in therapy are not in the therapy office. It’s important to practice what you’ve learned in your therapy sessions when you’re home, otherwise, what’s the point?!

Home self-work can include a variety of things – completing worksheets, journaling based on a topic we’ve discussed, having a conversation with someone in your life, practicing different behaviours that create anxiety for you that you’d like to overcome, and many more. Most importantly, we will come up with the plan for this together, so you’ll have input on what you think will work best for you, and what you think you’ll be most likely to complete in your free-time.

Overall, my goal for asking a client to do self-work between therapy sessions is to help my clients to reach their goals effectively and relatively quickly, so they can enjoy the benefits of improving their lives.

May I include family members in my therapy sessions?

Depending on what you’re working on in therapy, involving your family or friends in sessions can be incredibly helpful. For one, they are often the ones who are with you when you’re challenged with something related to what you’re coming to therapy for. Our perceptions of what is happening in any given situation can be skewed based on the influence of depression, anxiety or the pattern of thinking that has got us to where we are. Having someone you care for learn about what you’re working on in therapy, in a session with you, can help them to be more supportive in your daily life. Family sessions can also be a great way to discuss more difficult topics with the people you love, with the support of a therapist. While there are some situations that might be inappropriate for someone to join you in a therapy session, I truly believe in the power of relationships and feeling that support can be a great intervention on its own for clients.

These are just some of the many questions I get asked by new clients in therapy. Please share your additional questions with us and we’d be happy to answer them!

~ Meredith of Parallel Wellness

Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

So you want to know more??

download free guide


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Hey there!!

I'm Meredith MacKenzie, the founder of Parallel Wellness and a Registered Clinical Counsellor. Simply put, I love to talk about psychology, emotions and all the things that make us human. My goal for this blog is to share information, resources and a fresh perspective on what brings clients to our practice.

So you want to know more??

download free guide