The Top Three Frequently Asked Questions I Get (and a few others that are regularly asked).
1. Why do you specialize in communication?
Very early in my career I learned the following:
In the late ’60s, Truax, Carkhuff and Berenson discovered that therapeutic responses (or comments to a client) could be observed as a qualitative measure. They created a scale of 1 (poor) up to 5 (excellent), and began ranking therapist responses to their clients while observing film of therapy sessions. From their research, it became clear to communication specialists and therapists that what we say has a massive impact on a client, and, of course, on most relationships. In fact, they discovered that a less than average response to a client (i.e. below a level 2.5 response out of 5.0, for example) could actually cause harm to a client. So, you must beware of not-so-good responses…
Also of interest: Who we are, at our core-level of functioning, results in how we respond – the healthier your being, the healthier your responses. It’s been my experience that we can learn to control our emotional reactivity, and we can modify what we say, for dramatic impact on ourselves and our relationships – especially during conflict. So, specializing in couples therapy and communication was an outgrowth of my early training, as has been my constant personal-growth focus.
2. How do I know if a therapist is good?
The only way to know if a therapist is good is to try a session or two. Choosing a therapist is like choosing shoes – you may have to try some on before you find the one that fits. You have to be especially leery of less than average (2.5) responses because they can harm you. If you’ve experienced a poor response from a friend or a therapist, then you know how harmful it can be. Your intellect can’t always tell during or after an encounter if it was good or bad. But your intuition knows. You have to ask yourself if it “felt” right to you.
3. Can my relationship be saved?
At its greatest, successful therapy helps all of your dreams come true…
Therapy is never at its greatest.
Seriously though, a good definition of therapy is pretty difficult to spell out. My real-life experience is that if someone helps me, then it’s therapeutic. If I don’t have a sense of gain from a therapeutic event, then I have the wrong person. If I visit a massage therapist and my body isn’t soothed by the session, I won’t go back. Psychotherapy is no different.
Further, to “save” a relationship, both people must be committed to a win-win, and be willing (and able) to look inside themselves for their part in the relationship struggles. You can’t take the other person’s personality-inventory, analyze them and then change them. You can only change yourself. So, if you want the best chance of success in a relationship try using great depth and breadth to complete the following sentences.
— If my relationship were to improve, my contribution would be…
— Quirks about me that might make that difficult are…
You will need to dig down deep on those two sentences.
And if you do the above early enough in the relationship, then you won’t be whacked by your relationship experiencing a triple-heart bypass.
By that, I mean, don’t wait until the relationship is about to die and then ask a therapist if the relationship can be saved. Instead, complete those sentences from the very first day of a relationship and never stop revisiting them. Metaphorically, it won’t go well if you have a heart attack and keep eating poorly and avoiding exercise, etc.
Improve your relationship at the first sign of any heart irregularity.
— How long will therapy take?
At the risk of sounding harsh, the reality is that it totally depends on how much damage you have done to one another.
A fender-bender is easy, inexpensive and fast to repair. A motorcycle crash that shatters bones is gonna take a lot of time and resources…
How many resentment-bricks are there in the wall between you? Have you committed little, white-lies, or catastrophic ones? Have you hurt, harmed, damaged, abused, destroyed, or nuked the trust and honesty. Again, the amount of harm caused usually determines how much time it will take to repair things. It also requires both parties to be honest, committed and humble, and a lot more…
— What is your success rate?
For this, I defer to Peter Pearson, PhD, co-founder of The Couples Institute. He is very clear that we, as therapists, do not have a success rate. Success is determined by the client, by their hard work and commitment.
I say, look at all of the issues on this page and you can easily see that a client’s attitude plays a huge factor.
As for me, I’m consistent in my office — the client is the wildcard. I pretty much give the same information, tools, feedback and learning to everyone in my office. They use it, or they don’t. Just like when you listen to your nutritionist and personal trainer and follow the suggestions, or you don’t.
I have had some amazing successes (and failures) in my career, and when I honestly analyze the successes, like most teachers, coaches, employers and mentors, the commitment of the client seems more important to success than my interventions.
What’s your commitment?
— Do you accept insurance and how much will therapy cost?
The cost of therapy is complicated by all the above…
I do have a few things to say about the cost of therapy, though.
1) Based on what I see families paying for a divorce, therapy is less expensive.
2) I am not on any insurance panels, because if I was, they would force me to accept around $60 for a 50 minute session, when I charge $155. In addition, they can deny coverage if they are of the opinion a client is not in enough pain to call for therapy, and they can stop paying me at will. That is not a good business model, and I insist on being the professional that can decide if someone is in need. My clients stop therapy when they are ready, not when a third-party decides their coverage runs out.