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Cathy Marie StokesMS, NCC, LMHC

What is counseling? 

     Seeking counseling is a difficult and personal decision.  There are a number of  benefits from participating in counseling.  A counselor can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhance coping strategies for issue such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues, and creative blocks.

     Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life.  A counselor can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from counseling depends on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn.

    Some of the benefits available from counseling include:

  • Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values

  • Developing skills for improving your relationships

  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy

  • Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety

  • Understanding mental illness

  • Discovering personal strengths

  • Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures

  • Improving communications and listening skills

  • Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones

  • Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage

  • Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence  

Do I really need counseling? 

                     I can usually handle my problems.

   Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, counseling is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Counseling provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face. 

Why do people go to counseling

                       and how do I know if it is right for me?

     People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy.   Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well.  Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts, and creative blocks.  Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods.  Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives. 
What is counseling like?
     Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session.  Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development.  Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your therapist (usually weekly).
      It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process.  The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors or taking action on your goals. People seeking psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.   
What about medication versus psychotherapy?  
     It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.  Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. 

Does what we discuss in counseling remain confidential? 
Confidentiality* is one of the most important components between a client and psychotherapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office.   Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone.  This is called “Informed Consent”.  Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone  (a family member, your Physician, or Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
 *State law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:

  • Suspected abuse or neglect (past or present) of children or elders.
  • Court-ordered therapy which requires documentation.
  • Concern that the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.

Why do you not accept insurancefor counseling?
     I am an out-of-network provider for most major insurance companies.  Managed health care is primarily concerned with the treatment of illness.  Therapists that bill insurance must provide a mental health diagnosis (made a part of your permanent medical history) to the insurance company to show that your treatment is medically necessary.   However,
I feel that every person is unique, and not everyone fits a specific diagnosis or formula.

     My decision not to accept insurance is to keep you, the client, in control of your wellness process and keep your confidentiality safe.  When using private pay, these intimate details remain confidential between you and your therapist.  The therapeautic process should be the primary focus not the number of sessions allotted by the insurance company set by a diagnosis.  I believe that it is best that our time together be judged by only you as the client, and that the decision to continue or end our time together should be yours.