4 Questions to Answer BEFORE Starting Counseling

So you’ve decided it’s time to get counseling, but you’re not sure where to start?

Here are the 4 questions you must answer before choosing a counselor:

  1. Will I use my insurance or go the private pay route?
  2. What is the problem I’m facing?
  3. What are their office hours?
  4. How quickly do I want to start?

INSURANCE OR PRIVATE PAY?

 If you want to use your insurance, call the member services line on the back of your insurance card and ask them to send you a list of “MENTAL HEALTH/BEHAVIORAL HEALTH providers” in your network. From this list, do your research online and see if you can find a good match.

Contrary to what some may think, not every counselor takes your insurance

Be sure to call your insurance to see if they will cover counseling sessions [like phone or virtual counseling, couples counseling or group counseling]. 

If you are using the private pay, take a look at your finances. Many private pay counseling sessions can run you anywhere between $90-$160 per one-hour session. There are, however, other options such as sliding scale fees, hardship options, or lowered rates with clinicians. 

PRESENTING PROBLEM

If you had to sum up the problem you’re facing in 1 to 3 words, what would it be? Anxiety? Family problems? Marital issues? Child’s behavior? Whatever it is, try to narrow it down. Don’t diagnose yourself, but gain an idea so you can explain it to the person on the other end of the line. It’s important your counselor has experience with your issue. Counselors have specialties or niches; so again, contrary to what you may think, not every counselor has experience or works with your presenting problem. 

Also VERY important, if the person needing counseling is a child (under 18), specifically ask if the counselor has experience working with their age group (preschoolers/elementary aged/tweens/teens).

OFFICE HOURS

Counseling can be hard enough, don’t make things more complicated by having someone whose office location or hours are inconvenient for your life situation. If you live in a large city, there are actually more counselors than you may think. Check into different office locations, hours and days open during the week and make sure it compliments your life schedule. If needed, ask about virtual counseling as this could also help take the hassle out of a weekly drive to an appointment.

WAIT TIME?

Lastly, and perhaps most important, how quick is their turnaround time? How long will it take to set up an initial appointment? Some counselors have availability to see a new client asap, others have a wait list and some aren’t taking new clients at all. This is a tough trade off because some counselors are worth the wait. However, if you’re issue is urgent and pressing, the sooner the better.

I hope this list helps! Happy hunting!

 

What to Say when your Kid Says This #whentolisten #whentoignore

What to Say when your Kid Says This #whentolisten #whentoignore

“You never let me do anything!”

Welcome to one of many childhood explosions! Chances are you let your child do TONS of things. A few things are likely to be going on here: they are upset, are attempting to hit you where it hurts, and it has become clear there is a communication breakdown. At this point, it is likely your child, and perhaps you, are feeling a lot of emotion.

Now is not the time to try the rational and logical route, because it’s likely not to work (yet). Give them a few minutes. From there, revisit this topic. Your child needs to know a couple of things:

  • they are always free to share their opinions or feelings.
  • they are not allowed to be disrespectful to others [or to themselves].
  • You are willing to hear them out.

Then empathize with their feeling: “I can understand how you could feel different from the rest of the group because you’re the only one who [can’t go eat after the dance]“, attempt to compromise (when able) “I’d be ok with you grabbing dinner with them another day,” and remember you are the parent and they are the child “but staying out after 11pm is out of the question.” What mom or dad says is the law.

“I don’t want to go to school.”

Sounds like a typical expression, and quite honestly, I think we’re all notorious for saying responses like: “Well I don’t want to go to work today but I still am,” “It’s called responsibility,” or “I don’t care.” Ask yourself a few questions. Is this the first time your are hearing your child say this? Is this typical behavior? Could there be something going on? Do they say this before school or after school? Is your child pending a big test or project? Are they only saying this on certain days? How did they sleep the night before? Take a look at the context of these statements.  The answers to these questions could give you the insight you need to be able to judge when to ignore or when to listen.

“(S)he makes me feel creepy.”

Listen up. Ask more questions. “What do you mean by creepy?,” “Have they ever done or said anything to make you feel uncomfortable?,” “Do you know who they are?,” etc. Aire on the side of caution. While we want our kids to be polite, intuition/gut feeling can go a long way. Kids are incredibly perceptive and may be picking up on something before we do. In situations like this, your supervision can go a long way. Sometimes this means actually keeping eyes on your child when this person is around. In cases where your child is in a different location, find the “adult in charge” and touch base with them. Also, follow up with your child and do some quick practice scenarios “What would you do if they got into your space and it makes you uncomfortable?” Encourage them to create distance by taking a step back, create a nonverbal barrier by picking up an arm or hand [in a non-aggressive way], and commit to strong eye contact with this person when stating “Please step back.” Also encourage them to always know the nearest exit and to have a buddy go with them behind closed doors when with this person. Lastly, validate. Let them know you are glad they told you how they were feeling and they can always trust you to share when they’re “not feeling right” about something.

“I’m Tired.”

Unless your kid is trying to get out of an undesirable chore, listen. Here’s what the National Sleep Foundation had to say:

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours

Unfortunately, children aren’t getting enough hours of sleep and tend to fall into the minimum number of sleep recommended for their age. Remember, the time your child actually goes to bed, is likely not the time they are actually going to sleep- big difference. Throw in a growth spurt and sporting practice and they need even more sleep- your child may need to fall closer to the middle and maximum number of sleep recommended. They aren’t going to like the adjusted bed time, but they’ll appreciate it in the morning.

“Can I go over to [person you don’t know]s house?”

No. All together now, “No.” They will proceed to rave how you never let them do anything- if they’re teens, you may hear how unfair you are and how So-and-So’s mom/dad let’s them. You would proceed to tell them “I don’t know that person, but he/she is welcome to come over here after I’ve talked with their parents so that I can get to know them. Get their number tomorrow at school so I can call them.” Your child will likely not back down easily, and that’s ok. Being angry or frustrated is normal, but remember disrespect is not. My parents did a great job making our house-THE house to be at. We had newly released DVDs (rented), junk food, and the tastiest meals (shout out mom!). We had enough space to feel independent, and enough check-ins for my parents to have an idea of what was going on. Make your house the IT house.