therapist menifee

Are you a scaredy cat or do you have phobias?

"You're such a scaredy cat," they say. But what they don't know is that when you go to the beach, your heart races uncontrollably, your palms become sweaty, you become nauseous and all you want to do is get the heck out of there.

What they also don't know is that when you were 3 years old you almost drowned. After that you could no longer go to the beach, go on a cruise or be around large bodies of water. But no one has ever asked you why you're so scared, they just assume that you are being irrational.

Well, you my dear, might have a phobia. To the outside world the person with the phobia makes no sense. After all, all your friends go surfing and swimming at the beach, so they see no harm in large bodies of water. On the contrary, the beach is their happy place. But they don't understand that their happy place causes you terror. You have to summon up the courage to even drive past a beach.

People can have a phobic reaction to just about anything- thunder, lightning, elevators, white t-shirts, the park, the dentist, birds, snakes, strawberries and even good ol' pizza. It also does not matter where you're from, your gender, race or socioeconomic background. Phobias are equal opportunity bandits. They steal your joy, comfort and sometimes, it feels like they steal your sanity.

Simply put, a phobia is an unreasonable fear (which obviously seems very reasonable to you) which causes a person extreme fear and anxiety. You become so petrified that you instantly feel the need to run, hide or even cry. Even if you know that the object you fear is 'harmless,' it still does not reduce the amount of fear you feel around it. Sometimes a phobia will affect your social life or career. When you know your company is going on their annual beach trip, you call in sick and miss the opportunity to network with other professionals. Or you miss out on having fun with friends who want to lay around in the summer time.

So how are phobias treated? Well there are many different ways, but one of the most common is through a treatment called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Your counselor or therapist will ask you a list of questions, to get to know your background and even your health history. He or she will sometimes also refer you to your primary care physician so that he or she can determine if your phobia is caused by a physical health condition or by some medications you're taking.

Do you have any phobias? Are you ready to stop feeling afraid? Reach out to a therapist or counselor today. It's important to ask them if they have experience treating phobias as well as how they actually go about the treatment. Help is out there. You don't have to suffer alone.

Types of anxiety disorders

You've heard the word anxiety over and over again. Maybe you've even felt that feeling in the pit of your stomach, or thoughts that move so fast that you can barely focus. Or maybe you've felt the room spinning and you couldn't catch your breath. Sometimes it shows up as an overwhelming feeling that stops you in your tracks. Or you wake up and instantly burst into tears. Well, did you know that there are many different types of anxiety disorders?

 Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting about each main category, but today let's just talk about the main categories. Before we dive in, I'll give you a brief overview of how I got the information. You see every therapist has a great huge manual from which we diagnose (yes, we can diagnose). Every few years, this manual is updated by tons of professionals in the mental health field. The most current version is called the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM 5 or DSM V). This manual contains every single mental health disorder known to man. You can check it out here.

 Okay so on to the good stuff. Here are the main categories of anxiety disorders:

1) Separation Anxiety Disorder: This occurs when a person experiences a heightened sense of anxiety when they have to be away from someone whom they are very attached to. In many cases, children often feel this when they have to be away from a parent, guardian or loved one. Adults can also experience this. The person has a huge fear of being away from the person, they might scream and shout when the person has to leave, they avoid leaving the person and they might even have nightmares about leaving. This isn't just an ordinary feeling of "I'll miss you." It's a tense, anxiety provoking angst when you think about being separated from your loved one.

 2) Selective Mutism: This is also more common in children. This occurs when the person can speak, but he or she chooses not to speak in certain social situations such as at school or in a public place. This could be because the person feels very anxious or unsure. If the child does not speak due to a hearing or speech problem, or because they don't understand the language, then they probably don't meet the criteria for this disorder. My advice would be to first take the child to his or her pediatrician to get checked first, before going to a therapist.

 3) Specific Phobia: Did you know phobias are a real thing? A phobia is a serious fear about an object or situation which causes the person very serious distress. You could have a phobia about anything-water, trees, certain foods, mascots, feathers-anything. Phobias are not something to laugh about because they can intense emotional pain and fear. Luckily they are treatable.

 4) Social Anxiety Disorder: Serious fear or anxiety about being in a social situation where the person can be scrutinized by others. This isn't just a case of butterflies or a little shyness, in this situation the person has a serious fear. Because of this people often avoid such social situations.

 5) Panic Disorder: This is a case of getting various unexpected panic attacks. Some symptoms of a panic attack are shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, difficulty breathing, hot flashes, numbness and even fear of dying. After the panic attack subsides, people who get them often have anxiety about getting more attacks-which could then cause them to have panic attacks. It's a vicious cycle.

 6) Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This is the diagnosis I see the most in my practice. It's basically excessive worry that is difficult to control, which occurs more days than not. Worry happens all the time even though you can't figure out why. Sometimes you experience tension in your neck and shoulders, difficulty sleeping, bad dreams, crankiness and tiredness.

 7) Agoraphobia: A serious fear about being in open spaces, being in enclosed places, going into  public transportation, being outside of your home alone and/or being in a crowd. Sometimes these situations could also trigger a panic attack. People with agoraphobia often feel most comfortable when they are in the comfort of their own homes.

 So you see, anxiety is real and it is often very complex. But the truth is we have all felt anxious to one degree or the other. Anxiety is treatable and mental health therapists and counselors are trained to help you reduce your anxiety.

 If you've been struggling with any of these situations, contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation so we can talk about how to get you from sinking to thriving. Click here to email me.

How to pick a therapist in the Murrieta area

Your life has been difficult for a while. You're struggling with anxiety and you're considering therapy. You do a quick search online and you realize there are over 20 therapists in Murrieta alone. How on earth are you supposed to find the right one? Well here are some of my suggestions:

Does the therapist take your insurance? When people call me on the phone, one of the first things they ask me is if I take their insurance. Most people want to go this route because it's the most cost effective way for them. If you choose to use your insurance, just know that insurance expects the therapist to diagnose you. This diagnosis is permanent and will remain on your record. FYI. However, in some cases, if you don't meet criteria for any mental health disorder, then the session won't be covered by your insurance. Always ask your therapist what your diagnosis is. It's a great way to empower yourself. Note that because a therapist accepts your insurance doesn't mean they will be the best fit for you.

Also be aware that your insurance dictates how many sessions you get to have, the length of your sessions and what types of session you have. For example, some insurance companies don't cover couples counseling, some don't cover group counseling and others will limit you to 3 sessions. Call your insurance company to get all the details before making a decision. 

 Is the therapist male or female? Some people specifically want a male therapist, while others want a female and some don't have any preference. Figure out who you are more comfortable with and go that route. There's no advantage with either, just do what makes you feel comfortable.

How much do counseling sessions cost? If you are going the insurance route, ask your insurance company what your benefits are, figure out how many sessions you are approved for and also know if you'll have a copay or you have to meet a certain deductible. That way you can budget for the sessions. Note that it's also possible to work with a therapist who is not contracted with your insurance company. In this case, the therapist will give you a receipt called a super bill, which you will present to your insurance company for reimbursement. So don't fret if the therapist you want to work with isn't on the list of in network providers. Typically this works for PPO insurance companies, while HMO companies want you to see a therapist who is contracted with their network.

If you are not going the insurance route, also ask the therapist how much each session will cost so you're not taken unaware and you can budget accordingly. Either way, you'll have some planning to do.

Where is the therapist located? Do you want a therapist who's close to your home or close to your work? How far away from your home do you want to drive? Some people will drive an hour to see a therapist they deeply connect with, and others must have someone within a 10 mile radius. Think about that. Ultimately, the most important thing is having a therapist whom you deeply connect with.

Imagine driving 10 minutes to see a therapist whom you can't stand? Sounds awful doesn't it?

Can the therapist see you online if you have to be out of town? If you are a busy person who does not always have the time to drive over for weekly appointments or if you go out of town regularly, you might also want to consider a therapist who can see you remotely. I personally use a software called Vsee. It's similar to Skype, except it's more secure. Note that in California, I can only see my clients if they are physically located in California. So if you're traveling out of state, I can't see you.

How long will therapy take? Successful therapy takes anywhere from weeks to months. Have this conversation with your therapist so you can mentally prepare yourself and commit to the care you deserve. It's a lot better to be prepared than to unsuccessfully drop out of therapy.

What is the therapist's personality like? We all know which type of person we connect with the most. This is why it's important to have the free consultation that many therapists offer. Figure out if you like their voice, if they sound friendly enough, if you want someone older, younger, more experienced, etc. Do they remind you of someone from your past? Once you have your first session, if you don't feel like they are a good fit or you really don't like their personality, just tell them.  I promise my feelings will not be hurt. Remember. Not every therapist will be the perfect fit for you.

So, if you'd like to have a free 15 minute phone consultation call with me so we can figure out how to get you on board the counseling train, ou can call me on 951-905-3181.

Questions to ask your therapist

So you've finally taken the plunge and decided to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Your heart is beating wildly, you're embarrassed and you're not sure how it's all going to go. You head into the office, you check your shirt to make sure you didn't stain it with your lunch. Your thoughts won't slow down. You ask yourself, "What am I supposed to say?" "What if she asks me something I don't want to answer or a question I don't know?"

 It's okay. Just breathe. Once you step into my office, I'll welcome you, ask you to have a seat and make sure the room temperature is all good. I'll also have tissue boxes for you, just in case things get a bit tearful. When you sit on my couch, here are some questions you can ask me.

 1) Will you be able to help me? And I'll probably tell you that I'll try my best, but I cannot give you a 100% guarantee that your life will be perfect after therapy. We will work together as a team to help you inch closer to your goals. But just like your doctor cannot promise you a sickness free life and Nordstrom cannot promise you that those pumps will change your life, I can't promise you that your life will be perfect.

 2) Did you diagnose me? Great question. If you plan to use your health insurance, then yes you'll be getting a mental health diagnosis. It's the only way insurance will pay. However, if you do not fit the criteria for a mental health diagnosis, I will not be diagnosing you. FYI it's illegal to just give someone a diagnosis just to make insurance pay. No bueno.

 3) What's my diagnosis? Another great question. I love to discuss this with my clients. I will tell you what diagnosis I gave you (if indeed I gave you one), why and what it means. This is similar to how doctors explain to you what they diagnose you with. If you're diabetic, they tell you what that means and if you pulled a muscle, they also explain to you what it means. Don't be afraid to ask me about this. I believe it could be great for your healing.

 4) How long will I be in therapy? This varies. Some people are in therapy for 6 short sessions, and others, for as long as 1 year or more. Still there are some people who show up once, decide it's not for them and they stop coming. It really all depends on your diagnosis, your commitment to do the work and what your goals are. If your diagnosis is severe, chances are you'll be in therapy longer. If you're not willing to do the hard work, you might also be in therapy longer. Either way, this is a great conversation to have.

 5) Will you be sharing my information with anyone? Technically I will only share information if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, or if I'm having to make a child abuse, elder abuse or dependent abuse report. These reports are mandated by the state of California when the need arises. I'll also have to share your information if the Feds ask me to do this (because I do not want to be complicit or a partner in crime). This is called the Patriot Act. Read more about it here. Outside of any of these situations, your information stays in my brain like a steel trap.

 If you'd like me to share information with your doctor or lawyer or husband or childhood friend, you'd have to sign a document called a release of information. In the document you'll tell me which information specifically I'm allowed to share. If you change your mind in the future, you can choose for me not to share that information.

 6) How often will our sessions be? Every therapist works differently. I personally like to see my clients weekly. This seems to be the best option for people who really want to get the ball rolling. I'm all about, let's set a goal, let's work hard to reach a goal, and then let's get you graduated. Woohoo!!

 7) Do you charge cancelation fees? Not all therapists do this, but I absolutely do. If I don't get a 24 hour notice, I do charge you a portion of the fee. This is important to note so you know exactly what to expect. Remember this, therapists see clients hourly, so if you don't show up to your appointment, we're left twiddling our thumbs. Plus if you give me a 24 hour notice, I'm able to offer your appointment time to someone else who needs some therapy. So out of respect for other clients who might want an appointment, please give a 24 hour notice so that others who also need help may take your spot.

What other questions would you like to have answered before you see a therapist?

For a free 15 minute phone consultation call with me, call me at 951-905-3181 so you can begin a path to a happier, calmer life. During this 15 minute phone call, I'll ask you what you've been struggling with, what your goals are, if you've been in therapy before, and it's your time to ask me whatever you want. Look at it this way, you get to interview me before you work with me.