therapist murrieta

How to deal with your difficult family this Christmas

Christmas time is here! Merry Christmas to all you folks out there in Murrieta, Temecula and the entire Inland Empire. I hope today will bring you lots of happiness, and all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

But for some people, Christmas time is not so warm and fuzzy. Christmas time brings painful memories of family woes. No matter what type of family you were raised in, understand that it is possible to still have a happy, healthy life-there are just a few boundaries you can set.

Here are some ways you can begin to manage a difficult family:

1) Decide what you want: If you have a toxic family, you'll know it. They leave your self esteem lower than ever, you don't want to open up to them about personal areas of your life, they're judgmental, your heart races every time you go to visit them, you hold back tears when you're in their presence, and you breathe a sigh of relief when the festivities are over. If you nodded your head to the above statements, chances are your family is either really difficult or toxic.

If majority of your holidays end in disappointment, you must decide if it's worth it to sacrifice your precious days off to be with your family. Perhaps you'd do better if you spend the holidays alone or with people who actually fill you with joy. Although it's a tough decision to make, decide what you want and stick to your decision. This is important for those days when you're feeling guilty for not spending all your time with them.

2) Challenge the overt or covert messages they've sent you: Many people who are in a dysfunctional family, have no clue how much their family has harmed them emotionally. Spend some time thinking about some of the negative things your family members have said and done. Once you've thought them out, write out about 5 of them. Next to each one, write out how that event has made you feel about yourself. For example, if every time you see your dad, he talks about how much weight you've gained, your dad's statements might have made you think to yourself, "I'm fat."

Now remember, because your family members say something doesn't mean it's true. If your dad talks about your weight all the time, you do not have to change the way you look just to suit him. If the message you've been telling yourself is "I'm fat," come up with another, more realistic message to counter it. Such as "I am beautiful just the way I am" or "I love the way my body looks." It'll take a while for your brain to catch up with your heart, but say these more realistic statements over and over again.

3) Create some space: Many of us were raised with the idea that every holiday must be spent with family. But what happens if your family holidays are perpetually sad or filled with arguments? Then it might be time to find someone new to spend the holiday with. A few weeks before the holidays, let your family know that you'll be going elsewhere to celebrate. Yes they might yell, they might be offended and they might clutch their pearls, but if you do this every year, they'll eventually get the message and get used to your new plan. You cannot please everyone.

You can also create space by limiting communication with them. Avoid contentious topics, reduce the number of calls you make to them, and just try to keep the conversation civil and light. The goal is to keep your mental space stress free and as positive as possible.

Another way to do it is to do a drive by Christmas with your family, and then spend a longer period of time with someone who brings you joy. So you could choose to spend an hour with your family, and then spend the rest of the day with more cheerful, positive people. That way you only have to take your family in small doses and your entire holiday isn't ruined.

4) Remind yourself why you're doing all this: When you start to create some space, the backlash will begin. Remind yourself why you have to do it. If you remain in the toxic environment, it WILL drag you down. But if you hold on to your boundaries, work on your mindset and surround yourself with positive people, your Christmas will go off without the usual frustration and tears.

Ready to learn how to maneuver a difficult or even toxic family? I love to help women and engaged couples in Murrieta figure out how to create lives that are anxiety free. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation. You could also call me at 951-905-3181.

 

Confessions of a therapist- everything you don't know about your therapist

Most therapists go into the mental health field because we either have a burning desire to help people live great lives, or we have experienced hurt and pain, which creates a need to walk people out of the pain they are currently experiencing. It is a great responsibility to walk side by side with you as you are on your journey of healing. Now there are many misconceptions about therapists and counselors. Many people view us as mysterious people- but what you don't know is that we are quite easy to crack. Here are some secrets you should know about your local therapist.

I'm a regular person-just like you: Even though I'm a therapist, it's important to know that I'm a regular person just like you. I have hopes and dreams- to be healthy and happy. The only difference between me and you is that I have dedicated my life to helping people become unstuck so they can move on to brighter futures. Many therapists have families, we live in homes, some have spouses and kids. Some of us create art, sing, dance (even though I might have two left feet), watch movies, and travel. We have hobbies and do regular people things. It really is the only way we can take care of ourselves so that we can give you the care you need. If you're local in the Murrieta/Temecula area, you might even catch me around town just living life. If you've worked with me before, then you've probably heard my really loud laugh, my animated jokes and all the craziness that comes out of my mouth.

I sometimes nap on my couch: Now this is one of my deepest, darkest secrets as a therapist or counselor. Sometimes the days can be long, and when I find myself lucky enough to have a long break between sessions, I sometimes take a cat nap on my lovely couch. You see the couch isn't just for you to feel comfortable, it's also a great napping spot for me (Shh! Don't tell anyone).

I believe in you before you can even believe in yourself:  So often clients come to me broken, disillusioned and feeling lonely. Life feels so horrible that they just can't bear it. The moment you walk in to see me- sometimes with tears in your eyes-I usually can tell that you will be just fine. Because I've worked with so many women over the years, and I take great care to only take clients whom I believe I can help in some capacity. I have high hopes for you when you come to see me. I believe it is my job to hold the hope for you until you believe that you deserve to hold the hope for yourself.

I don't place judgement on you: It usually takes a while before a new client can trust me. But eventually, all my clients learn to trust me. I completely understand why many take a while to trust- after living a life of brokenness, trust is difficult to come by and must be earned. Sometimes clients are not completely truthful with me- because of guilt and shame. It is important to know that when you walk into my office, all you will receive is kindness, empathy and understanding. You can trust me with your emotions, but it is important to be truthful so I can help walk you out of the stuck, dark place.

I also have struggles of my own: I'm a therapist, not a robot. I have struggles, emotions and hard days. I have learned how to schedule my time appropriately so that I can take care of my own needs. I practice what I teach my clients. You see, self care helps me do my job effectively. But if I didn't have struggles or difficult days, I wouldn't be able to walk with you in the dark places. It is my humanity that helps me better understand my clients.

I've been in therapy before: Now I'm sure this confession will make you gasp. But there's no scandal here. Sometimes we also need our own therapists to help us see our blind spots. You see, the reason why therapy works so well, is that the therapist is able to view your situation from the outside looking in. When you're trapped in your struggle, all you can see is the struggle. It takes someone who isn't emotionally attached to you to help guide you out of your troubles. And yes, I've been in therapy before. It was one of the greatest blessings. My therapist was awesome and she helped guide me out of some of my blind spots. She was honest, capable and so very kind.

I don't walk around "Therapizing" people all day: People often ask me, "Ibi, are you analyzing me right now?" The answer is no. When I'm out and about, I take my therapist hat off and put my human hat on. I don't walk around watching parents interact with their kids or sniffing out anxious women in Murrieta. Nope. I live my life. So you don't have to run away from me if you catch me at a mental heath fair or at a pumpkin patch. But if you're my client, I'll let you say hi to me first to protect your confidentiality. 

So if you're a woman in the Murrieta/Temecula area who struggles with anxiety, and you are looking for a human therapist who can lead you from frazzled to calm, click here to schedule a free consultation call. You can also call me on 951-905-3181. I also provide online therapy for women throughout California. 

How can a therapist help you?

So you've been struggling with anxiety for a while but you just try to brush it away. Everyone knows you are a strong woman, so you know you will get through this. However, some days, you don't know if you can handle everything that's going on- the constant worry, the heart palpitations, the tightness in your shoulders, the thoughts that just won't stop. Will you be okay? You know one or two friends who have gone to therapy, but you think therapy is for weak people or rich people.

You cannot separate your physical health and your mental health. They work hand in hand.

Trust me, I've heard it all before. I grew up in a culture where there was actually no such thing as therapy and mental health was not discussed when I was a child. We just thought we should pray it away. But as I got older, I realized that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You see, your mind and your body are connected. That's why if you're feeling sad you might find yourself eating too much or sometimes not eating enough. Or if you're feeling super anxious, you might feel your heart beating faster. You can't ignore one without negatively affecting the other. Think of it this way, if you broke your arm, would you just pray that your bones would heal themselves? I guess not. You would pray as you were on your way to the doctor.

How to select a therapist

The first step is to find a therapist who you feel will understand you. I always suggest you do a phone consultation to see if you even like the therapist before actually taking a trip to his or her office. You do not want to waste your time with a therapist who is not a good fit for you. Decide what gender you want your therapist to be, what race and what background you're comfortable with. Some people prefer a therapist who looks like them, and others don't really mind if their therapist looks different. Either way, it's just okay. Some will choose a therapist of their same religious background and others don't really mind about the therapist's beliefs. Also, do you want a therapist that practices online therapy or counseling as an option in case you have to be away on business? These are all important things to think about.

How can a therapist help you?

So after deciding what type of therapist you want and talking with him or her over the phone to decide if both of you will be a good fit, it's now time to think about what you want help with.

1) Set clear goals for your therapy sessions.

For a therapist to help you, he or she cannot read your mind. You should have clear goals. I always ask my clients, "When therapy is over in say 6 months, how will your life be different?" This gives me a clear idea of your goals and expectations. Once you pick your goals, then I can write out a treatment plan- a summary of 2 or 3 goals you want to accomplish and how we are going to get you there. So you interview potential therapists, talk to them on the phone to see if you like them, then decide with them what you want to achieve while in therapy.

2) Understand that therapists are neutral.

Therapists are neutral parties who do not have any emotional investment in you. Well of course my wish for all my clients is that they reach their goals and thrive, but because I'm not your friend, I can view your situation with great clarity. This is also why I hand select every client before I work with them. I only make sure I take you on if I can actually get you results. If I think I can't get you results, I'll refer you to someone who I think might be a better fit for you. No harm. No foul. I'm pretty straightforward with my process.

3) Therapists look at you from the outside in.

Because I am not your friend or family member, I can give you a bird's eye view of things. When you are in the eye of the storm, you can't see clearly- all you notice is harsh winds and debris flowing around. My goal is to help you look at obstacles and barriers that have led you to where you are today. When you are so overwhelmed by all the daily hustle and bustle, you miss the small details. It's my job to catch those details and make you aware of them.

4) Therapists help you get in tune with emotions you've stuffed down.

So most of us don't grow up talking about feelings and thinking about how the world has affected us. We just grow up in auto pilot and try to survive. I work from a cognitive behavioral stand point. What this means is I help you figure out how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are linked. If you change one, you automatically change the other two. I help you figure out how issues from your past and issues in your present make you feel, so you can address them, validate yourself and learn to have more compassion for yourself. Self compassion opens so many doors and unlocks your hidden potential.

5) Therapists help you uncover patterns that have kept you stuck.

So we are all products of our environment. So yes you are different from your family of origin, but we learn different things from them. Some people say to me-my mom was very anxious, so I became an anxious woman. And of course, some of our behavior is learned, so I help you figure out why you do certain things the way you do, so you can continue to hold on to what works and get rid of what isn't working well for you. So if you grew up on a harsh environment, anger probably served you well, because it kept you safe. But once you are out of the environment, you don't have need for that level of anger anymore. And my job is to not only see you, but help you figure out how to change what needs changing.

So there you have it. These are some of the ways that a counselor or therapist can help you. If you are a woman in the Murrieta/Temecula area who struggles with anxiety and you are ready to lift your self esteem and do the work, click here to schedule a 15 minute phone consultation so we can move you from anxious and overwhelmed to calm and in control. I also provide online counseling sessions for women who live in other parts of California.

How your thoughts are making you anxious

You spend a lot of time trying to keep the butterflies in your tummy at bay. You've tried breathing, yoga and reading every self help book out there, but nothing is working out for you. Your anxiety is off the rails. You wonder if you are broken, because every day is a challenge. You think to yourself, "Why am I the only one who struggles so much?"

Well, maybe your thoughts are holding you back. There is a belief among therapists that your thoughts, your feelings and your behavior are all linked. If you change one, you can change the others. Let's say you really want to begin a new, exciting career. If you say to yourself, "I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to succeed in this new career," those thoughts would lead to feelings of frustration, sadness and maybe even insecurity. In essence, you've defeated yourself before the battle has even begun. The feelings of frustration, sadness and insecurity would lead to procrastinating on filling out applications, staying up late while worrying about your future, and just generally feeling sorry for yourself. And even if you're able to break into that new career, when you have a defeatist attitude, you will not be bold enough to pursue your career fully and put in all your effort.

You get it? Your sucky thoughts might be dragging you down.

So how do you begin to change this downward spiral?

Start by challenging your thoughts. First figure out if indeed your thoughts are true. If they aren't, figure out what the truth is. So if you're saying to yourself, "I won't succeed in my new career," what is the proof that this is actually true? Have you ever tried that career? Have you ever succeeded at a career or job in the past? Do you have skills that could help you succeed? Is it really truly that you won't succeed? How do you know that you won't succeed? Where's the logical proof? You see most of us think irrational unhelpful thoughts but we convince ourselves that these thoughts are true.

Next, what is the proof that your thoughts are false? Think of the reasons why your thoughts are false. Think of all the times you've succeeded at a job. Actually write them down so that you can remind yourself that you do well at some tasks. It might be helpful to write your thought at the top of a piece of paper, then draw a line right down the middle of the paper. On the left write out 'Why my thoughts are true.' Then on the right, write out 'Why my thoughts are false.'

Once you're done with both columns, come up with other thoughts to support your conclusion. So if you realize that you do have what it takes to break through in a new career, you can tell yourself, "Even though this career change will be difficult, I have succeeded in other things before and I have a great chance of succeeding now." Say this to yourself as often as possible. This will help you feel more motivated to take action. So do not discount the fact that you will face difficulties. Acknowledge that and then include your reason why you will be okay. 

Don't get it wrong. Positive thoughts alone will not get you anywhere-you must also take the necessary steps to set yourself up for success. In our example above, if you're not trying to learn about the new career, you definitely will fail.

So try this out and let me know how it goes. You can comment below. If you have been struggling with anxious thoughts and you're sick and tired of feeling like the world is about to crumble around you, now's the time to get help. I help anxious women regain their sense of self esteem and live boldly. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation. Let's get you from frazzled to calm.

Why do your kids behave the way they do?

Parenthood is a roller coaster ride of emotions. First you find out that you're pregnant-you're filled with glee, some fear and mostly excitement. Then you get closer to your delivery date, and then you have no clue what to expect. The day your child is born, you are so relieved that he or she is healthy and happy. From the moment you take your precious little angel home, you realize that all the books and guides and articles probably got it wrong. Your child apparently does not fit all the labels you mentally prepared yourself for. He is just unique.

As your child gets older, you wonder why he is so different than the kids you've worked with or babysat in the past. So what determines your child's behavior? Well, you're in luck.

 1) Genetics: Every child is genetically predisposed to act in a certain way-it's called temperament. Some babies cry a lot, while others keep it cool and calm. Some kids are shy and others will make friends with anyone with a heartbeat. Some kids are sensitive and others are not. Temperament pretty much stays stable throughout a child's life. What's important is not changing your child's temperament, but figuring out how to understand him and nurture his unique strengths.

 It's not helpful at all to compare your child to others who have a different temperament. Think of it this way, would you like to be constantly compared to Beyonce, Hilary Clinton or your sister? Okay. So cut out the comparisons.

 2) Your child's health: Sometimes your child acts up because he isn't feeling too well. Sometimes people say a child doesn't pay attention, but maybe he has a hearing problem. Or perhaps your child is acting more cranky than normal because he has an upset stomach or he's hungry or tired. Or maybe he's just having a bad day.

So before you get upset or impatient with your child, check to see if he is in tip top health. Remember, your child isn't a robot-he will have bad days along with good days. I'm sure you can relate.

3) The home environment: The way you treat your child within the home really does affect his behavior. Is your home clean? Is your child comfortable and relaxed when he's at home? Is there a ton of chaos, is the home too loud or too quiet for your child? Are family members being mean to your child or does he feel like he is loved and cherished in the home? What type of foods is he being fed? Perhaps he has food allergies or sensitivities that you're not aware of. Is there a lot of stress or are family members generally in a good mood? Are his siblings kind to him?

If a child feels nurtured in the home, he is more likely to be able to be calm and focused. But if there is general chaos, if he spends a lot of time being upset at home or if he's bullied in the home, chances are he'll act out or become more timid. So are you providing an emotionally secure home for your child? 

 4) The social environment: You also have to think about his neighborhood, his school, place of worship and other places he visits. Is his school a happy place or does he have a difficult time with classmates and teachers? These are all questions you should be asking your child regularly-just to make sure things are going smoothly when you're not there. Sometimes kids are too scared to speak up, so it's your job as a parent to ask the important questions.

Does your child have good influences in the neighborhood who make him feel important and supported? What types of shows or cartoons is he allowed to watch? These days kids have access to all sorts of content through social media and electronic devices. Ensure that babysitters and other caregivers are only exposing your child to age appropriate books, music and videos. All these things can drastically affect your child's behavior. If you're confused as to what content is age appropriate just ask other parents or look for reviews online.

So there you have it, these are 4 factors that influence your child's behavior. If you're in the Murrieta or Temecula area and you are interested in attending a class that teaches you more about the emotional needs of your child, how to improve your relationship with your child, as well as how to implement rules, my Toddlers to Tweens parenting class might just be for you. Click here to schedule a free consultation call to find out more about the parenting class and see if the class is right for you. You can also call me at 951-905-3181 to figure out if the class is right for you. Remember, parenting doesn’t have to be rocket science. Call today to find out how to simplify your life.

Could you have separation anxiety?

If you've been watching the news lately, there has been a lot of spotlight on the thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. Whatever your political ideology is, we can safely agree that no child wants to be away from her caregivers for a long amount of time. Many of these kids might go on to develop something called Separation Anxiety Disorder.

To put it in simple terms, Separation Anxiety Disorder occurs when an individual experiences excessive feelings of anxiety when he or she has been separated from a caregiver. Now it's quite normal for a little child to cry when she is dropped off in a strange environment or to be nervous on her first day of school-everyone is nervous in a new environment. But when a child younger than 18, has been experiencing extreme anxiety-and sometimes even panic attacks, when he or she has to be separated from a caregiver, then that child might be diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder.

With Separation Anxiety comes a fear of being left alone, a recurrent fear that one's caregiver will be harmed, constant and extreme worry that one will be separated from a caregiver or loved one. Sometimes the child will have nightmares regarding separation from her loved one, and these nightmares are so terrifying that the child cannot sleep separately from the caregiver. So you'll see kids wanting to sleep on their parents' beds or in their parents' rooms.

Often times, kids with Separation Anxiety are pretty much attached at their caregiver's hip. They'll follow mom, dad, grandma, around the house, they carefully watch to ensure that their caregiver isn't going to leave them and they have painful anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety gets so bad that the child could fall ill.

Although Separation Anxiety is much more common in children, sometimes, adults experience Separation Anxiety. Sometimes an adult is overly attached to another person (it could be another adult or a child). They worry when the person leaves their sight, they ask tons of questions about the person's whereabouts, they might insist that they go everywhere with the loved one. To the person who is on the receiving end, he or she might tag the person as "Controlling, nosey or needy." There is a constant worry that something bad will happen to their loved one, which is why they want to know so much information about the person.

Now remember, we aren't talking about normal concern. I'm talking about concern so big that the person is worried sick all the time. There is an overarching fear that something bad will happen to their loved one. This might have been triggered by having lost a loved one in the past or some other traumatic experience.

Do you ever find yourself worrying constantly about a loved one? Are your friends or loved ones always complaining that you keep tabs on them all the time? Do you find that you can't go to bed alone? Perhaps you might have some symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder. Although more common in kids, it could happen with adults. If you're tired of experiencing anxiety, worry and you're always sick to your stomach, give me a call.

I provide counseling services for women in the Murrieta area who experience various forms of anxiety. The first step is calling me on 951-905-3181 for a free 15 minute consultation call. During this call we'll talk about what you've been experiencing and how we can work together to help you find your calm. I also provide online counseling and therapy to women who live in California. You don't have to feel stuck. Help is a phone call away.

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.

What your first therapy session looks like

You've been thinking about calling a therapist for a while. You've been getting into arguments with your partner, your stomach is in knots, old memories have been creeping up in your mind, you cry sometimes and everything seems to be falling apart. You've tried to hold it together, but you are coming unglued. You know you need help, but you're not sure what therapy looks like. So here is a sneak peek into your first therapy session.

Before we dive in, note that therapists have different styles, so I'm basing this post off of how I run my first session.

Your first contact with me will probably be through an email or a call. If you send me an email, I'll ask to schedule a 15-minute phone consultation call with you. During this time, we talk a bit about what problems you're having, how you've tried to solve them, your prior experiences in therapy (don't worry you don't have to have prior therapy experiences), what your goals for therapy are, as well as issues regarding insurance and the cost of therapy. This is a time for you to get to know me, ask me any pressing questions you have as well as decide if I'm a good fit for you. Note that not every therapist call will be a great fit-hence the need for consultation.

If we decide that I cannot meet your needs, I'll either refer you to someone else or point you in the right direction. I don't work with every single person who calls me-I like to work with people for whom I can get results. But if we do decide that we want to work together, then we move on to step 2.

You'll get an email from me welcoming you to therapy. I'll also give you directions to my office and I'll send you paperwork to fill out. This gives you a chance to read over it and sign it if you agree. Doing this ahead of time will give us more time to dive into what brought you to therapy in the first place.

Your first session with me is an assessment session. It is important that we take some time to dig into your social life, physical health needs, mental health symptoms, 

important relationships in your life, past history of receiving psychiatric or psychological care, as well as your goals for therapy. I conduct a 90-minute assessment for all new clients, however each therapist does this differently. I believe in treating the root cause of your problem, not just the symptoms. Doing a 90-minute-deep dive allows me to do just that.

This 90-minute assessment session also allows you to really decide whether to not therapy is for you and whether or not you even want to work with me. You can ask whatever questions you want and if by the end of the first session, you don't want to come back, all you have to do is say so-no hard feelings on my part. I'd rather link you to the right fit that force you to work with me. 

I try to make my sessions as open as possible. Our work together is a collaboration. I'm not the boss- I'm a guide in your journey of healing. The more honest you are in answering my questions, the better I'm able to create a plan to help you reach your goals. But if you hide valuable information, I probably won't be able to help you.

It's totally normal to feel awkward or even shy during our first session together, but as the weeks go by, you'll probably become more comfortable. Remember, I'm not judging you. I'm asking you questions so we can work together to get to the root of your problems so that you can live a fulfilled life.

So, what questions do you have about the first therapy session?

If you want to hop on the phone to ask me directly and see if I might be a good fit for you, call me on 951-905-3181 or send me an email here. I'd be more than happy to answer your questions. Just know that help is out there. You don't have to struggle through your anxiety alone.

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.