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What is the difference between counseling and therapy?

While the terms are used synonymously, the two can be differentiated by thinking about reactive and proactive coping. Counseling is often supportive of coping with more immediate stressors. Therapy can be focused on developing an understanding of thoughts and behaviors leading to unhealthy patterns. Therapy is not absent from counseling, nor is counseling absent from therapy. 

What is the difference between counseling and coaching (life, career, etc.)?

Both fall under the umbrella of “helping professionals.” That said, there are some important differences. Mental health therapists (also known as “counselors”) are trained to address mental health and emotional well-being symptoms, focusing on the past, present, and future. To be a counselor or therapist, a degree is required. Life coaches are trained to assist with goal setting and implementing action steps for quality of life enhancement, focusing on the future. Life coaches are sometimes certified but do not have to be.

Other essential differences to note: Therapists are trained to work alongside other professionals in collaboration of care; are trained to handle psychological crises; have been educated on human development, mental health disorders, and evidence-based practices; can work with trauma and its impact(s); are expected to adhere to a code of ethics, ensuring clients are protected.

Do I have to be in therapy for a long time?

Therapy can be brief for situational stressors, longer term for managing more chronic concerns, or intermittent for proactive coping. 

How do I make an appointment?

Do you provide in-person sessions or telehealth options?

We offer both telehealth and in-person sessions. In-person sessions are offered at our Syracuse and Baldwinsville locations.

How long do therapy sessions last?

Therapy sessions last about 45-55 minutes.

Do I need a therapist that specializes in addiction?

For the best, most individualized care, it is important to seek someone with a credential, noting they have met extensive criteria to be credentialed in this area. 

What is disordered eating vs. an eating disorder?

The main difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the severity and impact on daily functioning. People with an eating disorder experience a wide range of symptoms that significantly impair physical health and/or psychological and social functioning. That said, disordered eating is normalized in our culture (dieting, “wellness” programs, calorie counting, eliminating entire food groups, etc.) and can be a slippery slope into an eating disorder. Most importantly, whether someone is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, they deserve a chance to explore what healing looks like for them.

What if I have concerns about my child’s mental health?

Assuming this is not an emergency, if age appropriate, talk with your child about your concerns. Offer them an option to meet with a counselor. Having a safe and neutral place to explore inner conflict is always good. However, if questioning the need, a consult is likely needed. Yes, therapists offer a one-time consult and can make recommendations at this time.

What if I believe my child has an eating disorder?

It is never too early to reach out for support. One way to access support is to reach out to Ophelia’s Place. Ophelia’s Place is a local organization dedicated to providing support, community, and harm-reducing resources. They can connect you and your child to the appropriate level of care options. They can also provide education to parents. Information can be found here: Eating Disorder Support Services — Ophelia’s Place – Eating Disorder Support, Community & Resources (opheliasplace.org). If your child is 14 or over, you can schedule an intake appointment with Stephanie Cawley, LMHC. Stephanie will assess the level of care needed and begin outpatient or make recommendations for a higher level of care. 

What if I don’t like my counselor/therapist?

Feeling comfortable with your provider is necessary for your success in counseling. Sometimes this can take a while to feel comfortable. Other times, you may feel the need to switch. This is ok, we understand this is a very personal journey, and we do not take this to heart. It’s ok to express this to your counselor/therapist.

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How do I know I am receiving the proper care for my diagnosis?

Focus on the symptoms you want to be treated with vs. the diagnosis. Mental health isn’t like diagnosing medical conditions. Diagnosis is mostly about classifying symptoms for medical billing and treatment guidance. We treat the symptoms that present within that classification system. Focus on the symptoms.

What if I need medications?

We do encourage consulting your primary care doctor for certain medications. However, in other situations, including more complicated medical conditions, we are happy to provide a referral to a psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, or psychiatrist.

How is my information kept confidential (if I do not wish for it to be shared with anyone – family, friends, etc.)?

Health Information Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), federal law restricts releasing your information to anyone without your signature. There are exceptions to this rule if you are a harm to yourself or others. In addition, we are mandated reporters; should we learn a child is in danger while in your care, we are required to make a report. Due to the relationships we build with our clients, we can usually discuss this with you before action is taken.

How often will I need therapy?

We will recommend that it leads to the best therapeutic outcome, but most of our clients are seen once a week. As symptoms resolve and clients begin to meet their identified goals, we reduce sessions over time to every other week and, eventually, once a month.

How long do I have to wait for an appointment?

We do not compromise mental health with a waiting list. If we do not have an opening within a reasonable time, we will connect you with another provider. We are a point of contact for over 300 local private practice clinicians.

What can I expect during my first appointment?

We will review the areas of concern you noted as necessary in your intake paperwork. Your first appointment allows you time to get to know the therapist, gain insight into your symptom presentation, and explore options to work through your identified concerns. We will also focus on strengths, family, friends, & activities to understand you.

Do you require my probation officer to know about counseling?

No, this is your choice if you are a voluntary participant. If you have relapsed while on probation or haven’t been able to cease use at the start, we are happy to work with you on this. However, suppose your drinking becomes evident to your probation officer. In that case, we encourage you to disclose our services so we can advocate for your needs and note your desire to progress toward change.

If treatment is court-mandated, are you about to attend court with me or provide the requested documentation/letters?

We will only attend court with you if we receive a subpoena signed by a judge. However, we are happy to offer documentation noting your efforts toward wellness upon request. A brief update usually includes the start date of counseling, recommendations, dates of attendance, last session date, & level of engagement.

What is harm reduction?

Harm reduction is an approach that allows us to partner with you to explore harmful behaviors and reduce immediate consequences while simultaneously exploring what your process of change will look like. In addition, harm reduction allows you to learn about what works or doesn’t work for your decision regarding how you would like to move forward with change.

What should I do when concerned about an ally, friend, or relative?

If you are concerned about an ally, friend, or relative, you can do a few things. First, you can talk to them about your concerns and ensure they are safe. Ask them how you can support them. When experiencing a difficult time, people often feel like a burden and struggle to ask for what they need. Many don’t know what they need. Continue to demonstrate support by reaching out. While some may ask for the help you offer, sometimes it takes a few times for the individual to accept it. Should you have concerns about their safety, please bring your loved one to the ER, and if unwilling to go, please call 911.

Benefits, Billing, Insurance, Payment, and Other Related Questions

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Do You Accept Insurance?

Yes, we accept multiple plans by utilizing out-of-network benefits.

What are Out-Of-Network Benefits?

Utilizing your out-of-network benefits allows you to select your provider versus being limited to the only provider accepting new clients in-network. In addition, many out-of-network plans will cover the cost of your care, some up to 100%.

Does it Cost Me More To Use Out-Of-Network Benefits?

This depends on your plan benefits. Many plans we accept do reimburse with nothing more than a standard copay as your out-of-pocket expense.

What is the Difference Between Self-Pay vs. A Provider That Accepts Out-Of-Network Benefits?

Self-pay clinicians will offer a superbill to blindly submit to your insurance for possible reimbursement. On the other hand, a provider that accepts out-of-network benefits will charge you a copay, submit it to your insurance, & wait for insurance payment.

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Are there payment options if I am on a limited income?

Yes, we do have some availability for sliding scale and offer a range of providers from interns, Limited Permit Mental Health Counselors, & Licensed Mental Health Counselors. Our LMHCs oversee all interns & LPs. This allows us to offer a full range of payment options.

What is the Appointment Cancellation Policy?

We ask for 48 hours notice if you need to cancel your appointment. However, we do charge a cancelation fee if you are a no-call, no-show, or cancel within less than 24 hours.

How Long Are My Records Kept On File?

NYS requires us to keep our records for eight years.

What are the Benefits of Out-Of-Network Coverage?

Utilizing your out-of-network benefits allows you to select the therapist you would like to work with. Many seasoned clinicians with specialty areas of practice are out of network. Using your out-of-network benefits does not mean it’s an out of pocket expense, or costs you more, but not all plans have these benefits, nor do all providers bill and accept them directly. Out-of-network providers often carry smaller caseloads to offer the best, most individualized care. Our office accepts out-of-network benefits from UMR, AETNA, Excellus, UHC, empire, Carelon, Cigna, & more. Allow us to help you explore using these benefits to minimize your expense, and connect with a clinician that is the best fit for you.