Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Life is full of change. Some changes we desire and choose, others are unwanted, overwhelming or even devastating. Having a new baby, getting married or starting a new job are all major life changes that are usually seen as positive. he truth is that even happy and exciting changes in life can be overwhelming, can throw us off balance or result in questioning who we are. Events like the death of a loved one, divorce or the end of a relationship, serious illness or the loss of a job are not changes that we hope for in life and can be extremely difficult to cope with.
Our responses to changes are as unique as we are and can depend on so many factors. Responses to life changes can be joy or relief or they can be depression, anxiety, confusion, anger, fear, feeling overwhelmed or the feeling of being in crisis. Even the natural process of aging can be difficult for some people to cope with. This is especially the case for people entering midlife. Questions of self worth, identity and the reality of our own mortality begin to come up.
When life changes or life transitions happen it is important to be gentle with ourselves and allow time to adjust. Sometimes the changes can be so abrupt, devastating or disruptive that we may need to seek out support or treatment. Leaving serious reactions to change unaddressed can be dangerous, as they may not resolve without some sort of treatment. An example of this is if someone has the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) they have experienced a traumatic event such as natural disaster, life threatening event or witnessing something scary or disturbing. Symptoms can include anxiety, anger, depression, isolation, even suicidality, drug or alcohol abuse, nightmares, insomnia and more. PTSD does not resolve on its own but can be successfully treated with therapy.
Getting a divorce or ending a relationship can be extremely difficult and is another example of change in life that can be so hard to cope with in the absence of support. Graduating from college is a transition for some people that can be overwhelming and confusing. Questions start like "what is my purpose" or "what do I do know" or " who am now that I am an adult" start to bubble up as young adults move away from friends and the safety bubble of college life and are expected to get jobs and live independently.
No matter the type of change, if you are feeling lost or overwhelmed by it, getting support is an important step toward feeling better. Finding a therapist that you easily connect with will allow you to find peace and energy and to feel proud of who you are.
I am very excited to be expanding my practice in order to provide Therapeutic and Counseling Services to more of San Diego County. I will be sharing a space in Scripps Ranch. It is an easily accessible location with views of a Eucalyptus grove and Horse Ranch. This is an exciting and rewarding chance to grow.
By Sara Cole MFT
1. What type of license do you have to provide therapy?
It is important that a therapist have a valid license to practice in the state where you are. It is also a good idea to know the difference between some of the most common types of licenses. Most importantly, keep in mind that a life coach is NOT a therapist and does not have the training or license that an MFT, LCSW, PSy.D or Ph.D has.
2. Do you have any specializations? Do you specialize in the issues I am having?
It is important that a therapist have experience working with the problem you are looking for help with. For some issues there is extra training therapists can do to become an expert.
3. How would you work with the type of issue I am having?
Asking this question will allow you to see if the therapist’s approach feels like something you would be comfortable with. The answer to this question will also give you a feel for the therapist’s understanding of the issue you are presenting.
4. How long have you been practicing? How long have you been licensed?
While time alone is not an indicator of quality, it will give you an idea if this therapist has at least some experience. Also, therapists with less experience should be less expensive which may also be a factor for you to keep in mind. In the end, the most important thing is the connection you feel to a therapist and your comfort level in working with them.
5. Have you had any complaints filed against you?
This could be a red flag. If yes, what was the complaint and what was the outcome? A complaint itself may be just that or it may have resulted in the therapist being found guilty of a wrong doing.
6. Do you have a specific approach you use in therapy?
Some therapists have chosen to specialize in working with one approach such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Narrative Therapy or EMDR are examples of some of the many theories or approaches. Other therapists work from a range of theories and perspectives based on what you are looking for and what you need. It’s good to know this about your therapists as it will greatly influence how they work with you and how they understand the issues you are working on.
7. What is your fee?
This is important to ask so that there are no surprises during your first session and the fee may also be a factor in your deciding on a therapist.
8. How long are your sessions? How often would you want to see me?
Typically, a therapy session lasts from 45-50 minutes and is referred to as a therapeutic hour. However, there are therapists who offer longer sessions so that you have the opportunity to get more done in a single session. This is something worth asking about.
9. Do you offer online or phone sessions if I am unable to come to the office?
Not all therapists do this. It’s a great alternative to missing a session if you are ill or out of town.
10. What is not private and confidential about what we do?
All therapists are required to keep your information and what you talk about in session, confidential. There are a couple of legal exceptions to these laws and those are that a therapist is mandated to report if they suspect child abuse or elder abuse or that you intend to hurt yourself or someone else. These very specific exceptions are in place to ensure safety.
If you are doing couples or family therapy, it may be important for you to talk with your therapist about how confidentiality works in terms of family members or partners.
11. I’ve never been in therapy before. What will it be like?
Asking this question gives you another opportunity to see how this therapist works and to get a feel for what a session might be like.
12. Do you think you can help me?
Your faith in your therapist and your therapist's attitude toward the work you will do, is so important.Working with a therapist that has confidence in your ability to be successful is so so important.
Bonus Questions for the Pandemic...
1. What is telehealth, teletherapy or online therapy?
Teletherapy or online therapy is just what it sounds like. It is therapy that is done over a secure video platform. Therapist and client still see one another and have a private and confidential session. Teletherapy can be useful in a number of situations. It eliminates any need for transportation to and from an appointment, it maintains physical safety when spread of an airborne virus is of high concern, it allows people to access therapy even if medically or physically fragile or restricted. A person can choose to do their session with their therapist from anywhere. All that is required is a confidential location like an office, your car or even on a quiet park bench and the ability to sign on at the time of session. The really great news is that several studies have shown that teletherapy can be as therapeutically effective as in person therapy. YAY!
2. Why are most therapists only offering online sessions right now?(what are you offering?)
This is a really important question to ask. It will give you a good idea of how a therapist views the pandemic and the level of caution they find appropriate. That can help you see if the therapist alignes with your concerns and thoughts about distancing, virus spread, etc.
Most licensing boards are recommending all sessions be provided online at this time, in order to maintain health and safety of therapist and client. Scientists are making these same recommendations.
I have decided to only provide online sessions for now for a few reasons. I have considered the level of risk of an in person session which involves being in an enclosed indoor space facing another person and talking to one another for 60 minutes. The extended amount of time, the closeness, the shared air and presence of aerosol hanging in the air all raise the level of risk significantly. Also considering the facts that many people who are carrying and spreading the virus are asymptomatic means that they don't even know they are sick and spreading the virus to all they come into contact with. One other piece I want to keep in mind is that I don't know who else a client may have had contact with and they don't know about me. We may be potentially spreading virus to vulnerable people like the elderly or medically compromised individuals. And lastly, we just don't know all that much about Covid19 and its lasting effects at this point.
I miss in person sessions and can't wait until it feels safe to return to the office, but for now the health and safety of myself and others is more important.
3. How can you support me through something no one has gone through before?
I love this questions because it is something I asked myself early on in the shutdown and gave a lot of thought. I think based on background, training and personality, therapists will answer this in a number of different ways. It will give you a really good information about how a therapist can or can't provide the kind of support you need and want.
Because of the training and experience I have in treating trauma and big life changes, along with self care, I have been providing clients with many of the same tools I already recommend. I have also been using them myself as I adjust to so many new ways of living our daily life. When things feel out of control and overwhelming and scary, it always helps to remember the things you do have control over and focus on those. It also helps to set small goals for yourself that you can accomplish. Getting creative is also a great way to move from being frozen and into action. Create new ways to connect with friends, learn a new skill you always wanted to try, etc. Concrete skills like these along with emotional support and help with anxiety, depression, stress, fear etc. is what is helping us all move through these uncharted waters and find peace in new and sometimes very old ways.
Asking questions like these will help you to get a feel for a potential therapist. No therapist is the right person for everyone, so finding a therapist that feels like a good fit is vastly important. This will then help ensure that you are able to get the most out of therapy.
Sara Cole MFT is a San Diego therapist online and with offices in Bankers Hill and Scripps Ranch (when there isn't a pandemic happening). To find out how she may be able to help you as you strive to live your best life, go to www.saracolemft.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619-316-3171.
As most people are aware, addiction is a pervasive problem in our society. It is killing people across generations, races, economic classes and more. It does not discriminate and it is not gentle. It is sneeky, deseptive and leads people to do the unimaginable. People will kill, lie, steal, degrade themselves in horrible ways to feed their addictions, to get their drug, to chase that high. As a person who has addicts in my family, I am speaking from personal experience. An addict in their addiction is not themself. They are the shell of your loved one. That shell can be deceiving and heartbreaking, but just remember. Its not your person, its the drugs that are hurting everyone around them. To see a loved one being sucked into the spiral of addiction is scarey and sad and leaves you feeling so so helpless. Addiction can destroy a person if left untreated and it can destroy the people around the addict if left untreated.
One of the most important things to learn, for anyone who loves an addict, is that you can not control other people. No matter how hard you try, the only person you can control is yourself. You can chose what you do in your life, how you respond to people and situations and what your boundaries are. This is so hard to accept, because as a person watching addiction take hold you want your loved one back. You know what they need to do and how they should do it and you are desperate to force them to somehow stop. But they have to do these things themselves.. They have to find help and ask for help and take the help and learn to help themselves.
Trying to control "your addict" is like banging your head against a wall and will shorten your life and take the joy out of your life. You get to make this choice. Will you let their addiction ruin your life too? I have to make the conscious desicion to live MY life. I still love the addicts in my life and will do anything I can to help them. But here's the thing . I wiil NOT do anything to help their addiction! That means if they want a ride to treatment. I will be there. If they need money to get high. I will not help them. This is confusing at times, but if I go back to this idea, it gets easier to know the right thing to do. It helps me not get furiouse and crazy. I still feel sad because I am loosing those people while they are using. Its normal to feel sad, but it is not healthy to let their addiction take over my life. This is the idea behind not enabling a person in their addiction. I will not enabe them to continue using.
By stopping the enabling behaviors, we are actually doing the most powerful and helpful thing we can for our addict. We cant control them but we can start to limit the power their addiction has over us. We are also allowing them to take responsibility. We are letting them know that we trust that they can get well. That they are strong.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for over 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression, going away to college, marriage, etc. Sara also loves to help people get their anxiety under control. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.