Introduce myself and give a little information on my credentials.
Check your valid photo ID to verify that you are who you say you are.
Review the In Case of Emergency plan. I’ll also review who your emergency contact is with you and jot down your current location address.
Review the housekeeping paperwork that you completed, such as the Notice of Privacy Practices and Informed Consents.
Briefly talk about the SimplePractice platform and what’s available to you through your client portal.
I’ll answer any questions that you may have.
Review the Intake Questionnaire that you completed.
Collaborate on the Treatment Plan, covering issues or symptoms that you’d like to work on, goals and outcomes, and steps towards those goals and managing symptoms.
Discuss anything you could work on in between the initial session and the second session. If appropriate, I’ll probably suggest that you have a private journal or notebook to take notes during sessions and to use throughout the week.
Answer any questions that you may have.
Verify your current location address.
Check-in. Talk about how your week was and how you’re doing.
If we need to, review the Treatment Plan.
Talk about things going on and work towards your goals that reflect the Treatment Plan. How we work towards your goals is 100% unique to you. We will also identify your strengths and interests and where we can use them.
Discuss what you could work on over the next week.
Telemental health has actually been around for several years.
• Telemental health is only for the underserved and those who live in rural areas.
Anyone can use telemental health. It saves travel time, gas money, and can more easily fit into a busy schedule.
• You miss out on nonverbal cues with telemental health.
During video chat, nonverbal cues can still be picked up. Proper room lighting, camera placement, and having a strong internet / wifi connection play an important role in this. The mental health professional will let you know if they can’t see you.
• It takes longer to develop rapport with telemental health.
It takes the same amount of time as in-office sessions to develop rapport, keeping in mind that the counselor should be a good fit to work with.
• Telemental health is not secure.
Telemental health can be set up HIPAA compliant and secure to the standard of ethics. There are multiple safeguards in place.
For about nine years, I worked as a counselor in higher level of care settings. A ton professional growth occurred during those years. I taught people how to better cope, apply therapeutic strategies, and believe in their own strengths. Days ranged from 8 to 16 hours long. One month, I took an overnight shift. I battled insomnia due to the crazy hours. What I learned during those times still helps me. And I beat the insomnia.
About a year ago, I felt the desire to go into outpatient private practice. It would be a completely different experience, slower pace, though still always busy. I was interested in business. For almost an entire year, I researched how to properly set up the independent contractor and business details, then chipped away at putting the pieces into action. I was also pregnant, so there was no hurry during this process.
The business didn’t start out as teletherapy. I shared an office with another counselor and saw people in-office. That was alright, but I wasn’t happy with a few of the business aspects that weren’t within my control, nothing counseling related. It felt off. I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about teletherapy, but I didn’t believe that it could be as secure as in-office and wondered about some ethical aspects. I had a lot of questions. Back while I was researching how to set up the business, teletherapy came up, but I had too many concerns about doing harm or something going wrong. So I didn’t go there.
Well, Coronavirus struck and places went into lockdown. Our office was open because we were essential workers. Coronavirus was my sign to leap into teletherapy. I took a 12.5 hour course on properly running a teletherapy private practice and did more research. No one was inquiring about services due to the lockdown. I jumped ship and into the new waters, I swam.
As everything fell into place, it was rewarding on many levels, personally and professionally. Of course, I was setting everything up from scratch, doing it the hard way to save money because I was just starting out. I created my own documents, made sure everything was HIPAA compliant, secure, and private, and used as much free software as I needed. It ran like clockwork. How about that?!
I completed continuing education and became certified in telemental health and in treating anxiety. My business grew and remained steady over the next year. With my heart full, I wanted to upgrade my business and give more to my clients. I researched practice management software and EHR software, comparing all of the platforms, perks, ease of use, and which one would be the best fit for myself and my clients. I went with SimplePractice because it was intuitive and had a great client portal.
The free trial was handy, I picked through everything that SimplePractice offers and learned about it. When it came to getting the system and paperwork to align with what I already had set up, it was a bit overwhelming and difficult. SimplePractice has good “how to” videos and I was getting daily emails from them to make sure things were going well. After fiddling around during that free period, my business was operating on SimplePractice. So happy!
My small private practice has come a long way within a year, as it started from scratch and now uses a fancy EHR. There’s a lot to be proud of and grateful for in this journey of business ownership. The practice has been fruitful. I look forward to meeting and helping people in the years to come.
Mental health professionals: use this code below to try out SimplePractice, and when you’re ready to sign up for a paid account, receive a $50 discount.
What National Certified Counselor (NCC) Means to Potential Clients
Counselors can have multiple letters or credentials behind their name. One that most people are familiar with is Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Counselors can be board certified, have a certificate in a specialty (addiction, marriage and family therapy, anxiety…) and treatment method (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focus Brief Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy…).
The Counselor is Committed
The NCC is voluntary, it is not required to practice (licensure is a requirement), but it is an additional step that counselors can take to display and ensure the high level of service that they provide their clients. Counselors who have NCC are dedicated to the counseling profession.
The counselor voluntarily submits to an established conduct review conducted by professionals in counseling
Counselors work with sensitive health information. If a client or somebody has a question about their actions, they may follow an established process to obtain a neutral review of their concern.
The counselor is required to remain current with developments in the profession
Continuing education that is approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) is required in order to maintain the NCC. This ensures that the counselor is current with all areas of the profession.
The counselor may have areas of specialties
The counselor demonstrates expertise with NBCC specialty certifications. These include, Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) and National Certified School Counselor (NCSC). Certifications reflect that they have met national standards for a specialty practice, with additional education and experience and a specialty examination.
It can be challenging and anxiety provoking to find the right counselor. Sometimes it’s difficult knowing how to find the help that you specifically need. This article’s tips will answer some questions, help develop a plan, relieve stress, and lead you to finding the right counselor.
Licensed Professional Counselors
A licensed professional counselor works with people in most areas of life: Reducing anxiety; coping; adjusting to changes; dealing with depression and grief; overcoming trauma; fighting addiction; educating people about mental illnesses; family, marriage, and couples issues; relationships and communication; mental health disorders.
When choosing a counselor, look for someone who seems like they would be a good “fit”
Look at the counselor’s specialties, they should be mentioned or listed on the counselor’s profile and website.
• If you need help taking steps fighting an addiction, look for someone who specializes in addiction counseling.
• If you are going through a divorce, find someone who specializes in marriage and divorce.
• If you’re looking for Christian faith-based counseling, try searching in an online Christian counselor directory if you aren’t sure where the local Christian counselors are.
Approach to Therapy / Theoretical Orientation
Check out the counselor’s approach to therapy and the theories they apply.
Some counselors use a variety and combination of these. Don’t stress on knowing the methods and theories, the counselor can teach you if you’d like to learn. Having a basic understanding that these theories are out there can lend a hand in making a decision about who you see. Certain theories are more appropriate than others when treating certain mental illnesses, the counselor will know these details.
When Using Health Insurance
If you want to use insurance to cover the cost, contact them and inquire about behavioral mental health providers in your area. Find out what your co-pay is. If you’re seeking a teletherapist, check to make sure your insurance covers teletherapy (again, check to see if there’s a co-pay because virtual mental health services might cost different than in-office services.). Once you contact a counselor, double check that they accept your insurance.
Find a Counselor Through an Online Directory
Another way to find a counselor is to check online directories. Some of these directories allow you to filter, which saves time and helps you find a counselor who better suits your needs. Psychology Today is a fantastic place to search for a counselor. TherapyDen is also an awesome site to look at. If you’re looking for a counselor who is plant-based or vegan, try Plant-Based Doctors. Using an online directory is a great way to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Create a List of Counselors and Questions
When you find a counselor that you’re interested in working with, write down their contact information and website. Create a list of five or so counselors and then visit their websites to learn more about them. As you learn more, you may realize that they don’t quite fit your needs, so you can cross them off your list. Jot down any questions that you may have for that counselor about their services.
Learn About the Counselor Through Social Media
You can learn a lot about a counselor’s approach, views, theoretical orientation, personality, vibe, etc, through their business’ social media page and blogs. Check out what they post and write about. Look for pictures of their office, sometimes there are pictures to make clients feel more comfortable in knowing what to expect.
Contacting the Counselor
Whether you’re contacting them through email or a phone call, make sure that you’re in a private space so that your confidentiality won’t be at risk when you share with them a little about what you are seeking help for. Sharing a few sensitive details helps the counselor determine whether they can help you or if they need to lead you to other services.
After learning more about the counselors, call them to have your questions answered or to schedule an appointment. I can’t speak for every counselor, but most offer a free phone consultation. Ask about whether they accept insurance and the cost of session. Ask about what you can expect during a session. Ask about the paperwork process. Ask any other questions that come to mind and that you wrote on your list.
If you’re having difficulty reaching a counselor by calling, consider emailing them. Counselors should have their emails set up safe and secure. Texting a counselor’s phone isn’t secure, so don’t use that method of contact.
Notice Thoughts, Feelings, & Gut Instinct
When you’re talking with the counselor on the phone, briefly check-in with your thoughts, feelings, and gut instinct. Are you comfortable? Do you see yourself sitting across from them? Is your gut feeling telling you that this is the right person? The gut instinct is usually accurate.
Ask Friends and Family
To get a better idea about what to look for in a counselor, ask your friends and family who are seeing one what they like about them. This isn’t a good way to get a referral, but it can give you an idea on counselor personality, traits, and practices to look for.
It can be tough finding the right counselor, but using these tips to create a simple plan will make it easier.
1) Counselors have a Master’s or Doctoral degree in counseling. Graduate school programs offer courses for specializing in school, clinical, marriage and family, addictions, etc. It is highly beneficial to find a counselor who specializes in what you are seeking help for, however, isn’t necessary in all cases because counselors have a wide variety of training and experience treating issues.
2) Counselors emphasize multicultural competence and respect for diverse worldviews.
3) They focus on wellness, career development and client empowerment in a proactive approach to mental health.
4) Encourage people to be genuine and to work to find their own authentic self, even if that authentic self is somewhat different than dominant culture norms.
5) Assist with issues caused by typical life stressors, such as grief and loss, relationship problems, trauma and disasters, transition from military life to civilian life, etc. Counselors can also point you into the direction of other, non-therapy services by networking and through referrals.
6) Can diagnose and or treat mental disorders. Personally, when appropriate, I like to discuss with my clients about the stigma and labels of mental health, in order to break barriers and help people see that it is okay to talk with a counselor.
7) Serve as a frontline resource in schools, as the eyes and ears for early signs of emotional distress caused by bullying, harassment and other forms of abuse and trauma. It is terrible when schools don’t recognize signs or take enough action against bullying. School counselors are well-equipped to serve students and reduce these issues. Large schools should hire more than one counselor, so that there is a smaller ratio of students to counselors.
8) Provide assistance in various settings with diverse populations, such as college campuses, agencies and hospitals, to help them address issues that may have effect on their mental health and overall well-being.
9) Adhere to the updated American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. This is the standard code that most states have adopted. It’s the first code that speaks to the ethics of using social media with clients.
10) Are passionate, diverse and committed to helping people from all walks of life and all depths of despair to survive and thrive in today’s world. Since there is a diversity of counselors, before choosing one to work with, it is best to look into their specialties and approach to therapy. Find a counselor who seems best fitted to your needs and whom you will feel comfortable speaking with.
I came up with the name Finish Stronger Counseling from my experience and passion for running. To “finish stronger” means to end the session better than when it began. Think about training for a marathon. During training runs, sometimes the goal is to have negative splits (a faster pace per mile) and to push harder as the run progresses. “Hanging on” or maintaining mental toughness for the final stretch is also considered finishing strong. Keep in mind that finishing strong can look different for everyone.
Through these experiences, there is opportunity to learn something new about oneself and about running. The runner can gain empowerment, self confidence and strength. “I can because I did!” “I can do it again.”
If the session didn’t go quite as the runner hoped it would, they may consider the attempt a failure, but there are still things to take away from the experience. The runner has to CHOOSE to have a positive outlook and approach in what they take away from that training session. This bump in the road or “failure” is not an “end all” experience, it does not define the runner. Having that positive outlook and approach leans into the concept of finishing strong.
Runners can learn how to adjust and tweak weak areas and how to challenge themselves more. There is always room for improvement. When practicing pushing beyond the comfort zone, one can begin to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. The runner becomes more familiar with feeling uncomfortable and gets into the habit of finishing strong, which then transfers into other parts of life.
Just as finishing strong is to running, it can be applied to counseling. Through having hard work ethic, positive thinking, resilience, and appropriate interventions and treatment, a person may leave their counseling session feeling better, more knowledgeable and well-equipped than when it began.