Counseling / Getting Help
Investing In Therapy Part 1
We live in a culture of exchange. As we make our way in this ever-changing world of ours, we are frequently asking ourselves, is it worth it? Is it worth my time? Is it worth my money? These precious commodities are of such high value that we use them in the creation of our template to evaluate the worth of every new endeavor. Dr. John Demartini offers great insight on this topic in his book, Inspired Destiny. A primary thesis of his book is that we consistently make choices according to our highest values. When we discover what these are, we are then equipped to operate in the world doing what we love while positively impacting others. 1 Moreover, when we are hesitant to financially invest in a process such as therapy, it is often because we are unable to see how it is related to what we value most.
I believe that committing to our own healing process is one of the most valuable decisions we will ever make. But I’d like you to decide that for yourself. This blog series is dedicated to supporting you as you consider the financial investment of therapy alongside all of the other investments in your life.
In part 1, we’ll let ourselves be honest about the initial hiccup people run into when they consider therapy as an isolated expense without considering the invaluable long-term gains. We’ll also consider the cost in light of other products and services we spend money on. Finally, we’ll end by looking at therapy as an investment in the future. In part 2 of this blog series, we’ll take a closer look at some of the long-term gains that make the therapy process a smart investment.
A typical consultation call starts like this:
Me: “Hi, this is Lindsay Quella Kara. I just wanted to return your call. Is this a good time to talk for a few minutes?”
Client: “Yes, actually. I just got home and am putting dinner on the stove.”
Me: “Awesome. Thanks for taking some time. In the next 15 minutes or so, I’d like to hear a little bit more about what’s going on in life right now that’s motivating you to seek counseling. I’d also like to share with you a little bit about my practice and what you can expect.”
The call continues (10 minutes later)…
Me: “It sounds like we may be a good fit for each other. I do have experience helping clients in this area and would be open to talking about this more with you during our intake session.”
Client: “Sounds great. Yes, I’m eager to get started because I’ve heard therapy can be helpful and I think it’s time.”
The call moves to logistics…
Me: “There are a couple of other pieces I’d like to discuss before we get started. My sessions are typically about 50-55 minutes in length. My rate is $150 per session, and I am available Sunday-Thursday. How does that sound to you?”
When I speak with a new individual for the first time, often there is an incredible resonance. They are looking for help navigating life stressors. They are typically more resourced than they give themselves credit for. And they have often encountered more challenges than others will acknowledge. Whether they are navigating life stressors, healing traumas, strengthening relationships, or looking for assistance to help their children, I trust that they have reached out for a reason. I also trust that if we both agree about the terms of our work together, we may see some pretty neat things happen. As we begin to genuinely connect, I map out what they can expect in my practice as this creates a sense of grounding for us both. I try to explore how therapy may help them get to where they want to go.
Prospective clients are usually on board until it comes to finances. The therapy process is an investment of time and money that not everyone wants to commit to. After all, we live in a culture that prioritizes what is fast and easy. Personal transformation is just not typically that way. As I interact with individuals and families craving change in their lives, I frequently hear a sentiment related to the cost being too high. There is an implication that the cost may exceed the value and there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether to dive in. This is understandable and something we all have to be mindful of as we weave together the many facets of our lives.
I’ll save a deeper discussion of the inherent value of therapy for part 2. But just for a moment, I invite you to consider how much the counseling process costs in light of other expenses in daily life.
An adult individual may spend…
$5 on coffee
$10 going to the movies
$25 on gas for their car
$40 on a haircut
$75 on a dinner for two
$88 on a monthly yoga membership
$200 on new clothes
$450 on Christmas gifts
$1,500 on one month of rent in Denver
$2,200 on a week vacation
$3,000 on an unexpected medical expense
$18,000 for a small car
$35,000 for a down payment on a small home
$110,000 to complete a college degree
(This is just a snapshot of some of the expenses a person may have. If you’re thinking of a whole family, you may as well multiple a few of these ongoing expenses by four or five.)
If someone attends weekly therapy for six months, they will spend $3,900.
A year of therapy- a year of healing, integrating, learning, growing….costs less than most of the items we readily purchase. Furthermore, while cars break down, jobs change, living spaces evolve… the work that someone does in therapy stays with them forever. It is their journey, their healing process. The skills that are learned can be applied to every life situation, in every context. The investment is temporary and the returns are far reaching.
For example, consider a five-year-old who participates in play therapy for six months. In that short amount of time, he will have opportunities to learn skills that will help him navigate challenges at school, home, and community settings. He will have opportunities to repattern his nervous system, to discover how to solve tangible problems, and learn how to communicate his needs. This will create a foundation he will use on an ongoing basis.
Consider also a couple who have experienced significant transitions and loss. In the context of therapy, they will work on integrating the loss, allowing the grief process to move through their bodies, and make meaning of their experience together. There will be opportunities for reconnection, repair, differentiation and learning. Investing in this process has the potential to influence how they turn to one another for the rest of their life.
Finally, consider a young adult who is trying to figure out where she wants to go in life. As she engages the therapy process, she will actually be engaging herself, interacting with her story, and solidifying her identity. She will have the opportunity to understand her life narrative in a clear and cohesive way. She will be guided through a process, creating self-awareness that can never be taken away.
If you are considering starting therapy, I invite you to look at the investment of therapy in the context of all of the other ways you spend your time and money. Consider not only the tangible costs, but also the intangible gains. Consider how the therapy process and the investment required may align with your highest values. Perhaps after reflecting, you’ll decide to move forward with therapy. I hope you do. It is possible (even probable) that your therapy process may become an experience worth every penny.
Lindsay Quella Kara Lam, MA, NCC, LPC
Lindsay is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and student in the 2019 Synergetic Play Therapy Certification Program. Lindsay is proud to offer her gifts as a contracted therapist at Caring Heart. Lindsay is co-owner of Voice Hands Heart- a holistic business offering integrative wellness to the communities in Denver and Boulder.
- Demartini, John. Inspired Destiny: Living a Fulfilling and Purposeful Life. (CA: Hay House Inc., 2010).
Counseling / Getting Help
I Think My Friend Needs Help. How Do I Get Him Or Her To See A Counselor?
For whatever reason, even in this day and age, there is for many people a stigma around therapy. It seems a bit strange to us therapists, because we think therapy is great! Regardless, many feel that going to therapy must be a sign of weakness, failure, being completely lost, innately flawed, or just plain crazy. And, of course, this is simply not the case.
Going to therapy for strength, healing, clarity, discovery, personal development, and growth is one of the most courageous and wise things any of us can do. So, very simply, take that stance with your friend. Share with them your positive view of counseling and your appreciation of their courage. If you have ever been to see a counselor, tell them about your experience in therapy. And help resource them by sharing potential referrals. More than anything, we want to know that we are not alone.
So, if you have ever struggled in similar ways as your friend, be vulnerable and tell them about it. If your relationship has a degree of authenticity and vulnerability, offer to be a supportive friend by making yourself available for processing outside of counseling. And keep in mind that people will not go to therapy if they are really not ready. And pushing too hard or trying to force them to go to therapy does not usually work very well. Even if they end up going to counseling, the work will not be very effective if they are not ready to engage in the therapy process.
Lastly, keep in mind that people are responsible for their own lives and must ultimately take full responsibility for the changes they want and need to make. Treating someone who is struggling like they are helpless is not usually helpful. People are generally stronger and more resilient than we think. Reflect the strengths you see in your friend and compassionately encourage them. Then, just follow this up with support.
Counseling / Getting Help
What Happens During My First Appointment?
The first appointment is kind of a get-to-know-you session. Depending on the therapist’s style, this may be more or less formal. For many counselors, the first session is an attempt to get the “360 Degrees” on you, your life, and your relationships. We want to know the ins and outs, the backgrounds, the patterns, the struggles, and the hopes.
If you are an individual, we want to know what your life currently looks like, what it has looked like in the past, and how you want it to look. Most people have to learn to ask really basic questions again. What did I dream for myself and my life?
If you are a couple, we want to understand your current relationship and how you got to where you are now. We want to understand your relationship history, especially with your original family when you were a child growing up. The reason we want to know this is because we almost always repeat, in some way, aspects of our original family; roles, patterns, and expectations. And we want to understand what you are wanting to create in your relationship now. All relationships are co-created, so we need to ask the very important question, “What do I want to create and how am I getting in the way of what I am wanting?”
If you are a family, we want to know how you have functioned in the past, how you are currently functioning, and how you would prefer to function as a family. Just talking plainly and openly about these simple questions in a therapeutic setting can be very powerful. What is everyone wanting? Usually, individuals within a family are wanting very similar things (understanding, connection, freedom – to be seen and heard). We just don’t know we are wanting the same things!
If we are working with your child, most play therapists, child-centered therapists, and adolescent therapists will want to get to know both you and your child over time. Our therapists are great at working with your child directly, but also letting you in on the process; offering parent support and coaching. Parenting is the hardest thing ever. And wonderful too. What a strange mix! In the first session, the counselor is going to meet with whoever makes most sense to them for beginning the complex work of strategically conceptualizing both the individuals and the family as a complete unit with its own patterns and dynamics. This is not speedy work. Be patient. It takes time. Children work at their own speed and have a unique way of working through their stuff. It can be frustrating for adults. But all of our child/adolescent therapists know what they are doing and know what they are looking for and how to help you create the family structure, function, and relationships you want.
In any case, we want you to feel, in the very first session, that we get you, we understand where you are wanting to go, and we have some good ideas of how to get you there!