All Posts in Category: Mental Health Basics

What Questions Should I Ask My Health Insurance Company Regarding Mental Health Benefits?

Oceanside Psychology Clinic has been working towards getting in network with insurance companies. I’m pleased to announce that we are in-network with Cigna currently. As of November 2019, we will be taking Aetna plans as well. In the future, we may be in network with other providers such as Kaiser, MHN, Medicare, and Medi-Cal. More updates to come as the practice contracts with different health carriers to expand care. The practice will verify your benefits as well before scheduling your initial appointment.

Check your insurance coverage to see if your plan provides coverage for psychotherapy or counseling services. Many plans indicate whether mental health services are included when you are shopping for insurance plans. This is especially important if you have a chronic mental health condition that requires ongoing care. If you have health insurance through your employer, many plans include therapy through an EAP (employee assistance program) for alcohol or substance abuse related counseling sessions. Here are some helpful questions to ask regarding coverage for your counseling sessions:

  1. Is mental health coverage included and what services? The most common CPT code that can be provided when calling to verify benefits for a 60-minute therapy session is 90837.
  2. Do I meet my deductible yet? If not, what portion of the sessions am I responsible for until the deductible is met? What portion of my sessions am I responsible for once my deductible has been met.
  3. Is there a limit to the number of sessions per week, month, or in the year?
  4. What conditions qualify for treatment?

There shouldn’t be any surprises related to your fees after your insurance has been applied. These questions can help clarify what services you qualify for and for how long. Get the help you need and remove the barriers related to financing your healthcare needs related to mental health services by proactively choosing plans that meet your mental health needs on an annual basis.

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Compassionate Ways of Responding to Abuse and Trauma Memories of Loved Ones

Healing from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is an ongoing journey. For those who go on to develop trauma symptoms as a result of these experiences, relationships become difficult to master. There are a host of concerns with feeling safe in relationships in general with their loved ones due to the fact that the abuse is generally perpetrated by a close relationship or acquaintance.

Whether you are a friend, spouse, or a family member of someone who has endured abuse, tapping into your own discomfort in hearing about the traumatic experiences of your loved one may help you avoid unhelpful responses. Responses should foster safety, intimacy, and trust so that your loved one can begin feeling the support he or she may need in order to heal. If your loved one is having trauma symptoms, your responses need to support the recovery for your loved one rather than hinder it.

The following general tips can help you respond in a compassionate manner when a loved one share’s these difficult memories with you:

  • Allow for him or her to decide how much to share and what to share.
  • Allow him or her to express feelings including sadness, anger, or even shame around the trauma.
  • Do not pressure him or her to share details or aspects of their trauma he or she is not willing or ready to share.
  • Do not invalidate your loved one’s experiences by denying the memories of abuse your loved one is sharing or by asking if he or she is sure the trauma occurred.
  • Be sure that your response does not relay blame to the victim for the abuse. For example, by giving advice of what he or she could have done differently to avoid the abuse from happening.
  • Validate their emotions by making supportive statements that show you have been listening. “I can see the sadness you’re experiencing as your share this with me.”
  • Learn to respect boundaries that he or she is setting when saying yes or no to requests. This helps your loved one feel safe or more in control over their environment.
  • Understand that at times your loved one may need space and at other times closeness.
  • Physical contact may be difficult for sometime, if your loved one is having active symptoms.
  • Show a gesture of support, such as holding their hand or giving a hug if he or she is open to it.
  • Lastly, recognize that your loved one may be feeling vulnerable by sharing such memories. Your response can be an opportunity to foster emotional connectedness and closeness.

Taking the brave step of approaching these memories and sharing them with you is probably difficult enough for your loved one. This crucial step in another step towards recovery. Your response can foster love and acceptance, which can lead to feeling supported in a way that can help your loved one heal and recover in a healthy way.

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Mindfulness Practice in this Busy Life..

Most people have heard of the term mindfulness. Mindfulness comes from an eastern Buddhist philosophy. In a world where life has gotten busier by the minute, it has become more and more difficult to fully engage in any one moment without thinking of what needs to be done in the next, worrying about moments in your past, or multitasking in the present to increase productivity. The practice of mindfulness is training yourself to redirect focus to the present moment when you find yourself in the future or the past by simply directing your attention back to the present moment. Although this sounds simple, the practice is actually much hardier when you first begin. It can be an eye-opening experience to recognize how much of your present day and time is actually being spent in the future or the past. Whether you are enjoying a cup of coffee, driving, or talking with a loved one, you can easily engage in the practice of mindfulness in daily activities by making a conscious effort of focusing on the details of that particular moment or activity.

Mindfulness can be practiced by utilizing your senses, such as sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste to help ground you to the present moment more easily if redirecting your thoughts is difficult for you. Breathing is another method used to help ground you to the present. Learning to be in your present moment will help alleviate difficult emotions you may experience about your past or the worries that all humans experience about the future. Mindfulness practice has shown to help improve emotional and physical well being. Mindfulness helps you live the day with a fuller quality, reduces the level of everyday stress and anxiety, and establishes a fuller presence in anything you do. Mindfulness practice in the simplest form is exercising gratitude for the present moment.

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Differences between 12-Step and 12-Step Alternative Programs

A 12-step alternative program utilizes approaches to treatment that differ significantly from the 12-step approach in a few fundamental areas. The philosophy of the 12-step approach is that an individual is powerless over their addiction and encourages surrendering. The 12-step also encourages one to identify as an addict or alcoholic. The 12-step alternative takes an empowerment approach where the individual is self-directing their recovery in initiating healthy choices and learning tools. By empowerment, it means people can learn to manage their substance use and addiction over time through psychological therapies and medical interventions.  Alternative programs discourage labeling oneself, but rather recognizes that the individual suffers or struggles with addiction as a mental health issue.

A 12-step alternative approach includes recovery methods that incorporate relapses as a learning experience within the recovery process. This approach accepts that relapse is part of the recovery process for the majority of individuals struggling with addiction. In other words, the program does not require complete abstinence immediately but rather helps the individual come to this decision on their own through approaches such as motivational enhancement therapy, relapse prevention techniques, cognitive behavioral therapies, moderation techniques, rational emotive behavior therapy, and other approaches. Overtime, sobriety is extended as the individual begins to learn tools and receive treatment (therapeutic and medical) to manage their addiction. Smart Recovery meetings are generally used as an aftercare tool with Alternative approaches, which continue to teach tools that have been researched.  Many alternative programs create a individualized plan or approach and recognize that there is not a standard protocol that works for all.  The AA model utilizes the Big Book, which goes over a sequence of the well known 12 steps each person in recovery must follow. AA meetings are used as an aftercare resource since these are readily available in the community in many rural and urban areas.

The 12-step alternative programs generally incorporate individual and group therapy that is provided by mental health practitioners. Groups include tools based off of psychological therapies and principles that have been researched. There are additional services that may be included such as continued medical assistance and monitoring. The 12-step programs utilize AA meetings as a primary tool in aiding individuals in becoming sober. It utilizes chips to mark sobriety and has individuals who have attained long-term sobriety pair up and assist newer members.

Spirituality and religion are not the foundation of 12-step alternative programs, though it may be incorporated through their individual therapy if this is an area that is important to the individual. AA model was initially founded with a religious affiliation and over time the language has been amended to use words such as spirituality or God in order to generalize to different religious backgrounds and faiths.

In the end, it is a matter of choice. Individuals who have attempted 12-step programs that have not worked or found that they do not connect with 12-step philosophy may benefit from considering alternative approaches. Those who have co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma, or depression could also benefit from an alternative approach since this usually incorporates some form of individual therapy by licensed mental health professionals to address underlying issues, which may affect a person’s ability to recover or could be exacerbating the addiction issues.

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Ways To Deliver Psychological Services

Ways To Deliver Psychological Services

  • Face-to-Face: This is most traditional method that psychological services are delivered.  The client and therapist meet in person in an office setting.  The therapeutic relationship between the therapist and client is created in person.  Many individuals prefer this type of a connection with their therapist.
  • Videoconference/Online Therapy: With increasing use of technology in most areas of life today, the mental health field has also moved toward expanding services through the use of technology.  Using technology to deliver mental health services has been referred to as telehealth or telepsychology. This allows for all individuals in the community to have access to mental health services if there are barriers to attaining treatment due to their location, time-limitations, or other barriers that prevent individuals from physically coming in to meet with a therapist.  Online therapy has become increasingly more common due to the ease and practical nature of receiving services.
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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

(EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH)

The main theoretical orientation utilized within our practice is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This form of therapy has received wide acceptance by the mental health community due to the scientifically validated nature of the treatment process for anxiety, depression, addiction, and many other concerns. The premise of CBT is that our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are all connected and have a relationship with one another. Understanding the relationship between these three elements can help alleviate symptoms of different mental health concerns.

CBT focuses on helping the client become effective in learning ways to manage their own symptoms through teaching concrete skills as well as uncovering existing “schemas” that have developed through different early experiences that may be contributing to current difficulties you are facing. The therapist typically takes an active approach and works alongside the client to help achieve specific goals in treatment. Helping you recognize and get to the root causes and connections of any destructive patterns that exist can help reduce any distorted perceptions that may be exacerbating the level of depression, anxiety, anger, hopelessness, or other feelings you may be experiencing. Depending on your individual concerns, we provide more intensive work that goes into different parts of your life and/or more skill oriented therapy if management is your primary goal. The practice integrates other approaches as necessary depending on your individual concerns.

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What Can I Expect From Therapy?

What Can I Expect From Therapy?

There are many misconceptions regarding what therapy truly consists of, who is likely to attend therapy, and what happens in the course of therapy. Therapy is a process, in which we create a meaningful and deep therapeutic connection to help you better understand your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Basic goals of therapy are to increase awareness about yourself and your past to better help you in the present and future.  Therapy can have very specific concrete goals that are short-term in nature or more long-term goals that will require more in-depth work.  Many times people believe that going to therapy means you must have severe mental health concerns. Therapy can be utilized for treatment and management of specific mental health issues (such as depression, addiction, trauma, or anxiety). Although this is one area in which therapy is beneficial, it is common to enter therapy for multiple other reasons.   Individuals can seek therapy for more common life difficulties that most all humans experience at one time or another such as stress, family conflict, marital conflict, or death or loss of a loved one.  Other times therapy is used as a protective measure to enhance existing relationships, or simply to gain a better understanding of yourself.  Utilizing therapy means you are turning to a healthy coping resource as opposed to denial of these difficulties, which can often worsen the problem. Everyone can use a helping hand from time to time. Some periods of life call for more support than others. It takes strength to acknowledge the need for therapy.

You are likely to experience a wide range of emotions throughout your sessions, at times positive and other times negative. It can be anxiety provoking to take the first step and start therapy. It’s normal to have this experience.  However, most of the time once contact is made most individuals begin to feel very comfortable.  Therapy gains and benefits are largely due to factors such as client’s willingness to work in therapy and the quality of alliance formed between the client and therapist. Therefore, it is essential both the therapist and client feel as though they are a good fit for each other in order to benefit from the therapeutic process.

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