What are the Benefits of Therapy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms Series

We continue our series on informed consents for treatment in therapy with the discussion of risks & benefits of mental health treatment.

There will always be pros and cons in life. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, or so the saying goes. This also applies in therapy. Although there are some risks, there are also a plethora of benefits of therapy treatment.

You should have this discussion with your therapist at the onset of treatment. Not every therapist will include this in their written consent for treatment. Whether it is written in your informed consent or just a conversation with your therapist, this is an important discussion to have.

cream couch in front of white wall


Therapy can help a person to gain new understanding about their challenges and to learn new ways of coping with and solving those problems such as anxiety, anger, depression, parenting or relationship concerns. Therapy can also help a person to develop new skills and to change behavior patterns. Therapy can contribute to improved ability to cope with stress and difficult situations, and can increase understanding of self and others.

Therapy, whether individual, couple, family, or group, focuses on resources, solutions and strategies to deal with your presenting problem. While your therapist will ask about many areas of your life, the focus of therapy will be on working toward your specific goals. In order for therapy to be effective, it is necessary for you to take an active role. Participation involves discussing your concerns openly, completing assignments, and providing feedback to your therapist about the progress of therapy.


While there are potential benefits to therapy there is no guarantees of success, and potential risks also exist. During therapy, emotions and memories may be stimulated which can evoke strong feelings and changes in awareness may alter your self-perceptions, ways of relating to others, and/or commitment to relationships. The process of personal change can be quite varied and individual.

A special note on telehealth services. There are added risks that pertain to the technology being used. Potential for security breaches or being disconnected due to poor connections in a vulnerable moment. Please always evaluate if this is the appropriate form of treatment for you and your unique mental health needs.

Although these risks exist, it is important to recognize that the benefits often drastically out way the initial feelings of vulnerability. I always remind my clients that there are no “magic wands” in therapy. The level of effort put into therapy determines what you get out of the process. If you are ready to start therapy, book a consultation to see if I may be the right fit for your needs.

peace, love, happiness, Lee
benefits of therapy, teal blue couch, pink flamingo accessories
man and woman sitting on bed using laptop

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

Understanding Therapy Consent Forms

The first step in starting therapy is always looking over and signing a consent form about the treatment you will be receiving. By nature, most people skim over these documents and go right to the signature line, but do you really know what you are signing off on? These treatment agreements outline how therapy can help, what to expect about your confidentiality, your fee for services, and so much more. Today, I want to focus on the “No Secrets” policy that is often included in consents for couples or family therapy services.

woman in green top whispering to a man in a gray tank top

Who does a “No Secrets” policy apply to?

This policy is in place for couples or families participating in therapy together. If you are in individual therapy, this policy most likely wouldn’t affect your treatment. However, if you are entering into therapy with someone else to work on a relationship, this policy may be in place.

What is a “No Secrets” Policy?

This terminology is used by therapists to describe a unique policy in place for couples & family services. It is intended to prevent information important to a relationship from being hidden from either party participating in services. It comes from the understanding that when a couple or family are participating in services the “relationship” is the client, not one or the other participants. So in order to uphold what is best for the “relationship” the therapist will not hold secrets for one or the other participants.

Where would I find information about a “No Secrets” policy?

Now this is one of those questions where “it depends” is the only answer. Personally, I include this policy in my informed consents because I want clients to be well informed about this aspect of therapy prior to starting services. However, every therapist has differing ideas on how or when to tell a client about a “no secrets” policy. Some only verbally inform their clients of this policy once they enter into therapy, some will post this policy online or in their office without actually including it on a consent form. While other therapists may not utilize this policy at all, and are open to keeping certain “secrets” a secret.

When would a “No Secrets” policy be implemented?

The policy only gets implemented when something pertinent to the relationship (or detrimental to the relationship) is shared with the therapist by one participant in treatment, but not the other participant. For example, therapists may separate a couple for two individual sessions to assess for certain dynamics within the relationship. If one spouse discloses that they are having an affair in this individual session a therapist may invoke the “no secrets” policy because the information shared would be detrimental to the treatment if not shared with both parties of the relationship.

Why would a therapist have a “No Secrets” policy?

Ultimately, it is to keep the therapy space an open and honest one. When two people consent to participating in therapy treatment it has to be a space where they can both trust the therapist. If the therapist is holding a secret from one participant, it can become a breech of trust not only between the partners, but in the therapeutic relationship as well. Rapport and trust is the foundation of any therapy relationship, so upholding these things are of the utmost importance.

Understanding the consent forms is an important first step in starting the therapy process. Check out my understanding therapy consents series by reading more of the blog here. If you are interested in starting couples therapy reach out for an initial consultation here.

peace, love, happiness, Lee

5 Traits Found in a Healthy Interracial Marriage

It’s been over 50 years since interracial marriage was legalized in the United States. Since this momentous day, interracial marriage has become more and more common. As more couples enter relationships with differing cultural backgrounds, racial backgrounds, or faith backgrounds, it becomes more and more evident that intercultural relationships require a certain skill set and dedication to make things work.

Due to the obstacles that many interracial couples have to overcome in order to have a healthy, happy relationship, the individuals in these relationships often have specific traits that help make things work in their relationship. When entering a new relationship with someone from a differing background, looking for these traits early on can help determine if the person you are committing yourself to will be able to address your unique relationship needs.

Key Traits

interracial couple laughing at their wedding; hannahmaiselphotography.com


This is probably the most obvious trait, but also the most underrated. Finding a partner that is open to dating outside their race is important, but it goes deeper than that. It is not uncommon to find someone who is open to dating outside their “comfort zone” as long as the other person is relatively similar to them. Being open to dating someone of a different race, only if they have the same interests, hobbies, and tastes as you isn’t really being open. One has to be open to more than just looking different than their partner. Openness in interracial relationships is so important because there are going to be MANY differences between two partners, and being open to trying new things and embracing those differences is a pivotal part of making a marriage last.


Now this is an important trait in any relationship, but it becomes especially important when two people may have different views of the world around them. Being able to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and influences on our behaviors can create room for understanding from our partner. Because their may be a missing component of similarity with a certain situation, being able to communicate how you experience something differently, and being open to that conversation is incredibly important.


That brings me to the idea of empathy in an interracial marriage’s communication. Empathy is often times lumped together with sympathy, but these are very different things. Brene Brown does a wonderful job of explaining these differences, so I’ll spare you my rendition. After watching that wonderfully illustrated video, think about how empathy may be an integral part of an interracial relationship. Because two individuals may have varying perspectives or experiences of the world due to their different backgrounds, there will be lots of opportunities for one to practice empathy with their partner. Being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes and sit with them in their emotion is an integral part of connecting even when we don’t experience something in the same way.


If you are unfamiliar with the idea of assertiveness, it is being “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior“. Assertiveness is important to interracial relationships because there is an increased likelihood of experiencing backlash for the relationship. Whether it is family that disapproves, friends that question your compatibility, or strangers passing judgment on the street…you and your partner may need to stand up for yourselves, your relationship, and your beliefs. Being assertive in these tense situations can create the opportunity for connection. When your partner feels you are on the same team, willing to stand up for them, and acting in the relationship’s best interest (not others’) you are setting a tone of togetherness.


Last, but certainly not least is flexibility. When different ideas, beliefs, values, or traditions present themselves in an interracial relationship it requires a good bit of flexibility to make things work. Being able to improvise in a tricky situation, break normal traditions to create new ones, or practice something new to bond with your partner, all these opportunities will need some flexibility. If one is inflexible or rigid in how they do things or how they view things, it will become impossible for them to connect with their partner in a way that forms a deeper attachment.

Finding someone who possesses these traits or is open to practicing these attributes, is the first step to creating a health bond with someone from another culture. As interracial marriages become more common, there will be limitless opportunities to learn about new cultures, practice new beliefs, and create a new normal for your life and relationship. Become more connected to your partner by showing interest and care in their unique experiences, and continue believing that love has no bounds.

peace, love, happiness, Lee
5 traits of a healthy interracial relationship, interracial couple sitting with their child in front of moving boxes
happy ethnic woman sitting at table with laptop

How Do I Find the Right Therapist?

The Difference Between Various Mental Health Providers

If you have been trying to find the right therapist for your needs, you have likely run into a lot of acronyms that look like a bunch of gibberish. Have you asked yourself, “What’s the difference between an LPCC, LCSW, LMFT, PsyD, PhD, MD, or PMHNP??” What you didn’t realize are those little letters behind someone’s name can tell you everything you need to know about the education a mental health professional has and what their specialty and training is in. Let me explain what those little letters mean, and why it is so important to be able to distinguish them in order to find the right mental health professional for you.

Key Providers

therapist office, right therapist, waiting room

What if they don’t have any letters behind their name?

You may have come across a lot of Instagram pages giving out amazing mental health advice from someone who calls themselves a “Mental Health Advocate” or a “Coach”. These accounts can be positive additions to your IG feed, but they shouldn’t be relied upon for professional mental health treatment. Mental health advocates and coaches have good intentions, but are not legally allowed to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. If you are looking for someone who will provide direct advice and personal anecdotes about how to cope with stress in your life, these individuals may just be a good fit. However, if you want to have a professional assist with your mental health management and treatment, keep reading.

What’s the difference between Licensed Professionals like LPCCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs?

Each of these acronyms stand for a different licensed mental health provider with at least a Masters level education in their perspective fields. They also distinguish between those that have passed their perspective licensing board examinations and those who are still associates (AMFT, APCC, ASW, etc.). Counseling, Social Work, and Marriage & Family Therapy are all closely related fields with slight variances on how they approach treating clients’ needs.

A LPCC stands for a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and their education focuses on treating mental health illnesses in individuals. They often treat co-occuring substance use and mental health diagnoses, and focus their treatment around the individual and their unique needs. LPCCs often provide individual therapy or group therapy treatments.

LCSW is short for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Licensed Clinical Social Workers can identify and implement a treatment plan that incorporates multiple community supports. These professionals can diagnose and treat individuals or families, and are great at navigating community systems and seeing how larger systems impact a family dynamic.

As a LMFT myself, I know a great deal about the treatment I can provide as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. LMFTs hold at least a Masters degree specializing in marriage & family therapy, and can recognize the impact family of origin and larger societal constructs can have on an individual. LMFTs do a great deal of studying how relationships form, interact, and influence each individual involved, and utilize this knowledge to assist in the treatment of both individual’s mental health and couple’s/family’s mental health needs. We work with individuals, couples, and families on navigating life’s stressors, childhood trauma, parent-child relationships, pre-marital or pre-natal counseling, and often specialize in couples counseling. LMFTs can diagnose using the DSM-5 and often times collaborate with other healthcare professionals to make sure you are getting the most well-rounded treatment for your unique needs.

What’s the difference between a PhD and PsyD?

This is a question that I hear a lot, and actually has a very important distinction between the two. A PhD stands for a Doctorate of Philosophy, while a PsyD stands for a Doctorate of Psychology. It is important to distinguish what the PhD is in (such as Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy, Theology, etc.) due to the fact that one may have a PhD, but not be licensed to practice in a certain state. For example, someone may go through 4 years of additional schooling to get a Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology, but not be licensed as an LPCC or LMFT, and be unable to diagnose and treat mental health illnesses. So when you see “PhD” behind someone’s name, do some additional digging to decipher if they also have other credentials to meet your specific needs.

A PsyD distinction means someone has done the research and/or additional clinical work to attain a doctorate of psychology. They often have an extensive knowledge of mental health diagnoses and pharmacological needs of clients, and have studied in depth how the mind works. However, it is important to note that the presence of the acronym PsyD does not mean a practitioner can prescribe medication for mental health needs. Depending on the state you live in, a PsyD may or may not be able to write a prescription for your mental health needs.

What about PMHNP or MD?

These two distinctions address the professionals who have the medical knowledge to treat mental health diagnoses in more traditional healthcare settings. PMHNP stands for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. You may recognize the nurse practitioner designation as those medical professionals at your PCPs office or at a hospital that provide basically all the care that your primary care physician would. These individuals usually have Masters degrees and/or doctorate degrees in nursing practice, and can diagnose, prescribe, and treat mental health diagnoses.

A MD is a Medical Doctor, but doctors that specialize in diagnosing, researching, and treating mental health diagnoses are known as Psychiatrists (not psychologists). Psychiatrists can prescribe and treat mental health diagnoses using the latest research and medically backed practices. They often provide condensed forms of therapeutic interventions alongside medication management to help manage a client’s mental health needs, and refer out to other licensed mental health providers for ongoing therapy treatment.

So, who is the right therapist for me?

All these little groups of letters basically give you a snapshot of a professional’s resume. Making note of the type of professional that will be the right therapist for you can minimize your search time and maximize your time in therapy. Before running through the lists of profiles on the various directories out there, this can help narrow down your search and match you with the right therapist for you. Finding a good fit is one of the most important aspects of your mental health journey, so I’m glad I could help you navigate this important step.

woman in white top using a cellphone

Do You Take My Insurance?

5 Ways to Receive Affordable Therapy

One of the most common (if not the #1 most common) question I receive in intake calls is, “Do you accept my insurance?” It is always a bummer to speak with a therapist that feels like a good fit and then find out that they don’t accept your insurance. Unfortunately, not every therapist takes every insurance, and many therapists don’t take insurance at all. This limits access to affordable therapy services for many clients, but there are alternatives to finding affordable therapy.

Finding the right therapist for your unique needs can be tough, but it isn’t impossible. There are more ways than ever to find a therapist that meets your needs and provides affordable services. In fact, most therapists strive to not just provide affordable services, but to have lots of recommendations for low cost services throughout their communities as well.

Many individuals seeking out mental health treatment haven’t had to look for a therapist on their own before. Entering college, starting a career, recently engaged, having their first child…all these periods of life transition can spark an interest in getting some professional guidance on how to cope. Unfortunately, scheduling that first session at a therapist’s office isn’t as straight forward as making an appointment for your annual exam at your doctor’s office. It involves a good amount of research and an open mind to find the right fit. I can provide you with a few tips and tricks on ways to find an affordable therapist for your mental health needs.

Key Takeaways

affordable therapy

#1 Check Your Insurance Directory

If you want to utilize your insurance to cover therapy services, it is totally possible to do so. The easiest way to find an “in-network provider” is to go directly to your insurance provider’s directory. Therapists become “paneled” with various insurance companies in their area and are then listed by the insurance provider. Another way to find out if a therapist takes your insurance is to check the therapist’s website or personal directory listing. Sites like Therapy for Black Girls allow you to filter results by your insurance provider, so you know prior to reaching out if they are paneled with your insurance provider.

#2 Ask about Sliding Scales

Often times, therapists that do not work with insurance providers offer what we call a sliding scale fee. A sliding scale is usually an offer to reduce the normal fee per session by $10 to $50 in order to make services more accessible. Therapists may or may not advertise that they have a sliding scale, so it is always helpful to ask about this during an intake call. The fee may be reduced for a set amount of sessions or be in place for the entirety of your services. Organizations like Open Path Collective also provide a list of mental health practitioners across the country that provide reduced rates for therapy services.

#3 Look for Local Community Clinics

Many major cities have mental health centers that provide reduced cost services for various populations and from various mental health providers. In San Diego, there are multiple centers that provide mental health services at a cost that is significantly lower than the average price of therapy in the area. The Center for Community Counseling & Engagement is one of these clinics. Services are provided by graduate students at San Diego State University whom are studying to become licensed mental health providers. The student therapists are supervised by a team of licensed professionals, and provide services at a cost of $12 to $50 per session. Urban Restoration Counseling Center also provides reduced fees ranging from $60 to $120 per session depending on the type of service rendered and the professional providing it.

#4 Utilize Scholarship Resources

With the increased support for providing accessibility to mental health services, it has become more common to find scholarship type resources to supplement the cost of therapy. The Loveland Foundation is one such fund that provides vouchers to be used with therapists from the Therapy for Black Girls directory that reduce the cost of services for a decided amount of sessions. In San Diego, the New Life Counseling Center also provides reduced services from licensed professionals thanks to an established fund within the center. Asking about the possibility of getting assistance with the cost of services is the first step in discovering new ways to cover the cost of therapy.

#5 Advocate for Mental Health Policy Changes

This is the most long term solution to making therapy more affordable and more accessible to everyone. Currently, insurance providers cover services for diagnosable and medically necessary mental health treatment. This is a vast improvement from just a few years ago when mental health needs were not covered at all. However, we still have a long way to go. Getting insurance companies to provide coverage for preventative care and the more nuanced mental health treatment will require more advocating for policy changes. We all hope to reach a point where you can make an appointment with your therapist and pay a simple co-pay for as many sessions you need and for as long as you need to feel you have reached a place of wellness and happiness.

Finding a therapist that takes your insurance is not the only way to find affordable therapy services. Knowing these tricks of the trade can help make therapy a little more accessible for everyone. Anyone and everyone who wants to better themselves should be able to receive mental health treatment. Utilizing some of the suggestions above can help to make affordable therapy more accessible.