LPC stands for Licensed Professional Counselor, the title of one of the seven groups of health professionals licensed to practice psychotherapy in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All LPCs are regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia's Department of Health Professions. An LPC must have a master's or a doctoral degree in a mental health field which includes 60 graduate semester hours in 9 core content areas. After finishing course work, they must complete 2 years of supervised clinical work experience totaling 4,000 hours and 200 hours of face to face supervision with a qualified clinical supervisor. All LPCs must also pass a state exam before they are granted licensure. They work in a variety of settings where mental health services are offered, including private therapy practices, hospitals, community service boards, rehabilitation centers, schools, clinics, non-profit organizations.
What's the difference between counseling and therapy?
Therapy (an abbreviated word for the term "psychotherapy") and counseling are often used to mean the same thing. They are very similar, but do have subtle differences. In the field of mental health, counseling usually refers to a briefer treatment which focuses on a specific problem, and the solving of that problem. The counselor will generally offer specific suggestions and advice to help the client deal with the problem.
Therapy is generally a longer term treatment and focuses on helping a client gain insight into persistent difficulties--emotionally, mentally, relationally, and/or physically. Much of the focus is on a client's thought processes and includes a more in-depth exploration of patterns of behavior. Therapy often explores past events which may have shaped the person's current way of being in the world.
In practice, with a mental health professional, there is usually some overlap between counseling and psychotherapy. Often, unless a client comes in with a highly specific need, or the counselor/therapist specializes in brief treatment, issues more appropriately addressed through psychotherapy will arise. I frequently have clients come in due to a specific need or problem and through our work together, discover other issues they would like to work on, things that have been chronic problems and which need attention. In those cases, counseling as well as psychotherapy are conducted with the same client.
It is important to note that while unlicensed persons in various fields (such as those in pastoral care) can provide counseling on specific issues or problems, only a trained mental health professional should conduct psychotherapy and only a licensed professional should provide a mental health diagnosis if one is needed.
How long does therapy last?
The length of time a person spends in therapy is very individual. It depends on the issues being addressed, how much better a person feels over time, how successful each individual is in reaching the goals they set out to acheive at the beginning of therapy, whether the relationship between a person and his or her therapist is successful. Many factors are involved in how long the course of therapy will last, such as the amount of support a person receives from friends and family, the amount of stress a person is dealing with, how readily a person may be able to apply what is learned or gained in therapy to their everyday lives, etc. As mentioned above, if a very specific, isolated issue is being addressed, a shorter period of counseling may be the best course of action. Other times, therapy may continue for months, or for some people, even years. Often, people will come to see a therapist for one reason, and then over the course of several weeks or a few months, realize that there are other issues they would like to work on. Some problems, such as those survivors of trauma or those dealing with ongoing issues such as mood disorders or other severe mental health concerns have to deal with, may require a longer term course of treatment.
How do I know whether a therapist is right for me?
The most important element in therapy is the quality of the relationship a person has with the therapist. The technique a therapist uses is not as important as the relationship itself. As trust is established, and therapy progresses, it is the relationship itself, and the safe space created within your meetings together, that become the real element of healing. Because the relationship itself is the essential element in the therapeutic process, it is vital that you feel connected to your therapist. You should feel safe with your therapist. You may or may not feel this connection right away. Generally though, I think you should know within 2-3 sessions whether the fit is a good one. Most people do know right away whether they feel they can trust the person sitting across from them, whether they would like to share more about their thoughts, feelings and experiences. The prospect of therapy itself can be scary and daunting. If the therapist does not make you feel comfortable, he or she may not be the right one for you.
As far as credentials go, there are many different letters a therapist can have after his or her name. Depending on which state you live in, what board or organization has determined the therapist competent to practice in his or her field, and a few other things, the letters can vary. The letters signify what type of degrees the therapist has as well as what certifications, licenses and registrations the therapist holds. There are various mental health professionals from differing backgrounds of academic and clinical study which are all qualified to conduct psychotherapy.
How Will I Know if the Therapist is Qualified?
Professional therapists qualified to conduct psychotherapy will have the following three things:
Intensive, graduate level academic study in a mental health field. This means a master's degree or a doctoral degree in a mental health field. (MS, MSW, MA, PhD, PsyD, etc.)
Supervised, clinical experience. Your therapist should have completed an psychotherapy training program. This is also known as a clinical residency. This means that the therapist has had actual psychotherapy experience which has been supervised by another clinically trained therapist with appropriate credentials. They must have worked with actual people, practicing therapy under the clinical supervision of the qualified and trained clincial supervisor. Actual practice in therapy is where a therapist learns how to be a therapist. It is also a good sign if your therapist continues to receive periodic clinical supervision even after having been in practice for a while.
Licensure, or Certification, or Registration. Some therapists may have more than one of these, but should have at least one. After completing a residency with supervised experience, your therapist should have been granted a license, certification or registration by an authoratative/governing board or organization which will hold the therapist accountable as a professional pratictioner in their field. The letters after a therapist's name will determine which creditialing organization has found them worthy of the profession. (LPC, LSCW, LCP, LMFT, etc.)
You should feel absolutely free to ask a therapist about any or all of these things.
How much does therapy cost?
Every therapist's rates vary depending on the therapist's level of education, qualifications and expertise. The cost may also vary depending on where you live in the country and where you go to get services. Please call me to discuss my current fee. Skype session fees available for payment through PayPal are listed on my location, contact & payment page. I can provide an invoice for any online or phone sessions. All in-person sessions, including your co-pay for insurance, must be paid prior to or, at the time of, your session. I accept payment by check, cash or online through PayPal. I also accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express at my office location or over the phone.
What is a sliding scale? A sliding scale for fees is offered when a client may not be able to pay the full fee for services. The fee is variable depending on what a client can afford. I do offer a sliding scale for therapy sessions. The fee is discussed at the initial consultation and agreed upon by both the therapist and client. Both will sign the financial agreement in the Client-Therapist Agreement. The fee is subject to change and proof of income may be required.
Do you take insurance? I do not bill insurance companies for payment. I can provide you with a reciept which you can file with your insurance for reimbursement for services from an out of network provider. Please check with your insurance company on the reimbursement rate and whether your plan allows for this practice.
A Word about Using Insurance for Mental Health Care Many clients choose to self-pay for therapy for several reasons. Some do not wish the insurance companies to dictate the level of care, have any access to information regarding their mental health diagnosis or treatment. In order for a therapist to bill insurance companies for treatment, the client must be officially diagnosed with a mental disorder. Many, if not most, of my clients do not qualify for a mental illness or disorder.Managed care exists to manage your care. Their purpose is to save money, not to see that you get the kind of support and care possible. Some people may not feel comfortable with the possibility of multiple people working at an insurance company having access to personal information, or some may simply not wish to be labelled with a mental health disorder, whether they do or do not qualify for a diagnosis. Some may be okay with a therapist giving a diagnosis, but wish that information to remain entirely confidential and that the information and the plan for treatment be between client and provider. Some simply feel that the process is very personal and do not wish to share any information regarding their mental health status, including that they are seeing a therapist with anyone other than their therapist or perhaps other trusted, known individuals. This is a personal choice. Personally and ethically, I believe it is in the best interest of my clients, as well as for my practice, not to use managed health care for reimbursement.