junelle barrett porter, mft
Helping everyday people find a new way
Santa Rosa Therapy

Do you have a question for Junelle?

Junelle Barrett Porter, MFT, answers these frequently asked questions about counseling prices, insurance concerns, and how to know when you are ready to begin counseling?

How do I know when it is time to see a therapist?

The very fact that you are reading this creates a likelihood that the time is near. Here are some questions for you to contemplate:

Are you content with your relational life, regardless of your relationship status?
Are you able to identify what is important to you and set goals?
Are you able to pursue your interests and goals?
Do you know your self-worth?

Most problems that people bring to therapy are related to one or more of these questions.

Here are some further questions to reflect on:

Is there a persistent problem, condition, and way of feeling or upset that has been bothering you for a while? Is there something that you want to change in yourself or your life? Are you tired of having the same conversation about something over and over in your head or with your friends, yet nothing seems to change? Does the issue feel too big to tackle by yourself? Has that quiet, intuitive little voice inside of you been nudging you to get some outside, professional help with something.... and it keeps nudging in spite of your attempts to ignore or shhh it away? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions.... it's time.

Why do I need a therapist? Why can't I just talk to a friend or a family member?

A friend or family member is not professionally trained to help you grow, heal and change. It's likely that your friends and family have been giving you their best advice for some time now, and if it were sufficient, you probably wouldn't be reading this. But here is why your friend's advice is different from a therapist. Your friends may tell you what they think you want to hear or what they think is correct for you because it would be correct for them. (We all tend to give advice based on our subjective experience.) A trained therapist is interested in helping you find your own answers by helping you connect with your own authentic answers. They are trained to listen for what might be keeping you stuck of hindering you from your own inner resources.

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What are the benefits of therapy?

Please read my article "Research Study Says Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money".

The benefits of therapy have been demonstrated in numerous studies. If you want to read the entire review of a Consumer Reports Study by Martin Seligman please click here. It's a long review, so here is a summary of the key findings about therapy effectiveness:

  • Psychotherapy produced positive effects in 92% of respondents
  • The longer people stayed in therapy, the better their results.
  • People that were active in therapy did better than those that were passive. People that actively engaged by being open, asking questions, and following up did better.
  • For most psychological conditions, people in therapy alone did as well as people who had medication plus therapy.
  • Respondents who stayed in therapy only until insurance coverage allowed did worse than those who stayed until their concerns resolved.

How does therapy work?

Essentially, my job is to create safety and undo aloneness so you can free yourself to be yourself. Here is how it works.

When something really bad happens and we feel powerless to control our environment or our future, we create a psychological strategy to protect ourselves. These are called defenses. Defenses are not bad things; without them we literally couldn't function.

The bad news is that defenses can interfere with your quality of life ... your ability to love and be loved, to pursue goals or experience self-worth. When that happens, my job is to help you work through or around these defenses. Many of these defenses developed outside of your conscious awareness during vulnerable times throughout your past. They are no longer necessary and are depriving you of experiencing the life that you want. Gently, compassionately and tenaciously, we dissolve these defenses so you can free yourself to pursue life directions that have meaning and purpose for you.

I do this by helping you connect with yourself as honestly as you are capable. As a therapist, I listen deeply and carefully. I am empathic, active, direct and when I feel necessary I may challenge you. As we work together, new restorative experiences associated with feeling self-acceptance and self-compassion, inner clarity and connection occur. Your relationship to yourself, your life and others starts to deepen and expand. Fear gives way to freedom and curiosity. Anger gives way to acceptance. And sorrow eases, creating room for resilience, love and self- activation.

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How will I know if you are the right therapist for me?

You really need to meet me face-to-face in order to get a good idea of what I'm like as a person and as a professional. At our first meeting you should keep these questions in mind:

  • How easy is it to talk to her?
  • Does she seem like somebody I could trust?
  • Is she really listening to me?
  • Does she seem to know what she is doing?
  • Does she seem confident and competent?
  • Do I feel comfortable with her?
  • Could I ever show this person the deepest, ugliest parts of myself?
  • Does she seem to have the capacity to handle me.
  • Mostly, Does she listen to me and does she "get" me.

How long does therapy last?

It would be so handy for me to have an exact answer to this question. But unfortunately, I don't. It's kind of like trying to tell you how long a piece of string is. It depends on how long the string is ... right?

There are many factors to consider, such as: What sort of life have you had before coming to therapy? Why are you deciding now to come to therapy? How long has the problem been in the making? How have you coped with the problem up until now? How have your ways of coping compromised your deeper sense of aliveness and well-being? What are your goals or hopes for therapy? How will we know when they have been met?

I know, lots of questions here. Some of these questions cannot be answered right away; they are answered during treatment through discovery and understanding.

Here's how you will gain the most benefit from therapy.

1. Look at the money you spend on therapy as an investment in your future. The benefits you experience will justify the expense.

2. Be an active participant to your fullest capacity. Your therapy will take work - on your part and on mine. If you don't put honest effort forward you won't feel as if you are getting your money's worth and you will likely resent the cost.

How do I prepare for my first session?

Show up with the intention to be as open and honest about yourself as you can be. The first session is like a first date. I will want to learn about what is bringing you to therapy at this time in your life and hopefully you will be interested in filling me in. The likelihood is that there is much you will want to tell me and I'll be listening carefully and giving you my full attention.

At the same time I am learning about you, something else will be going on that is very important. You will likely be asking yourself:

  • How does it feel to be in the room with her?
  • Do I like her?
  • Do I feel safe with her?
  • Does she seem like she will be able to help me?
  • Can I let my guard down with her and be myself?

And I will be asking myself:

  • What is it like being in the room with her/him/them?
  • What am I feeling as I get to know her/him/them?
  • Do I feel compassion, touched, moved?
  • Do I like being with her/him/them?
  • Do I think I can help him/her/them?
  • Would I like to work with him/her/them?

By the end of the first session we will each have a sense of each other and will have talked some about the possibility of working together. Hard research has shown that the success of therapy is determined more by the quality of the relationship, than the theoretical orientation of the therapist. If the fit doesn't feel good to you, then you owe it to yourself to keep looking. If I don't think I will be the most advantageous therapist to work with you for whatever reason, I will tell you and make a good referral to someone who I think will be able to help you. If we decide to work together then we will schedule a next appointment.

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Why does therapy cost so much?

Huge question - long answer - here we go.

It may seem like therapists charge a lot of money, but believe me, the vast majority do not become wealthy from their private practices. Let me tell you why that is, and about the high cost of therapy.

Like anyone who works independently, therapist's fees pay for office space, office supplies, advertising, websites, continuing education, outside consultations, medical and malpractice insurance, and vacation time. While companies commonly supply these accoutrements and provisions for employed professionals, those of us in private practice supply them for ourselves. This is why we will refer agency settings to people who need therapy at very low fees.

For most therapists a full time practice is 18-25 contact hours with clients each week. This is also true of therapists who are employed by organizations. The rest of our time we are marketing and promoting our practice, doing essential administrative work, and keeping up with new information through study, professional/peer consultations with other professionals, seminars and conferences. We are only paid for our contact hours with clients; we do not get paid for any of these other responsibilities necessary for maintaining our practice and license.

Why don't we work more contact hours?

The nature of psychotherapy is intense, emotional, complex and concentrated. Our service is difficult to deliver hour after hour, day after day. Here's how it is for me. I work with my intellect, heart, intuition and body. I keep my heart and senses open to catch the nuance of feeling and meaning that you might not even be aware of. While I track what you are doing, saying, feeling, and not saying, I also track my own responses, instincts, intuitions, feelings because they inform me in many ways. And it doesn't stop there! I am also mindful of the relationship that is unfolding between the two of us. This quality of careful, focused attention can be intense and consuming. Thank goodness for ice cream and nature!

Like many therapists, I also set aside a portion of my time to see people who are in difficult financial circumstances one way or another: the poor, students, artists, veterans, the unemployed and underemployed.

I also consider my experience when setting my fee. I've been doing psychotherapy for over 35 years (including my pre-licensed years when I was an intern). I love learning new things in my work and am a huge believer in staying current with cutting edge thinking. New information and approaches I learn are enhanced by a competence that has been honed by over 35years of experience. It's kind of like how a seasoned dancer can easily learn new choreography.

How long are the sessions?

Fifty minutes. Sometimes people schedule 1.5 sessions, which is 75 minutes, or a double session which is 1 hour and 40 minutes. Couples sessions are typically 75 minutes, sometimes we book double sessions.

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What is the difference between therapy and counseling?

I use the two words interchangeably. Not everybody does, so this is a great question to ask. I use both words because different people relate to one word more positively than the other. Some folks prefer the word counseling, others prefer therapy, so I use them both. To the degree that counseling implies advice or guidance and therapy implies change and healing, I see myself as more of a therapist than a counselor.

What is a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are relationship specialists who treat persons involved in interpersonal relationships. They are trained to assess, diagnose and treat individuals, couples, families and groups to achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive marriage, family and social adjustment. The practice also includes premarital counseling, child counseling, divorce or separation counseling and other relationship counseling. Marriage and Family Therapists are psychotherapists and healing arts practitioners licensed by the State of California. Requirements for licensure include a related doctoral or two-year master's degree, passage of a comprehensive written and oral examination and at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience.

I'm very private and it is important to me that issues I talk about are confidential. Is my confidentiality completely protected?

Yes. By law I am bound to protect your confidentiality. The exceptions to this are related to child or elder abuse, a threat to harm another person or if you are in danger of self harm. If you want to use a third party payer to pay for therapy it will be necessary to provide the information required by your insurance company which will likely include a diagnosis. If this is the case I will discuss with you what is disclosed to an insurer.

Do you take my insurance?

I do not sit on insurance panels, which means I am an out of network provider. If you want to use your insurance you will need to contact your insurance company before our first session and ask them how much they reimburse you if you choose to see an Out-of-Network licensed MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). I will give you a bill for your sessions that will have all the required information an insurance company requires. You submit the statement/bill directly to your company. When the reimbursement check comes, it goes to you, not to me.

In order to make an informed decision about using your insurance to pay for therapy services, it is important that you know the following information:

1. Your insurance company will require a mental health diagnosis, which will become permanent on your medical records. This not only compromises your privacy and confidentiality, it may effect your future eligibility and cost if you wish to make a change in your insurance.

2. Your insurance company will allow a limited number of sessions for you, usually 8 - 12. This may or may not be a sufficient amount of sessions, depending on your goals and other factors that are listed in the answer to "How long does therapy last?"

Can you give me any medicine?

No, but here's the way it works: After evaluating your situation, we will decide if you need to speak with a psychiatrist who is a MD and is allowed to prescribe medicine. If we decide that medication might be beneficial, I have some very competent psychiatrists I work with. It's always a good idea for someone who is taking medication to have his or her therapist (that's me) in contact with the doctor who is prescribing medicine. That way you have a team working together on your behalf. Of course, this communication between psychologist and psychiatrist only happens if you give written permission for it to happen.

How do I get started?

Call me! Or if you'd rather email me, that is fine too. You can go to the "contact page" on this website to do either. If you know that you want to get started, let's schedule a session. If you want to spend 20 minutes on the phone with me prior to making a session, I am happy to do that. Please let me know when you call that you would like a phone consultation so I can schedule a time with you for this extended conversation.

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How do I get started?

Take some time to contemplate your situation. If you feel that you would like to meet me and see if therapy might be helpful for you, I offer a free 25 minute consultation. That will give you a chance to meet me, ask questions and we can each get a sense of what it would be like to work together.

If you'd like to speak with me or make an appointment, please call at 707-792-2654.

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"Every day, it seems, I use the strength and trust in myself that you have been such a part of helping me realize, to open a new and exciting path in relating to people and the world. Thank you."

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