Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Affordable Therapy or Life Coaching

Affordable Therapy or Life Coaching


If you are looking through this website, you may be thinking about signing up for therapy or life coaching for yourself. Following are a few thoughts about this process.


You may be thinking, "Do I need therapy or coaching?"  To me the best question is, "Do I want therapy or coaching?"  We all can benefit from ideas or advice about life improvement from professionals who are knowledgeable and trained in these areas. So for me, the best questions are: do I want to sign-up for sessions and if so are they affordable?


Life improvement sessions are really a long-term investment in your present and future happiness. You really won't know about ideas to improve your life unless you take at least the first steps to begin investing in services and then continue investing as you can.


The first step is to find out about your insurance coverage and then decide if you want to use mental health insurance if it is available. You should call your insurance company and ask questions about deductibles, co-pays, number of sessions and whether you have in- or out-of- network coverage. The next step would be to call the therapist to find out about payments and payment arrangements. In-network coverage prescribes allowable arrangements to the client and therapist. The therapist must accept the insurance and client payments and number of sessions specified in the insurance contract. With out-of-network coverage you should be able to have as many sessions as you want. With out-of-network coverage, the insurance company will determine their payments to the therapist, but the therapist will have discretion to lower co-payments for clients. If your therapist is not in-network for your insurance policy, you could always ask the insurance company if they will accept an application for membership from the therapist. Some insurance companies may tell you that they have closed panels, but I have found that occasionally they are willing to open their panels based on specific requests by assertive insurance plan members.


Note that Forest Garden is located in Chatham County although the office is convenient to surrounding counties and only a few miles south of Orange County. Be sure to specify Chatham County when you are contacting your insurance company or checking your plan booklet, since the Forest Garden office may not be listened under these other counties even though I am an approved provider.


Be sure to call. You may be pleasantly surprised. Or not.  Some of my clients find that the sessions are actually free to them, free in that therapy can be fully covered by insurance. For example, original Medicare insurance and most secondary insurers fully fund therapy services provided by qualified Medicare providers.  Other plans may have such large deductibles that the coverage is practically nonexistent and out-of-pocket arrangements are preferable


When you pay out of pocket, all the arrangements can be determined by the therapist and client. As a client you can decide how to arrange and time the sessions and offer a proposed payment to the therapist. Insurance contracts specify hour sessions (actually 45 or 50 minutes per session.)  When insurance companies are not used, the therapist and client can decide upon any arrangement of sessions and fees.


Whether you're using out-of-network coverage or paying out-of-pocket fees, you should discuss the fee proposal with the therapist and offer a rate acceptable to you. Both the proposed therapist and client should have this discussion about fees and make a decision so that client payments are affordable. If you are considering therapy because of stress, you do not want to stress yourself to the maximum with payments you cannot afford.


Unless you know for sure which therapist you would like to see, you will want to decide if you want a free initial consultation. I do offer this service. Alternatively many of my readers from the Southern Neighbor or Chatham County Line already feel that they know me and want to start scheduling sessions immediately. Please note that the ideas in this article are my own, and not all therapist or life coaches will subscribe to them.  If you do arrange an initial consultation, ask lots of questions!


However you plan to pay for therapy or coaching services, it is very important to note that you and the therapist can control the number and timing of sessions. This is extremely important in determining whether the services can be affordable. Therapy or coaching services do not have to be weekly, nor do they have to go on and on forever. In most cases it may be advisable to have the first several therapy sessions weekly, but then sessions can be planned according to time availability and feasibility as I will discuss below.  An initial coaching session can be held for more than one hour to get started and then timed as needed.


Possibly more important than planning appointment times and fees is the need for clients to be aware of the reasons they are seeking assistance and to be assertive about asking for specific assistance in these areas.  Of course some people do want to obtain general help and they look forward to free-wheeling discussions about their issues as they emerge. Therapists and coaches are great resources for such individualized assistance.  But if you want to focus and shorten the number of sessions needed to obtain specific goals, be sure to be assertive about your goals. You can save a lot of money when you are clear about your goals for the services. You will want to be clear in asking the therapist, for example, for assistance with self-esteem or assertiveness or boundaries with your mother-in-law or panic attacks or communication with your spouse or any of the many possible goals for therapy or coaching services.  You don't have to tell your whole life story to a therapist, only the portions that are applicable to your goals for the sessions. You don't have to review what happened between every session unless this is pertinent to your service goal. This will help keep the therapist focused on what you want to take home from each session.


Another great strategy to focus the therapy and increase affordability is to ask the therapist for homework ideas and resources. The therapist ought to be able to have a focused discussion with you about your issues, then direct you to ideas or resources for homework. Some clients do not like to do homework and prefer to receive all the information from the therapist. That is certainly a viable plan, but will extend the number of services and the total cost for the sessions. So realize that the total cost can be reduced if you are willing to do homework between sessions. Many therapists (I do) will even be able to loan CDs or books for you to try at home. As you can see from this website, I have written lots of articles to assist clients in working through their issues.


Another strategy clients use for affordability is to ask to space out the sessions with trial periods where the client can have self-improvement time to try out or practice the new ideas learned in the sessions. The follow-up session, however, should be scheduled so that the client has a clear time plan and goal to practice the new skills and then return to discuss the plan with the therapist. The problem with these trial periods occurs when the follow-up session is not scheduled. Life problems or time problems may intervene, and the plan may never be completed if ordinary life events take precedence and the follow-up session never occurs.


Some therapy or coaching requests can be completed in a very few sessions.  Clients with specific goals can schedule only one or two sessions to address a particular issue. Former clients can come back from time to time for a session as needed, sometimes on a yearly basis, or sometimes even years after the initial therapy was previously concluded.


Many clients come into therapy or coaching experiencing stress or distress and with only vague ideas about goals. It's important to note that it is the task of the therapist/coach to assist the client in formulating specific goals for the discussions. Some issues may actually turn out to be different than originally presented.  For example a client may present with panic attacks. Suggestions for dealing successfully with the panic attack itself may take only one or two sessions. The bigger challenge is usually to figure out what ideas or conflicts are actually causing the panic attacks. Once these issues are uncovered, worked through and resolved, then the panic attacks will not recur.


Written information can also be used to shorten the time needed for gathering information and holding discussions between therapist and client. For example I present new clients with an opportunity to complete a behavior checklist which saves a good deal of time in discussing symptoms and background issues. Clients can send e-mails to therapists in preparation for the next session. This will cut down the need to spend session time providing background details to the therapist and can be very useful in focusing discussions. While some therapists may not encourage such practices or may charge to read written information, I am happy to receive e-mails or other written information from my clients.


So, if you're thinking about therapy or coaching, get your thoughts and questions together and e-mail or call me to discuss and work through these issues. I'm always happy to do so. Whether the end product is that we schedule sessions together, you seek out services elsewhere, or I just end up providing some friendly advice, you will be further along on your road to self-improvement!


Betty W Phillips, Ph.D.

Telephone 919-967-1860

Fax 919-929-1457

 Please note I do not text