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1) How does talking to a professional help? How is counseling different than talking to my friends and family, or working out problems on my own?
First of all, counseling isn’t about “fixing” you. You’re not broken. I typically see adults, children, couples and families that are basically healthy, but whose lives have become unsettled or even overwhelmed by recent events. My clients often experience a flare-up of depression or anxiety symptoms after a parenting impasse, marital communication problems, job stress, a divorce, family illness or losses, or another type of distressing experience. Other clients feel themselves or a child is being held back in some area of their life by a chronic condition like ADHD, Bipolar Depression or past traumatic experiences, even if other aspects of life are going smoothly.
Whatever your personal concerns, a trained psychologist can often offer a more objective and knowledgeable perspective than can friends and family. A psychologist can help you see your situation more clearly, and offer options or suggestions you hadn’t thought of that you may choose to implement. Ultimately, counseling provides a safe and confidential environment to learn new skills, to make good decisions, to improve your confidence, and to eliminate unnecessary feelings of distress. The result is feeling more free, effective and happy– whether at home, school, work or in your personal relationships.
2) What will happen when I come to counseling? What should I expect from the first meetings?
My office is located upstairs at the end of a quiet hallway of a restored historic building. If my door is not already open for you, please relax in the waiting area at the end of the hall (with views of the Capitol and foothills) and I will be with you shortly. If you did not already fill out initial paperwork at home, I will set out a clipboard for you on one of the chairs. Once inside, please enjoy a coffee or tea before we sit down to talk. I will usually meet with you for 60 minutes at the first visit. At this first meeting you should already feel heard and understood—and this experience alone often provides some initial relief. It typically takes one or two meetings to listen to your story thoroughly, for me to learn about your background, to simply let us get to know each other. Afterwards, I will cooperatively develop a plan for our counseling. My goal is doe us to choose a strategy that both feels comfortable to you and that we know will be effective. During our counseling I always encourage you to set your own pace and to feel fully supported, while still being challenged to grow from the right amount of objective feedback, trying out new ideas both in our meetings and at home.
3) What makes services with Dr. Hill unique?
Numerous family physician and pediatric group practices refer to me on a regular basis, while others are referred by school staff or word of mouth. I have earned this reputation through my long-standing working relationships with area professionals and by presenting locally and regionally on ADHD, Bipolar, Marriage and Family Therapy, Effective Parenting, Depression, Anxiety and Stress, and Divorce Adjustment for Adults and Children. Some of these specialties are rare for the Treasure Valley and are under-served locally (especially by male therapists). Each of these specialties represents many years of professional training and experience. Licensed Psychologists complete 4 years of combined academic classes and supervised clinical experience, plus another year-long supervised internship and post-doctoral supervision.
Professionally, I am dedicated to continuing education though conferences, workshops and consultation with trusted colleagues. In this way you can take advantage of the most recent information and research available. Finally, you should know that I keep my caseload small so I can remain available to you, and so that I can give careful attention to everyone I see.
4) How long will I have to go to counseling?
The typical length of counseling largely depends on the nature and extent of concerns you wish to address, but generally my clients’ needs fall into three categories. Some clients come in with a single, straightforward concern like consulting on a parenting issue, brushing up on existing coping skills for mild depression or anxiety, or wanting a second diagnostic opinion after meeting with another therapist or medical provider. These clients may find their needs met in as few as 4-6 sessions.
Other clients may have more than one concern to address, or need to create more extensive coping strategies truly from scratch. Research shows that developing completely new strategies or skills can take 12-16 meetings to reach lasting success. Thus, this type of counseling could last 3 to 6 months depending on how often you want to meet. Examples in this category include mastering healthy communication in a distressed marriage or family relationship, providing sufficient relief for more chronic anxiety or depression, or parenting through a more complex situation like alcohol/drug use or chronic, defiant behavior.
Finally, some of my clients find they are still gaining a tangible benefit from counseling after a year or more. Typically these longer-term clients are no longer coming in on a weekly basis, but they may continue to appreciate the periodic emotional support, structured time, or assistance in maintaining hard-fought gains by coming in once or twice a month.
5) What about confidentiality?
I am bound by both state law and national ethical standards to keep your information private and confidential. The only common exceptions to this confidentiality are if: 1) you explicitly give written permission to exchange information (e.g. with your family physician), 2) I believe you are in immediate danger of committing suicide or otherwise seriously injuring yourself, or you are in immediate danger of physically assaulting another person, 3) you share information about the abuse or neglect of a minor or disabled person, and 4) if you give permission for occasional professional consultation. (Typically I seek this consultation without using your name, and this will benefit your experience by brainstorming additional ideas for our time together, but I can always refrain from this if you prefer). Extremely rare exceptions to confidentiality involve legal proceedings, including if a judge (not just an attorney) orders the therapist to disclose information.
Protecting your confidential information in the digital age
You should know that by remaining independent of insurance contracts, your insurance company cannot request your full mental health record for routine tasks like treatment re-authorizations, as has become common. This independence also lets me avoid electronic submission of your sensitive healthcare information– as healthcare data breaches have become shockingly common. A 2017 survey by Accenture found 26% of U.S. consumers affected by a healthcare data breach (often including diagnoses, social security numbers, or stolen identities for healthcare fraud)– and half the time patients were never told about the breach afterwards. In another, more comprehensive study from 2010-2017, Forbes magazine reported government data that over 176 million patient records had been breached via loss, theft or intentional criminal hacking. This is the equivalent of over half the U.S. population in 7 years time. For just this reason, I never send your healthcare information over the internet. My weekly clinical notes are handwritten and stored hard-copy on site. All typed letters and reports are stored on a local, encrypted hard drive, never remotely “in the cloud.” Every company I know claims your health or financial data on the cloud is safe– right up until it isn’t. My being old fashioned in this one respect definitely protects you better than a remote records system.
6) What forms of payment do you accept?
I accept cash, Visa, Mastercard, Check/Debit Cards, and personal checks up to $170. For questions about insurance billing, please see my separate billing section.
7) How do I set up an appointment?
Please call 495-4050 to make an appointment. I will return your call within 24 hours (and often within just a few hours). I will talk with you briefly about your concerns to be sure I feel like the right therapist for you. Afterwards, we’ll choose a convenient time to meet. Appointments are usually available within a couple of days to a week, depending on how much flexibility you have in your schedule. Please note that email is never a secure form of communication, so I do not communicate with clients by email. For the same reason, the only texting I do is for appointment reminders. To protect your confidentiality, please contact me only by telephone at (208) 495-4050. I regularly monitor messages at this number on business days.
8) Is your building handicap accessible?
Sadly, the one drawback of being in a historic building downtown is that elevators are not installed. If you would have difficulty climbing one flight of stairs due to a disability, medical condition or temporary injury please contact me so we can arrange to meet in a colleague’s fully accessible office instead.