Frequently Asked Questions
Confidentiality is essential in therapy. Mental health professionals are ethically and legally required to uphold strict rules around keeping their clients’ information private. Many people come to therapy precisely because it is an opportunity to explore very private thoughts, feelings, and experiences. For some people, therapy is the only place they can talk comfortably about important private thoughts and feelings. At the same time, sharing thoughts and feelings can be difficult even with an experienced professional. You don’t want to worry about confidentiality.
The American Psychological Association created the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct which each member is obliged to follow. Mental health professionals are required to discuss confidentiality and its limits with all of our clients at the beginning of therapy.
Limits of confidentiality in therapy relate to ensuring the safety of the client and the safety of vulnerable populations like the elderly and children. Most of our clients find these limits make a lot of sense, and we find those limits very rarely a concern.
In California, state law requires that clinical psychologists follow the APA ethics code and its provisions around privacy. At the national level, HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a complex piece of legislation that has very specific rules for managing patient data. These rules apply to the entirety of your health record. If you have seen any health care professional in the last several years, you have received their Notice of Privacy Practices which explains to you how your health information may be used and how it is protected.
The length of psychotherapy treatment differs for each person and each problem. It is nearly impossible to accurately pinpoint the amount of time it will take to accomplish your goals. There is a tremendous range and several factors that contribute to a completion timeline. These factors include the nature of the problem itself (simple versus complicated), how long the problem has been a problem (newly developed versus chronic and longstanding), and how much work you put into solving the problem outside of therapy. For those seeking relief from troublesome but straightforward problems, therapy can be effective in as little as a 8 to 12 sessions. For more complex issues, therapy can last a few months to a few years. At Palo Alto Smart Therapy, we all believe it is essential that we work together with our clients to understand their goals and to track those goals so we can accurately assess whether we are achieving those goals or not.
Palo Alto Smart Therapy and its therapists are not contracted with any insurance companies. However, most of our services may be covered if you belong to a PPO-type insurance plan under out-of-network benefits. In addition, services may apply towards qualified medical expenses if you have a Health Care Reimbursement Account (HCRA) through your employer or Health Savings Account (HSA). Please check with your insurance company regarding the specific percentages of coverage that apply to your particular insurance plan, and with your employer or accountant for details of your HCRA or HSA.
To help facilitate out-of-network claims, we give our clients a superbill. This is a receipt for services that clients can submit to insurance companies for out-of-network benefits.
If you call your insurance company to find out about your out-of-network benefits, they might ask for a procedure code. Most psychological services like the one offered at Palo Alto Smart Therapy falls under the procedure code: 90834. Many insurance companies will give you a percentage that they cover. This is often a percentage of an “allowed amount,” which is often under the rate clinicians charge. If you can get them to tell you their “allowed amount,” you’ll have a better idea of what your insurance will cover.
For more information on how to handle insurance claims:
Virtually all of the research data looking into what helps clients most in therapy indicates it is the strength of the working relationship between the client and the therapist that is the most important element in what makes therapy successful. The most important factor in psychotherapy being a success is the quality of fit between a client and therapist (how comfortable a client feels when sitting down with his or her therapist).
It’s important that you genuinely feel your therapist can relate to you and will give you meaningful feedback. Because of this, we offer a free 20-minute consultation for people wishing to explore working with us.
The point of psychotherapy is not advice. Part of what might be bringing you to treatment is that you’ve become lost in advice and can’t sort out your next steps. The last thing you need is another person’s advice. The goal of treatment is for you to rediscover your own voice, your own priorities, and the courage and discernment to act on what is right for you and the life you want to live. The first step for many people in therapy is to figure out what they want from their life and from themselves.
Our therapists are skilled at working with their clients to find out what is happening when they already “know” what to do but find that they aren’t implementing those changes. We can help you find out what’s holding you back and help you move past the barriers (internal and external) to feeling better and achieving what you know is possible.
It’s important that you genuinely feel your therapist can relate to you and will give you meaningful guidance and feedback. Because of this, our therapists offer a free 20-minute consultation for people wishing to explore working with us. We do not begin our work with clients before an initial free consult because it is important that our clients believe we can help them, but we also want to be confident that we can be of service to potential clients before they invest in the time and money it costs to come into our office.
In medical and psychiatric practices, the people served are referred to as “patients”. This suggests the people coming in are ill, have something in them that needs to be fixed, and that the doctor has the expertise to fix that for the patient.
At Palo Alto Smart Therapy, we work with high-functioning people. These people are looking for a professional to help them move to the next level and get more out of the choices and meaning their life offers. We feel the term “clients” more accurately reflects the intelligence, strength, and resilience of the people we work with.
Our time is reserved exclusively for you during your scheduled visit. We have a 48 hour cancellation policy. If you cancel an appointment less than 48 hours prior to your appointment or fail to show for your appointment, you will be charged a fee that represents the full cost of your scheduled appointment.
Coming to therapy regularly helps you get the most out of your investment. Therapy is like an on-going conversation. When a client doesn’t come in regularly, it can be hard to keep the thread of that conversation going. So we recommend regular sessions for our clients. You can talk further with your therapist about how to maintain the continuity given your busy schedule. At Palo Alto Smart Therapy, we are practiced at working with busy schedules and often find there are ways to make this work.
When you are looking for a therapist, we recommend you use that momentum, and turn it into action. Though people are sometimes tempted to wait to call or start working with a therapist until after that next event or trip, you be able to benefit from getting started now.