Frequently
Asked Questions

For the answers to the questions that you have been wondering about and the ones that you don’t know how to ask. ​

Your conversations with me will be kept confidential (actually, the law allows the same level as you would expect with an attorney or a priest).  A psychologist cannot disclose anything that you say to anyone else without your written permission.  The are some rare exceptions to this rule; that is, confidentiality can be waived if a psychologist believes that there is an imminent threat of harm to the patient or to someone else, if there is good reason to believe that a child or elder person is being abused or neglected in some way, or if there is a subpoena or court order (but in the latter case, rarely is full disclosure required and even if this case I would not send any information on you to any judge or attorney without letting you know).  Of course if we have signed an agreement to have some or all of your information released to another person (for example, an attorney or a spouse), then all or part of what you disclose could be communicated to that third party.

I believe it’s important that you find the right provider to meet your needs. I offer a free 10-15 minute phone consultation for you to talk with me so you can ask questions and decide if you believe that I am the right professional to help you. Once you’re ready to begin psychotherapy (what many people just call therapy), you can schedule your first appointment.

That depends primarily on your insurance plan. Most therapy co-pays are between $20-40, but there are some people who first pay a deductible (a full, but discounted rate, set by your insurance company) and you then pay only a percentage (such as 20%) of it that amount.  Please look at the information on the Insurance and Fees page for more information.

As a service to my patients, we contact the insurance company of each new patient to get information about their mental health coverage. However, there are those who would like to know their coverage even before calling my office and hopefully this information will help you find out the basic information.

On the back of your health insurance card there should be a toll-free number for you to call for your mental health/behavioral health benefits (or if it doesn’t have those listed specifically just call the number for customer service).  Once you get a representative on the line, tell the person you need to ask about your outpatient mental health benefits.  There are many questions that you can ask, but these will get you much of the information that you would need to know:

  1. Is psychotherapy (CPT code 90837) by a Licensed Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D.) covered under my plan?

  2. Do I have a set co-pay or do I instead have a deductible for mental health? How much is it (co-pay or deductible)?

  3. If you have a deductible, ask this “After my deductible is met, what is my percentage of coverage?”

  4. Do I need any pre-authorization for psychotherapy?
Each insurance has what is called a “usual and customary rate” – this is the amount that they place on each service covered (regardless of an individual provider’s stated / full rate).  If you have a co-pay (for example, $25), that won’t matter to you much since you will pay that flat rate for every appointment.  But If  you have a health plan that has a deductible, you will pay this discounted “usual and customary rate” until you reach the deductible amount and thereafter pay the percentage of that rate (for example, 20% of that rate for a period of 1 year typically at which point the deductible applies again.  The good news is that the deductible almost includes both your mental health and regular medical charges. Note that often these amounts are different for providers who are in-network vs. out-of-network.

Here is an example.  Let’s say that you have a deductible of $500. And let’s also say that the usual and customary rate for your insurance company for psychotherapy is $100.  You will pay for all the health services you need during the year (at the discounted insurance rate, not the full rate, which in our example includes the $100 for each psychotherapy session) until you reach the $500 mark.  Once that is reached, you will then only pay 20% of the usual and customary rate, so only $20 per session for psychotherapy (in this example).
Medication alone cannot solve all issues (or even most). What medication does is to treat the symptoms. Our work together is designed to explore the root of the issue and not just the symptoms – the idea is that we look at the problem more deeply to find the root of the issue and then teach you strategies that can help you accomplish your personal and/or relational goals.

Medication can be effective and is sometimes needed in conjunction with therapy (and if that is the case, I am glad to discuss the issue with your primary physician or refer you to a psychiatrist for medication management).

Many people feel this way!  But I will not tell anyone anything about you at all and I want you to know that my office is a very accepting and safe place where you can tell your most embarrassing truths if you wish.  Still, if there is something very hard for you to tell me then it’s okay for you to wait until you are ready to disclose it. If you haven’t received much support from friends, colleagues, or family with regard to what you are struggling with, you might be more likely to want to hide it.  


But please know that the therapeutic environment is one of non-judgment, safety, and acceptance. And trust me, whatever your secret is it will not be the worst or most shocking thing that I have ever heard (and it’s probably not even close!).

I am a cognitive-behavioral psychologist and this type of therapy requires patients to be full participants in the process – that is, patients need to have the ability to analyze their thinking patterns,  to use their life experiences to help them make new connections, and to conceptualize new options. It is often very difficult for those under age 16 to manage these tasks given their limited life experience and uncertainty about what they really want or need from treatment. 

Yes and no.  While you want to trust and like your provider (just as with your physician), your relationship with a psychologist is one that  grows through trust and work and is really not one that can be pre-judged based on a conversation (in other words, it’s not like the immediate connection that you may have felt about your best friend or the attraction of a first date, but rather whether you and the healthcare provider would be able to develop a professional working relationship).

Certainly your relationship with your psychologists is a more supportive one, and perhaps a more emotional one at times, than you would have with your other healthcare providers.  But it is not a friendship, but is instead a professional helping partnership. A wise person will not seek a therapist based on whether they would like to have a glass of wine with them on the weekend or if they share hobbies or life characteristics, but rather will examine the amount and quality of education that the therapist has received and the experience that they have gained in order to choose the best healthcare provider for them self or for their family.

You just need to bring your new patient paperwork and yourself! Sometimes a patient will bring notes to make them feel more prepared (and less anxious), but it is not necessary since I will walk you through the information that I need the most. If you have questions about my practice or your therapy, I am happy to answer them in session.

I see only individuals for therapy and that usually means that the first session is just with that individual.  I realize that at times people bring their spouse with them to a doctor’s visit (such as during the treatment for cancer or before a surgery to be sure the care-taking spouse understands what is needed).  


There are certainly some situations when it makes sense to have a close family member or a caretaker participate to some degree at the initial session. For example, I will need a developmental history from a parent when I see a teenager (and sometime a young adult) or it is often helpful for me to speak to a spouse or caretaker in cases where the patient is not able to provide me with accurate or realistic information (e.g., in cases of dementia or when it would be helpful to have a 3rd person account of the problematic behavior/symptoms).  


But at times we tend to lean too much on others, mostly because of fear or a lack of confidence .  The good news is that the first session is your first step toward a life of less fear and more independence (and it’s a whole lot less scary by the second visit, I promise :-).

This label definitely causes a great deal of confusion for many people and so I want to address this issue as fully as I can.


There has been a trend over the last decade or so for some individuals to promote themselves as  “Christian counselors” or “Christian therapists” (“therapist” has no one legal meaning so it really doesn’t suggest any certain type of education or training).  I am certain that some people who label themselves in this way do so with the best of intentions, perhaps others do so purely for marketing, and still others may want to suggest that they have a more narrow and distinct view of social norms and values so as to seem safer choice to patients with those same views.


But healthcare professionals at the highest levels of education (those who have attained Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s at well-known and quality educational institutions) rarely label themselves with a religious tagline.   After all, your physical body and your mind/behavior/instincts do not change according to your religion.  Each of us has a distinct set of values, preferences, and life and after-life beliefs, but it would be a dicey proposition to try to find a healthcare professional who is just like us in every way!  After all, how many of your friends and family match you on every opinion and value that you have?  Your healthcare provider doesn’t need to be of your religion (or to enjoy the sports you do) in order to provide you with quality care.


One more question that I’d like you to ask yourself – did you honestly choose your physician according to their religion?  I would say for 99.9% of those reading this the answer is NO. I cannot imagine someone showing up with their child in the ER and inquiring about the religion of the doctor trying to save their child’s life.  And would you really assume that this physician was less skilled or cared less about your child than if the physician were of your own religion? No, that would be  completely irrational.

You should choose your mental health professional as you would choose any of your providers, by evaluating their skill set, their education and training, their knowledge, and their experience (and over time you probably would include their bedside manner and sense of humor).

My religious preference does not determine the way that I help you come to your choices in life – in fact, the truth is that it is not my job to let my own thoughts, biases, and beliefs in any direct sway your decisions and your life course.

That is honestly a difficult question to answer. First, the term “Psychologist” is not just an academic one, but rather a legal one with a very strict definition defined by law in each state (and country).  People often think that anyone doing therapy that uses the title “Dr.” is a Psychologist. The truth is that someone can have a doctoral degree (or call themselves “Dr.”) and not be psychologist – it is not the degree that matters when someone gets a license to practice as a Psychologist, but it is the focus and quality of the education and training that count.

To be licensed as a Psychologist in the state of Georgia, the requirements are (loosely stated for information, this is not a recounting of state law and not meant to be used by anyone as a blueprint for the licensure):

1.  Earn a doctoral degree in psychology from a regionally accredited professional training program in applied psychology (following a similar Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree) that is also accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) or the equivalent (examples would be the Clinical Psychology Graduate Ph.D. program at Auburn University or the University of Georgia).

2.  Successfully complete an APA or CPA accredited or Association of Psychology and Internship Centers (APPIC) member internship pre-doctoral internship comprised of at least 2000 hours of supervised clinical work (or its equivalent). An example of this is the 12-month clinical training in the Consortium at the University of Alabama in Birmingham Medical School’s Psychiatry and Neurobiology Program.


3.  Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), the national board examination for psychologists. This rigorous examination is designed to measure knowledge of a great span of topics related to all aspects of human behavior of psychology and relevant to the practice of psychology.


4.  Successfully complete 1500 or more hours of postdoctoral supervised work experience . This is basically a year of supervised experienced after all graduate training is completed, the internship year is done, and the national board test is passed, when the the individual still must complete an additional year where they must work as a “temporary” psychologist while their work is supervised by a licensed Psychologist.

5.  Successfully complete a written examination for the state of Georgia prepared by the Georgia Board of Examiners of Psychologists covering current law, rules and regulations, and general provisions.


6.  Successfully complete an oral exam given by the Georgia Board of Examiners or their representatives – for this examination, the licensure candidate must personally appear before a subcommittee of the Board for an oral examination which will be based on a work sample of material from their intended area of practice provided by the licensure generated within six months preceding the oral examination or within six months of the most recent professional practice.



WHEW!  By the time all of this is completed, at least 11 years have passed. However, the average amount of time required is 12 or more years.


BUT IT’S NOT OVER! Once licensed in Georgia, psychologists are required to complete 40 hours of Continuing education (30 in person hours) bi-annually.

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Note that “school psychologists” are a distinct category – this requires only a Master’s Degree and so they are restricted as to what they are able to do (for example, they are not allowed to practice independently).

And if you don't know, now you know.
BIGGIE SMALLS

In March 2020, I moved my practice from my Carrollton office to a telehealth practice (a virtual office where services are provided by video conference) to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission to my patients.   With ongoing health concerns for many in our population, I have decided to continue to provide all telehealth services through a secure, HIPAA-compliant portal and do not know if or when I will return to my office-based practice.  Please note that I am accepting new spinal cord simulator and bariatric pre-surgical evaluation patients; I am also happy to take new psychotherapy patients as the schedule permits.  Please email me from my contact page if you are interested in any of these services.  And stay well.