Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is Intensive Therapy?
An intensive is a way of delivering counseling or psychotherapy services in a concentrated period of time with the goal of achieving faster or more powerful results. Intensives are a relatively new and rare offering in the field, with no standardized formats. While most psychotherapy is done in weekly, 50-, 60- or 90-minute sessions, my intensives involve 15 hours over 3 consecutive days: 4 hours on Day 1, 7 hours on Day 2, and 4 hours on Day 3. I typically offer intensives on Monday afternoon-Wednesday or Friday afternoon-Sunday.
The therapy I provide in an intensive is private, similar to what you would receive in a weekly, hour-long, individual or couple session. However, there is a difference due to the intensive format. I find that with longer sessions, I am able to guide people to places that would not be possible, or much more difficult, to get to with more limited chunks of time. In intensives, I find that each hour builds directly on the last one in a seamless, efficient way that is difficult to re-create when sessions are spaced a week apart.
Intensives are generally provided by highly experienced and skilled therapists who have the knowledge and confidence to work with any issues and emotions that may arise, capable of guiding the client through the healing process from beginning to end. Intensive providers can work effectively, without the need for consultation or supervision from more experienced therapists. I have engaged, and continually engage in very high levels of advanced training, have worked successfully with close to a thousand couples and individuals, and provide trainings for other therapists.
Where Will We Meet?
Prior to the pandemic, I always conducted private therapy sessions in my office in Bozeman. Since the beginning of the COVID-related shutdown, I’ve been providing therapy via tele-health for people in Montana (I am not licensed in other states), and when weather permits, outdoors in nature. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find both are good, and even sometimes preferred, alternatives to meeting in my office.
Many clients have appreciated the convenience of meeting from home. While doing tele-health services takes a bit more work on my end to read nonverbal language, I, along with my entire professional field, have been surprised to discover the outcomes as effective as face-to-face. The lack of a difference in outcomes between tele-health and face-to-face counseling is borne out in a large and well-established body of counseling research.
Meeting outdoors in nature, especially during fine weather, can bring an especially memorable quality to the intensive experience. Be sure to mention if this is of interest to you, and we can discuss this option as well as possible locations.
Intensives are specialized services that are not recognized by insurance companies, and are generally considered a luxury expense. Where possible, we will bill your insurance for one hour of psychotherapy per day per person, the maximum amount typically covered by insurance.
How Do We Change in Therapy?
By the time most couples or individuals arrive in my office, they’ve been trying to change themselves for a long time. They are confused, exhausted, numb, beyond frustrated, critical of their partners or parents, and critical of themselves. Understandably, people are skeptical that therapy can help, and if so, wonder how? Here’s an inside look at how therapy works, and what to expect from the process.
The first step forward is the development of trust between the client (both partners in a couple) and the therapist. As a therapist, my first effort is to get to know you—what brings you to me, what you’d like to be and feel like ideally, and a bit about your journey that brings you to where you are. At the same time, you’re getting a sense of me, my presence, my understanding and actions toward you, and my ability to help you. We are building a relationship. I am looking to earn your trust so that you will allow me to come alongside you and join you in your experience. You are helping me know you, and assessing whether it’s safe for you to let me more deeply into your inner world. In couple or family work, I build this relationship with each individual separately, and with the relationship between you (your marriage, partnership, or family).
The second step is the longest and the hardest. In this step, the therapist is a guide and source of safety to allow us to get to know and deeply appreciate the various ways we protect ourselves and our relationships. Parts of ourselves and our partners that we saw as “bad,” become understood, validated, and valued. We develop trust that there is no villain among or within us; that no one is at fault. We take responsibility in a way that is empowering, rather than shaming. At the end of this step, protective behaviors and patterns have not gone away, but they are calmer, less extreme, and met with understanding and compassion rather than judgement. Couples are no longer enemies, but teammates.
Clients experience great relief at completing the second step in the process of therapy, and have difficulty imagining how much more healing is possible from there. The third step, building from the completion of the second step, is the most powerful and transformative, yet often surprisingly rapid and easy. In this step, memories and pain from past relationship injuries, negative childhood experiences, and even generations of trauma, are healed and removed from our bodies. Suffering is replaced with compassion. Old protective struggles and old relationship patterns are replaced with new ways of being safe in knowing and acting from your more authentic self. Completing this third step in therapy is a joyful time of celebration for both the client and therapist.
Intensive vs. Traditional Therapy: Which is Right for Me?
An intensive is a preferred option when an individual or relationship is in crisis, when weekly counseling feels like too little, too late. Intensives are preferred for people whose work schedule or travel does not allow for weekly appointments, and for people who want to travel away from home for distant or more specialized services. An intensive is a preferred option for people who may be frustrated by the slow, gradual progress of weekly therapy, and want to obtain faster or deeper results.
Traditional, hourly therapy is a better fit when you are looking for a long-term supportive relationship with a therapist, when you are exploring whether therapy might help you with an issue that’s been simmering for some time, and when you want to talk through and problem-solve a particular issue.
Traditional counseling is also likely your best option where finances are an issue, and you have insurance coverage. If you are in a relationship, you can both attend counseling sessions that are covered by insurance. (When one person in the relationship qualifies for a mental health diagnosis, insurance covers individual counseling with a family member present). Depending on your insurance plan, it may cover one weekly counseling session for an individual, and two sessions for a couple.
If you’re considering an intensive, I’d be delighted to meet with you to better understand your situation. This will allow us both to assess whether my intensive therapy is a good fit for you. You are welcome to contact me to schedule a 30-minute consultation about your situation.
How Much Progress Will We See in an Intensive?
This is a great question clients often ask. Surprisingly, the degree of distress couples are in is not a significant predictor of whether and how much progress we will make. My answer is that I don’t know, and don’t have a way to know, until we’re going along in the process. Sometimes the process is smooth and rapid, and sometimes it seems to grind along. Even when the process feels slow and difficult, breakthroughs can happen at any time. My promise to clients is to meet them where they are, and guide them as far and as quickly as I can.
The more safe and supported I can help you feel in the process of therapy, the further we will go. The more we are able to create safety, and the more we are able to really slow down and unpack your experiences of conflict or distress, the further we will go toward healing. Progress in therapy is not about the amount of material we cover, but how deeply we go in understanding our experience.
Factors that predict how rapidly progress will be made are the amount of trust the client has in other people generally, in their own inner voices and emotions, and for couples and families, in each other. When a client has good reasons not to trust, based on real life experiences, developing that trust in a therapeutic setting can take longer. When the process is slow, because there are good reasons to mistrust, it is important to respect the slowness, and earn trust over time.