Common Questions

How can a psychologist help me?
Working with a psychologist has several advantages. We are trained to work with serious mental illness and, just as other therapists, we provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. But as I mentioned above, psychologists also work with more serious mental health issues, such as long standing behaviors that you have had most of your life and are ready to change.
Many people also find that psychologists can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. We can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from working with a psychologist with my broad experience depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from working with a psychologist:  

  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek help
  • Developing skills to manage your anxiety and fears
  • Developing your own wellness toolbox, to keep you emotionally grounded (ask me about this!)
  • Learning new ways to cope with stress through wellness strategies
  • Finding more adaptive ways of managing anger, grief, depression
  • Changing old maladaptive behavior patterns and developing new ones
  • Discovering new ways to solve interpersonal problems 
  • Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your values and what matters to you
  • Improving communications and listening skills
  • Improving your self-efficacy 

Elisa A. Gottheil, PhD
Psychologist in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA; 805-308-4568
[email protected]

Do I really need to see a psychologist?  I can usually handle my problems.  
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Working with a psychologist can provide you with long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face. 

Why do people see a psychologist and how do I know if it is right for me?

People have many different motivations for working with a psychologist. Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well.  Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks.  A psychologist can provide some much needed encouragement and skills to get them through these periods.  Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives. 

What is it like working with a psychologist?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  In general, you can expect to discuss what triggers your anxiety, your fears, your doubts, but also the current events happening in your life and your personal history relevant to your issues. Sessions serve to measure your progress in applying the skills you learn and transfer to your life (or any new insights gained) from the therapy sessions.  Depending on your specific needs, work with a psychologist can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development. My style is to set a goal for 12 or 16 sessions, after an assessment and a 'care plan' has been established, and to re-evaluate progress after that. Sessions are typically scheduled weekly.  Check ins are also typical, to reinforce learnings or tackle new challenges. It will be my privilege to meet with you and see how I can be of service to you.
Elisa A. Gottheil PhD, licensed psychologist, PSY22753
Psychologist in Santa Barbara
It is important to understand that you get results from therapy if you actively participate in the process.  The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as practicing skills learned in session, reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors or taking action on your goals. People seeking psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.   
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?  
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.  Working with your medical doctor or psychiatrist you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. 
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
Yes, I do. However, depending on your plan you may be responsible for a significant percentage of my professional fees, when considering copay and coinsurance. Also, if your deductible has not been met you would be responsible for payment until your deductible has been met.

I do take Medicare, with a supplemental that is not Medical. I am also a provider with several other insurance companies. Check your coverage carefully. You are responsible for knowing the particular of your mental health benefits.  Know your copay, coinsurance and deductible.
Some helpful questions you can ask them, when looking for psychological services:

  • What are my mental health benefits?
  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session? Copay, coinsurance, deductible.
  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
  • Is approval required from my primary care physician? 

Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and psychotherapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office.   Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone.  This is called “Informed Consent”.  Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
However, state law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations: * Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, disabled or elderly individuals, suicidal or homicidal behaviors. Reports are made to the authorities, including Child Protection, Adult Protective Services, and law enforcement based on information provided by the client or collateral sources. * Suicidal or homicidal behaviors entail having a reasonable suspicion that the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.