First, send me an email using this secure email link or give me a call at 510-338-6655 for a free phone consultation. You'll likely get my voicemail, and I'll call you back within a few hours and usually the same day. Be sure to leave some good times to reach you.
You'll have a chance to tell me about what goals you might have for therapy and what you'd like me to know about your situation. You can ask me any questions about how I work and my experience working with your particular issues.
We'll talk about the logistics in setting up a first appointment, such as fee and schedule. I'll give you a link to my website portal or ask for your email address so I can get you paperwork to sign in advance. You can sign all paperwork electronically and review my policies before your first session.
How should I choose a new therapist?
People will sometimes ask me: how do I choose the right therapist? Great question! It's important to call around, and even meet a few therapists in person to see who you feel most comfortable with.
There are always a few specific factors to consider as initial criteria, such as fee, location, and availability.
After you get a list of potential therapists you think might meet your initial criteria, call around and ask about their experience with your issues. For example, if you're struggling with depression and having a hard time accomplishing tasks and finding joy in life, you'll want a therapist who has seen success and can tell you a little about how they might work or tools they might use in therapy. If you recently experienced a major loss or a traumatic event, ask about their comfort with these issues.
It's also great to ask about how interactive the therapist is or whether they provide guidance for practicing outside of therapy. Many therapists aren't trained in and don't provide this type of guidance for a variety of reasons. Therapy with exercises and things to practice in between sessions is often most helpful for people who struggle with insomnia, anxiety, procrastination, depression, and trouble in intimate relationships.
What is the first appointment like?
During the first session, I'll review my policies and collect your paperwork. You'll have as much time as you'd like to tell me about what's going on that brings you to therapy. You can share about how you're doing now and how you'd like things to be different.
If you're seeing me for individual counseling, we'll review your intake questionnaire that provides information on your relevant history and current situation. It may take a couple sessions to complete the intake process.
For couples and relationship counseling, I will meet with everyone together at least once and then meet with each person individually once to gain an understanding and assessment of your concerns. After these intake sessions, we will meet again all together and review your goals and ensure I am a good match.
I ask that you commit to at least three sessions to determine if we'd like to work together. If either of us determine that I'm not the right therapist to address your concerns, I will provide you with referrals or recommendations if you want to discuss finding a different therapist.
Can you tell me if you think my relationship will survive? Or what I should do about my problem?
My passion is helping folks explore strengths, identify patterns and behavior that isn't working, and help find a new way. My years of experience can help you explore your options and identify how you'd like to move forward based on what I've seen over the years.
I won't tell you what I think you should do, and I don't have my own agenda for your outcome. It's my job to offer opportunities to develop insight, ask questions, and teach new skills in a loving, supportive environment so you can make the healthiest choice based on your values and goals.
We do know that getting assistance earlier will help! Most people wait, sometimes for years, before they seek help. Whether you're having trouble in your relationship, struggling with insomnia, or beating yourself up about how you eat, get assistance early before things get more serious.
What is mindfulness and how is it used in therapy?
Mindfulness is a tool and a set of skills to help you live in the current moment rather than what many of us do instead: spend time dreading the future or re-living the past. Mindfulness also helps us observe and notice our inner experience without judgment
These exercises that you learn in therapy and then practice on your own can help you get in touch with your emotions and the wisdom you have naturally about your situation. This practice helps provide some space between an event and your reaction so you can act thoughtfully, with kindness to yourself and others.
It's a tool we can use to help address emotional eating, stress and anxiety, lack of focus or procrastination, and poor sleep. Mindfulness also helps many folks who are in conflict with others.
Is mindfulness different from meditation? I've been a local meditation class, and it didn't help me.
Mindfulness practice in the context of therapy is likely different from meditation you might learn if you've attended a local meditation center or taken meditation classes. Meditation classes often focus on directing or guiding folks through a longer period of sitting in silence in a group setting. Usually, there is an instructor or teacher who gives a talk on various Buddhist texts, meditation practice, or shares their own personal experience with some of the core concepts of meditation. Mindfulness is a set of skills to help regulate emotions, increase tolerance of distress and anxiety, and become more present in our body and present situation rather than swirling in our head in a loop that increases negative thoughts and urges.
How long will I be in therapy?
People are in therapy for a variety of lengths of time, depending on the issue you're seeking help with. Generally, the average client stays in therapy for about a year. Unless we decide on a different schedule, sessions are generally weekly for 45 minute sessions for individuals or 75 minutes for relationship counseling in the beginning.
I was in therapy with you a while ago, can I come back?
Change is definitely a process, not an event. So, it doesn't happen quickly. Often, folks return to therapy, and I have many clients who come back after as long as a year or two to revisit their goals. Unless there is a reason not to work together, you are welcome to return to therapy after ending at any time.
How much does therapy cost?
Therapy is an investment. Together, we're investing in your health, relationships, emotional wellbeing, and your future. My rates are similar or slightly below the usual rate in the area for experienced, licensed therapists. At the same time, I'm not the least expensive therapist. I've been licensed for 10+ years, and I've invested in advanced clinical training over the years to develop skills that help people with unique concerns. I want you to be able to get the help you need from a trained therapist and to be able to remain in therapy for the length of time you need.
See also my page on Payment for more information about fees and using your insurance for therapy.
If you want very low fee therapy, see my Resources page for low fee services. There are several excellent training programs in the area with well-supervised interns who can provide sliding scale services.
Do you assign writing assignments or homework between sessions?
I rarely ask clients to complete journal or other writing assignments. However, I do always offer the opportunity to try new skills and encourage documenting the barriers and successes so we can work together to see what gets in the way when you want to meet your goals. For example, if you're struggling with insomnia, I'll encourage you to document your sleep, activities right before bed, and provide a list of things to try that I've noticed helps many of my clients. Remember, therapy is a commitment of your time, money, energy, and other resources. If you put your energy into the sessions and some time into working on skills between sessions, you will get more out of your experience.
What does LCSW mean? Are you a licensed therapist?
If you've been searching for a therapist, you've noticed there are a lot of initials after our names! What does it all mean? Essentially, there are several different graduate level degrees and licensing processes to become a licensed psychotherapist in California.
Social Workers get a Masters in Social Work (MSW), and we get the LCSW license, which stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Marriage and Family Therapists usually have a masters degree in clinical counseling, and you will see MFT after their name. Psychologists usually have a doctorate in psychology and usually have PsyD or PhD after their name. Occasionally, medical doctors (MD's) or Nurse Practitioners (NP's) who have psychiatric training are also psychotherapists and often prescribe medication and conduct medication management in addition to psychotherapy.
I've been in therapy before, and I don't know if it helped.
Many people tell me they've been in therapy before and are looking for something different.
Sometimes, they've felt judged or misunderstood in the past. They thought they were spending money and time educating their therapist about their identity, which isn't what you need when you're hurting or wanting your own personal growth. It's important to find an affirming therapist.
Also, I hear from people who have been in therapy in the past and are looking for something more interactive and goal-oriented. They tell me that they developed insight, and even felt better. However, they reverted to old patterns or found that they weren't able to make any sustainable changes to reach their goals.
People appreciate my interactive style that blends evidence-based practices along with approaches that work towards your goals, at your pace. I always include a final session with relapse prevention tools and brainstorm strategies to help you maintain the gains you've made in therapy.
CONNIE C. LINAS, LCSW
California License #LCS22837
NORTH OAKLAND OFFICE: 6355 TELEGRAPH AVE. #302 OAKLAND CALIFORNIA 94609 510-338-6655 CLINAS@HUSHMAIL.COM