Preparing For Your First VisitFrequently Asked Questions
Prepare For Your First Visit!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is counseling for me?
Counseling is the process of getting help in the midst of difficulty. At Optimum Joy each therapist seeks to create a safe place for you to discuss what’s on your mind, and help you create options that were not previously available. This process can be difficult at times, but often the rewards far outweigh the investment of time, money, and energy. With almost anything, what you personally invest impacts the outcomes.
How long does counseling or therapy take usually?
There are many factors that influence the length of the therapy process. Some common issues that influence length of time are the duration and severity of the issue(s), family of origin, support system, and personal style with respect to change. Research shows that you should feel initial symptoms reduced after 8-12 sessions. However, we encourage you to consider at that time if underlying issues have been addressed and resolved. Realistically resolving deeper patterns and issues can take 6 months to a year. Of course, your therapist will be tracking your progress with you the whole time and you two can come up with a plan together based on your progress!
What to expect when you contact us for the first time?
When you call our office for the first time, follow the prompts for “First Time Callers” to leave a voicemail. Please leave your name, telephone number, and suggestions for good times to reach you. Our Intake Coordinator will return your call as soon as possible.
Once the Intake Coordinator reaches you, she/he will ask you for several pieces of information to assist in getting you connected to the best therapist for your situation.
Our Intake Coordinator will review the following information:
- In general terms, why are you seeking counseling? (We want you to have a therapist who is an expert in your area of concern.)
- In choosing a therapist, do you have a gender preference? (You may know that you want a male or female therapist; but if this is not an issue, that gives you more options!)
- Are there limitations as to when you can schedule an appointment? More appointments are available during the daytime hours as evening appointments tend to book up quickly. We will talk through finding an appointment time that consistently works for you.
- Are you planning to use a health insurance benefit? If so, please be prepared to provide the information found on your insurance card. We are in-network with BCBS PPO plans, and our staff can call your insurance to determine out-of-network coverage for any other insurance. If curious about coverage, please fill out this form, along with a picture of the front/back of your insurance card, and email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Are there any special needs related to language, culture and/or building accessibility?
If you prefer corresponding via email, you can reach the Intake Coordinator at email@example.com.
Please include the information above in your email, as well as any other questions/comments you may have.
*If you are using an insurance benefit, we strongly recommend that you talk with your insurance company and/or your employer prior to your first appointment to gain a full understanding of your benefits. If you don’t feel comfortable calling, our staff can call on your behalf. (See below for further insurance considerations and questions.)
Is there anything I need to bring on my first visit?
What to expect from your first appointment?
In general, it is a good idea to come early for the first appointment, so you don’t feel too rushed.
At your scheduled time, your therapist will greet you in the waiting room and show you to his or her office. A session is approximately 50 minutes long. Your therapist will want to learn about you and why you have decided to come for counseling. It will be helpful for you to provide a brief description of the issues that have brought you to counseling. Your therapist will ask follow-up questions to fill in some of the background and enrich his or her understanding of the issues.
At the beginning of the session, it may be helpful to remember that your therapist has literally spent years of training in listening and asking questions. You are not doing this alone. Your therapist is here to work with you in making this process a helpful, comfortable, and productive experience. We believe that counseling is a collaborative effort between you and your therapist.
The length of treatment depends on the problems being addressed, your personal style with respect to change, the strength of rapport between you and your therapist, and the frequency of meetings which can affect the pace at which you and your therapist can work on problems. All of these things can be talked over with your therapist
At a minimum, counseling can provide at least two things. First, counseling provides a safe place to talk over your difficulties with someone with experience helping people. Second, counseling generally adds some clarity about decision-making options and provides a healthy place to brainstorm ideas about what to try next. Whatever the case, counseling can be tailored to your situation and together with your therapist, you can sort out the goals that will make counseling meaningful and helpful for you.
What about medication?
Our therapists specialize in providing the counseling treatment. While medication can be an invaluable tool to your counseling process, in Illinois counselors may not prescribe medication. We recommend medication to be discussed and prescribed by a psychiatrist, rather than using a primary care physician. This is because psychiatrists have specialized training and experience in assessment and monitoring medication used for mental health concerns. Your counselor can help you identify symptoms and think through if seeking the medical support of a psychiatrist would be helpful to you. We also keep a referral list of psychiatrists in Chicago if you are needing to contact one.
Where are our offices located?
410 S Michigan Ave, Suite 626, Chicago, IL 60605
How much does each session cost?
Your session cost will vary with your particular therapist. The cost may also vary if you decide to use insurance and how much your insurance will cover. The initial visit includes a first-time administration start-up fee. Our Intake Coordinator is trained to listen and match you with the therapist qualified to fit your needs and will provide detailed payment information on the phone when you reach out for your specific therapist match. You can call our intake coordinator today at 312-772-9796, extension 0.
Will my insurance cover the cost of sessions?
This depends upon the plan you have with your specific insurance company. Coverage varies widely between insurance plans. We are currently in-network with BCBS PPO plans and will bill your insurance for you under these plans. All other insurance plans can utilize the out-of-network benefits available to them. We collect the fee for session at the time of the appointment and give you a receipt with everything you need to file a reimbursement claim with your insurance. We can work together to understand your coverage and get you the help you need.
Do you contract with insurance companies?
We are committed to you & your family’s privacy, their confidentiality, and want you to have complete control over their health records. Submitting a mental health invoice for reimbursement carries a certain amount of risk to your confidentiality, privacy and future capacity to obtain health or life insurance or even a job. That is why we caution people to consider their risk to privacy prior to billing insurance for mental health services.
We are in-network with BCBS PPO insurance plans and our office bills these plans directly to the insurance. You would simply be responsible for any co-pay or unpaid services.
We can also provide you with receipts and a coded visit bill which you may submit to your insurance company for out-of-network reimbursement if you choose. We encourage you to check with your insurance regarding the specifics of your policy. If you want more information on this, don’t hesitate to contact our intake coordinator.
If you’d like to know your insurance coverage, call us today!
What if my insurance does not cover my sessions?
There are cases where some insurance companies will not cover your mental health needs. If your insurance is in this category, you have a couple of choices. You may decide to pay for your sessions out-of-pocket, or you may decide to reduce the frequency of your visits or participate in group counseling. Please bring up financial concerns with your therapist so you can make a plan together.
The Benefits and Risks of Using Insurance
There are, however, some considerations you may want to keep in mind in deciding whether or not to use insurance. The most obvious concern is privacy, especially in situations where benefits may be administered through your employer’s human resource department or a managed care company. Many managed care programs require additional information beyond a diagnosis and sessions dates, such as treatment summaries and goal statements to determine eligibility for ongoing benefits. Optimum Joy is committed to preserving your privacy according to Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA) and to providing insurance companies only what is required to attain coverage. Unfortunately, we can not make assurances about what happens to information after it leaves our office. Further, use of insurance of any sort creates a record that might come into play later on when completing applications for life, health or disability insurance. People have been denied insurance and in some circumstances jobs because of preexisting mental health diagnosis.
There are also situations where the insurance benefit for mental health may be quite limited or situations where a deductible may be quite large. In such situations you may need to weigh the expected benefit against the cost of sessions anticipated.
We can not advise you regarding your decision to use insurance but feel an informed decision is the best pathway to a good decision.