I am a licensed counseling psychologist, and the Director of Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
This website contains a information for people interested in working with me for counseling or mental health coaching, or my work on campus mental health systems.
I hope you find something helpful while you are here, and please contact me with any questions or interest in working together: [email protected]
Client’s Guide to Counseling
If you are just getting started in your search for a therapist or coach, please read below for a guide to make things easier to understand. In general, mental health services are filled with different titles and technical jargon, and those things can make the search daunting, whether you are in Rhode Island or anywhere else. TL:DR at the bottom.
Types of Providers: There are a number of different professions that can offer counseling (also referred to as psychotherapy, but the terms are basically interchangeable). The most common you will find are clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists (PhD, clinical social workers (LICSW), licensed mental health counselors (LMHC), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), and psychiatrists (MD, DO). In general, these distinctions are unimportant for most clients. All of them can be helpful, and these differences are really just about level of education (PhD or MA) and training approach (like how much they learned about diagnosis and research). The biggest difference to know is that a psychiatrist is mostly focused on providing medication, whereas all of the others offer mental health counseling.
I’m a counseling psychologist, so I have a doctorate (PhD), and the training I received was a balance of practical skills and understanding research to help people build on their strengths, while not overly focusing on specific diagnoses.
Different Approaches: You’ll see therapists of all sorts describe the approach they take by saying which types of therapy they provide. Some common examples are Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), interpersonal and relational therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic / Psychoanalysis, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and countless others. In general, these just indicate a difference in how much the person is going to focus on thoughts vs feelings, listening vs being active, and past vs present issues.
Others will write about being “eclectic” or integrative. This basically means they will sample from a range of approaches and mix things together depending on who they are working with. This is how I practice. Just like the previous section, much of his stuff may not matter much for you, unless you are looking for a very specific type of therapist. It is important to note that research has shown over and over that none of these approaches is better than any others; basically all of them work. The effectiveness depends on other things like how much you actually like the therapist, how frequently you attend sessions, and how motivated you are to improve.
Counseling vs Coaching: Counseling and psychotherapy are going to look at patterns of symptoms and the problems happening in life, set up treatment goals to improve those things, and use one of the previously mentioned systems of therapy. The state of Rhode Island also makes sure there are standards for these professions by licensing them through the Department of Health.
Mental health coaches, wellness coaches, or even just a “health coach” is a growing field that is geared toward providing concrete help, skills, and to improve mental or physical wellbeing. Coaches often focus on helping people with improving sleep and physical health, being better at relationships and communication, managing stress and emotions, improving self-talk and self-worth, solving life problems, building better habits and routines, working on life goals and the future, and making sense of out of things happening in life.
There are also all kinds of certifications that let someone be called a “certified coach” in a certain area, but very few of those things are official. The state of Rhode Island does not have a license or department that regulates coaching. Coaches can also work with people that are not in the states where the coach is, which is another benefit of the approach. So if you live in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, or really anywhere else, a coach in Rhode Island could work with you.
Ultimately, the difference between the two services is actually a fine line, and a lot of the time there is substantial overlap in how a counseling session or a coaching session would look because both are a person focused on helping you make your life better.
Telehealth vs Office: The coronavirus pandemic really opened up the option of getting mental health help through remote video sessions (Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, FaceTime, phone, etc). The benefits of doing teletherapy (or ‘telepsych’) are that you can do it from anywhere, and the number of providers available to people is higher since you can find anyone in your state (or beyond) rather than just who is in driving distance. Traditional office visits are still the most common way people work with a counselor. Research shows that both are effective and that neither is better than the other (kind of a theme at this point).
My practice is all teletherapy, and although I’m based in Providence, I see people from all over Rhode Island (Pawtucket, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Barrington, Bristol, Westerly, Warwick, Cranston, Middletown, Portsmouth, Newport, Woonsocket, Smithfield, etc).
Generalist vs Specialist: A generalist in mental health counseling is going to be someone that can work with a wide range of people, and it’s so common that most people don’t even refer to themselves that way. There are also many self-identified specialists that work with people that have depression, anxiety (like generalized anxiety disorder), substance use issues (alcohol, marijuana, etc), relationship problems, communication, parenting, work and career development, OCD, anger, trauma, etc. Other therapists may say they specialize in certain populations like college students, small business owners, artists, parents, doctors, caregivers, etc.
Like many of the things above, this stuff might not matter for most people. Just because someone says they specialize in something does not mean they have extra skills or training, and sometimes it’s just marketing. Some notable exceptions to that are for grief counselors, eating disorder specialists, therapists working with children, sex therapists, and addiction specialists.
Insurance vs Self-Pay: Many people use insurance to pay for psychotherapy. The big insurance carriers in Rhode Island are Blue Cross of Rhode Island, United Healthcare, and Cigna, although there are many others. Your ‘copay’ is the amount you pay for each session, although it’s slightly more complicated than just that. Sometimes you may have a ‘deductible’ that applies, which is an amount of money you have to pay first before the copay is allowed. For most plans you get a lower copay for providers “in network” (who are contracted with your insurance company), although most plans also let you work with people “out of network” (who are not contracted with your insurance company) for a slightly higher fee. The benefits of self-pay are that you can operate outside of all of the restrictions and issues with insurance, but for a lot of people the cost is prohibitive. Insurance does not cover coaching.
At the moment I am not contracted with any insurance companies, but I can help you work with me as an out of network provider. If you want to work with me and you aren’t sure about your insurance, I can call for you and get the plan details and help make sense of it.
How To Find A Therapist: The most common ways people find mental health counselors are either word of mouth, searching Google for terms like “counselor near me” or “therapist near me”, or using one of the major counseling databases like PsychologyToday or ZenCare. I’d suggest using all of these tools to see who is available, since each of them may bring different results.
TL:DR or What Actually Matters: OK, so with all of that said, what actually matters? First off, it’s hard to even say who is the “best couples counselor” or “best therapist” in Rhode Island because it is totally an individual preference. I’d say the biggest thing to consider is how much you have a positive experience with the therapist, regardless of the other stuff.
As you do your search, I’d suggest reading the websites from a bunch of counselors or coaches, seeing who looks friendly or makes you feel hopeful (like they could understand you or your concerns), who you feel like you could trust, or who may have something to offer you. I’d also suggest not getting focused on just one person to start, but meet a couple and pick the best fit after that. After you get going, if you don’t feel like you’re progressing how you want, tell the counselor. And if things don’t get better after that, then find another person who can help.
I certainly hope I may be that person for you, and if so, then contact me today so we can set up a time to meet soon. If not, I hope you found this helpful and I wish you the best in your search.