Therapy cults

A colleague of mine is working with a client who went through a very traumatic experience with a therapy cult years back in an “encounter therapy”. This therapy cult and its demise are detailed in “Therapy Gone Mad,” and it’s scary stuff.

Scarier, some therapists still use these techniques, and their sales pitches can confuse and beguile people who are seeking to heal their relationships.

Here are some things to look out for, if you’re looking at a therapy group or therapeutic community. These “therapies” can be deeply damaging. And they often start with confusion, and with planting seeds of doubt about even the aspects of yourself that you like or the parts of your life that are going well:

  • The leader makes you feel like his group or community is the only way to healing.
  • The leader casts suspicion on your well-being. They may say things like, “You say you’re sad, but you’re probably way more sad than you think you are,” or, “You say your relationships could use some improvement, but they’re probably actually a disaster,” or, “You are so successful in your work because you’re hiding from your pain.” This leads to the next piece:
  • The leader and/or group imply or say outright, “You have to feel much worse before you can feel better,” and may suggest that you quit your job, move in with the group, or sign up for much more intense therapy. Breakdowns are considered a path to breakthroughs, so you’re not doing well until you’re really suffering. Bad news!
  • You begin to isolate yourself from your friends, hobbies, and work. The leader or the community’s words and opinions and activities begin to replace your own opinions, friendships, and your life.
  • You’re told that you have to get in touch with your deepest pain before you can heal. If you don’t spontaneously begin sharing deep pain, the leader or group elicits or creates pain with their confrontation, rejection, or withdrawal.
  • Getting approval and support are contingent on you acting broken, needy, desolate, or confrontational enough (the other side of the coin) that you’re considered worthy of attention.

If you run into a therapist or a group that make you uncomfortable, watch out for those warning signs.

This isn’t to say that healthy group therapy and healthy therapeutic communities can’t elicit some discomfort. They often do! But they will also focus on helping you feel the support of the group, and often on gaining skills to help you to connect, communicate, and maintain equilibrium in the midst of triggering  interactions.

If you’re in a group that has several of the traits I describe above, consider taking a break or getting a second opinion. Notice if your life is getting better through the therapy. Are you building more of a life, or is your life shrinking as you get more involved with the group?

Not all therapy is therapeutic, and you get to make a choice about the therapy that’s right for you. That therapy will lead to you feeling better over time, not worse!


Stuck in your own head?

One of the things that interests me most about a client is the habits s/he brings to relationships.

For example, I once got to work with a woman who had been in quite a lot of therapy. And she could speak about psychology and psychological concepts and theories almost better than I could! She was enormously insightful. Except….

His problem she came to therapy with? She felt disconnected from people. Listening to her talk, it was no wonder. It wasn’t just her clearly genius IQ  (Which is certainly something in itself to tend to: When you’re very smart, you have to learn to “translate” your thoughts to each listener, and not only does that take energy and effort, it can leave one feeling lonely.); it was that she was going away from her feelings and away from relationships into herthoughts. If I asked how she felt, she told me about a theory she’d read once. If I got really close to home on a feeling, she would retreat into philosophical musings that were intended to make feelings less relevant.

At base, this woman had a very deep yearning to connect. The yearning was so deep, in fact, that she had found lots of hiding places for herself so that she wouldn’t feel so lonely. And, like it just about always works out, by escaping the feelings of loneliness, she perpetuated them. It was as if she’d unconsciously decided at some point, “I’m not going to get what I need from relationships, so I won’t make myself available for them.”

My work with her was to help herto unravel the pain behind this disconnection. It was to translate his theories  to find the pain of her longing for connection, a pain long buried. It was to keep pointing out he habits of “going away” from our relationship into her thinking, and to gently disrupt this pattern and bring her back, over and over again, to in the moment connection, with himself and with me.

It’s tricky sometimes to work with people who are intellectually gifted, because their sharing of thoughts both contains important clues to their feelings, and has often become a way to disconnect as well.

I honor people’s intellect,; I listen to their insights for clues, and I also name it when I see them “go away” from themslves or from me via their thoughts. And I name this as both a skill and a strategy that these clients have learned. The more formidable the intellect, the more raw the feelings often are. This is something I’ve learned. So sometimes clients and I start to together surmise how much pain they’ve been feeling by just how strong their desire is to intellectualize in a particular session. Over time, they connect with what’s really happening within them.  Over time, they learn to know when they’re going away from connection. And they learn to come back.

Often, they need to trust that, if they do show up as themselves, there will be someone there to meet them. It’s my role to show them that I will be here, and that they can trust me. They don’t have to bear or hold their feelings all by themselves, and they don’t have to hide. Someone can be with them as they’re being just who they are, as raw or painful or fragile as they feel.

Intellect is a great resource. It can also become a formidable defense. In counseling, you can learn how to honor your intellect and your feelings, because both are important.

You can reclaim the disowned yearnings beneath your carefully crafted analysis. And then, you can be free to be you, and claim both your intelligence and your feelings. When you know you’re okay just as you are, and you claim the parts of yourself and the feelings you’ve disowned, your life gains richness and you naturally cultivate deep, mutual relationships.



Trauma and the movie “Whiplash”

I was riveted when I first saw the movie “Whiplash”. The story line involves a young talented drummer who goes to one of the most prestigious music schools in the country, and goes to excruciating lengths to be “chosen” by a music teacher who can make or break a young musician.

Watching the movie the first time, I experienced a sense of emotional whiplash myself. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

People say this is a movie about artistic talent, or about the music industry, or about the “symbiotic relationship between student and mentor”.

I say it’s a movie about brutality and abuse. It’s a movie about gaslighting. It’s a movie about trauma, specifically about attachment trauma.

Attachment trauma: that’s the exploitation of the need human beings have for attachment, connection, respect, belonging

The main character in “Whiplash” is set up to be vulnerable to such horrendous trauma and to be enthralled to his abusive teacher through childhood experiences:

  • His mother leaving when he was a baby
  • A family that doesn’t appreciate his talent, focusing their affections on other members of the family
  • A family where each member is driven to gain acceptance through being “the best”

And probably other things as well.

If you grow up in a home where your basic needs for connection, recognition, and belonging aren’t met, you can become vulnerable to abusers, to cults, to dogmatic leaders.

The guy in the movie was talented. Enormously so. He got so devoted to his teacher’s affection partly because the teacher skillfully used manipulation tactics to put his students in a constant state of frenzy and euphoria and terror combined. And partly because he had a longstanding need for validation, to be the best.

His need to be “chosen” by this abusive teacher was a huge liability for him. It left him open to mistreatment, abuse, and it could have led him to his own death. His rage at his teacher alternated with a deep need for this teacher’s acknowledgement.

Although I don’t usually see people caught in this extreme of situation, I do see lots of clients who have some unmet needs. “Childhood needs become adult needs.” The need my clients feel, for love, for connection, for validation, have sometimes been shut out.

Or they’ve sometimes taken over my clients’ lives in ways that lead them into relationships that aren’t right for them.

Either way, these kinds of empty spaces inside can leave you vulnerable. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

The good news about attachment troubles like this is that they’re really just normal human needs — human needs that haven’t been met yet. The needs we have for connection and belonging are beautiful. What’s tragic is when these needs are taken advantage of. Cults take advantage of basic human desires and needs. But good therapy helps you to embrace your humanity, notice your needs, and to get to know the parts of you that have felt empty or alone. And when that happens, you’re much much less vulnerable to people like the teacher in “Whiplash.”

For my clients who are experiencing big changes inside

I’ve been promising a post to a few of my clients for a couple weeks now. It’s a post devoted to the clients who are finding themselves at a new phase of the therapy, a phase that is bringing them into awareness of deeper places within themselves. This new awareness and this new welcoming of parts of themselves can be exhilarating, disorienting, lovely, confusing, joyful, jarring — all in the same day or week!

There are common themes and questions I’m hearing from the clients who are in the midst of this work. So here is my beginning idea of a guide for you to read — to help you to understand what’s happening, to help you know what to expect, and to help normalize any weird feelings and developments.

1. Don’t expect to have lots of words or  to know the meaning around all of it. 

Several of my usually articulate and verbal clients are finding themselves in some new places inside. Sometimes, there aren’t lots of words for these places — not at first, and sometimes, not at all. This is part of what happens when you get in touch with young stuff within you, or stuff that you’ve never really had acknowledged. The new feelings come first, and the words and the meaning come later. This is new if you’re used to talking a lot and analyzing things extensively. For now, it’s okay to let the analysis go. Let your mind do what your mind does, but also let yourself notice and welcome feelings, without trying to force yourself to come up with a meaning or a reason for them!

2. Honor the ebb and flow of emotions. 

When you’re doing this kind of work in therapy of welcoming parts of yourself that you haven’t been in touch with, there is a natural rise and fall of emotions and feelings. This ebb and flow is part of taking in new information, new ways of being within yourself, and new ways of being present in the world. Sometimes, it will feel wonderful, safe, and like you’ve found this delightful home inside yourself. At other times, it may feel like things go kinda blank inside, or like you’re momentarily self-conscious or a little disoriented. It’s all part of the change process. Just let it happen! You don’t take in a new way of being all at once. If you’ve seen a baby learning to walk, you know that it is not a straight, smooth, or linear progression. Sometimes, you might feel more sure footed with your healing, and some moments, you may feel like you’re falling on your face, or it’s all a bit confusing. Let all those feelings be.

3. Expect changes in areas you weren’t expecting them in.

When you start shifting foundational stuff within you, the reverberations from that work can go on for a long time, and can move in all kinds of directions. You may have started out wanting to work on a fear within yourself, and now, you’re finding yourself rediscovering a hobby, noticing new potential in relationships, or having novel spiritual experiences. When you do this kind of change work, it’s like you start to have a sense of more room within you. And this space starts to fill with other things! You also may notice that some of your old behaviors no longer quite fit. Let yourself honor reverberations.

4. Be gentle with yourself and notice your wants and needs.

As you’re getting in touch with new possibilities within you and in your world, you may find that you want a bit more rest, or more nurturing of some sort. You may find that you want more physical activity, or less. You may even notice different food preferences than you’ve been aware of — or other changes in your body. Profound change affects your subconscious desires, and it affects you deeply at a body level. So notice your body’s signals, and take care with them.

5. Expect that new layers of healing that want to happen will surface. This may feel like going backwards, but it’s really indicative of how far you’re coming.

Very often, a client will experience a major shift in some area of her feelings or her life. And then, she’ll start noticing another layer of feeling or struggle, and it might look bigger than it used to. Sometimes the feeling when this happens is something like, “Oh, crap. I thought I’d made all this progress, but here I am struggling with this same old thing, and even worse!”

That’s the feeling. It’s not quite the whole reality, though. Think of if you were getting your house repainted or remodeled. And 3/4 of it is all done. You marvel at how wonderful that 3/4 of the house looks. You enjoy the paint color, and all the changes. And then you walk to the other quarter of the house that hasn’t yet been remodeled. And it always looked okay before, but now it looks drabber than it ever has! You’re experiencing a sense of contrast between what’s changed and what hasn’t. You’ve been awakening a new sense of possibility lately, and that makes you look at your life and your feelings with new hope. New hope can feel a lot like discouragement or like going backwards. But it’s quite the opposite!

Let me know if there are other questions you’re having or developments you’re noticing as you do this deep work.

And also allow yourself to smell the flowers, to have times just to rest, relax, and be delightfully human! It’s like you’re learning new ways to be with yourself, and with the world. It’s an amazing process — just let it evolve and take its course! It’s a bit like with gardening — you don’t want to check every minute or hour to see if the seeds you’ve planted have grown yet — that can be discouraging. Just keep watering and nurturing those seeds, and you’ll be delighted with what grows out of this over time — perhaps without you even being consciously aware!

(By the way, other people will often notice the changes more than you will, which is why probably every client of mine who’s reading this article thinks this is really written for someone else who is really changing!)

I look forward to seeing you all soon!

And if you’re not a current client or you’re unsure of what I’m talking about with this “transformation” talk, but it sounds intriguing, feel free to drop me a line.

Recent trainings and shifts in how I do therapy with clients is leading to some profound differences for some people, so much that it was time to write a guide to this kind of deep transformation.



“What types of clients do you work with?”

After a talk I gave recently, a woman approached me and said, “I never realized before this talk just how much counseling can help with lots of things — not just the stuff people think of as ‘really messed up.'”

She was right! In general, folks who come to counseling are actually higher functioning than people who don’t seek help. More people you know are in counseling than you think, and some of the most “together” and caring people you’ve met seek help. They’re confident enough in themselves to know when it’s time for help, and they’re able to ask for it.

My clients can usually speak at length about other people’s needs, hurts, and fears. Some of them are healing professionals who have devoted their careers to helping others.

When I get clients together in a group, their intuition and care for one another is palpable. Their ability to connect with others and to empathize propels the healing of other clients. The room is full of caring, and laughter. It’s a safe place for tears too, and that’s largely because my clients make it that way.

My clients  have persevered, sometimes through very difficult circumstances.

Some of them don’t know at the beginning of therapy just how resourceful they’ve been. They minimize their struggles, underestimate their gifts, and understate the depth of who they are.

My clients are people, people I like.  They’re often people who want to give to others, who want to heal in ways that impact not just their lives, but their relationships, their communities, the people they come to care about and help.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to really ponder who I work with.

It makes me realize anew how deeply I respect the people I come into contact with every day. It is a gift to get to make an impact in their lives, and to really get to know who they are.

It’s more wonderful still when my clients themselves reach the realization of who they are. Often, a client will say something like, “You know, I’m finally coming to really know myself — and even starting to like me!”

I like my clients, and my clients come to like themselves. And that enriches their relationships, deepens their giving, and lets them reach out in new ways that open new opportunities for themselves and the other people in their lives.




I just completed year 1 of Sensorimotor Training!

Year one of Sensorimotor Training is complete for me now, and my, have I learned a lot!

You can find the description of what’s covered in year one here.

There is so much I learned, and so many ways this has changed my clients’ experiences of counseling.

Here are some of the most profound changes:

  • I understand my clients in different ways than I used to. I used to listen to and key in on emotions, stories, themes clients brought up — my therapy was fairly oriented toward words, stories, and emotions. These days, the piece I was missing before is in place, and that’s the body’s responses. By understanding much more about how the nervous system becomes out of balance through trauma and how to help you to find the balance you’re looking for, each session moves you toward more resolution. Rather than just “talking about,” we move through.
  • I can often see the difference between crying that’s helping you to move forward and tears that are part of a loop or a pattern. These days, I work to help clients minimize the tears that aren’t getting them anywhere. By the end of a session, there are often gentle tears that come from a different place inside the client — tears of grief or relief rather than tears of overwhelm.
  • I’ve learned how to help us to find a focus in each session. Rather than getting stuck in thinking aloud and getting lost in the loops our analytical minds often create, I can help us to find a focus that helps each session to go somewhere that leaves you feeling better than when you came in. When clients first encounter this way of focusing sessions, they often express some surprise at the shift from “free associating” from one thought to another to really giving time and attention to one thing. But when clients see the results that this focus gives, they’re believers, and often come in to sessions ready to work on one issue, one emotion, or one thought that keeps giving them trouble. Working on just one thing can have a ripple effect that helps resolve many things, while trying to work simultaneously on several things often keeps us from getting even one thing done!
  • Therapy isn’t “just sitting there”. Clients and I sometimes stand together, or sit on the floor. We work with the distance and proximity between us to get it “just right.” We might even take a walk or eat together (and by sharing this experience, we can often learn about and find resolution to eating problems as well!). Sensorimotor therapy focuses partly on helping you to find a sense of yourself in your own body. We do this at a pace that works for each client, and in ways that feel safe and relevant.
  • I believe more deeply than ever in the wisdom that each client brings to her own healing. I’m learning to be active in just the right ways to help you to move forward: no more, no less. I know many more ways to help you to find your next steps, but I also know more about trusting you and the signals you give. My clients now gain a sense of awe at the wisdom they hold, at the messages their postures and their breathing hold — It’s way less about me having some “solution” or “strategy,” and far more about helping you to be in touch with what was within you all along.

The year training has been phenomenal for me, so I’m eager to take level two, which will bring even more time, depth, and richness to my practice of sensorimotor techniques.



Feedback-Informed Counseling

I recently stumbled on “Feedback Informed” therapy research, and the findings are very compelling, so much so that I now ask all my clients for feedback on every single session.

Why is feedback so important? A few key reasons:

  • Most therapists think they’re awesome as therapists! Seriously. In the studies conducted on therapists where they were asked to rate their own performance, most therapists believed they were excellent with their clients. None of them rated their performance as below average! This tells me that, as counselors, we just don’t always know how we’re doing with each client. That’s where Feedback-Informed Treatment comes in.
  • Most therapists believe they’re asking for their clients’ feedback much more often than they actually are! 
  • Most clients have a bit of reluctance to say when something feels “not quite right,” so clients often bolt before therapists even know that anything was wrong! Getting feedback facilitates conversations, and in the studies where feedback was asked for, more clients stuck around and got better outcomes in therapy. Clients who are asked their honest opinion on what’s working and what isn’t are much more likely to stay, talk it out, and get the results they’re looking for.
  • Asking the client some very simple questions at the end of each session makes the client far more likely to mention it if something wasn’t quite right in session.
  • If counseling isn’t working as you’d like it to, we can change course, or look in a new way at what we’re doing and why. If I notice a client isn’t getting the results she’s looking for, I know we have a few things to talk about: Have we been talking about what’s most important to the client? Is the approach we’re using right for the client? Am I doing or saying something that is making things more difficult?

For the reasons above, I’ve started to use feedback in every therapy session. It’s very simple.

In the beginning of the session, (if you’re my client!), you rate how your life is going in a few different areas. And, at the end, you rate how the session was for you — Did we talk about things that were important to you? Did you feel heard and respected? Was the approach I used right for you? Overall, how did things go? Each questionnaire is intuitive, and it takes less than a minute.

So far, this feedback is a wonderful tool for my clients and me.

My clients and I get to discuss what worked and why it worked so well, and when something doesn’t go as well, we get to have that discussion, too.

I like it for the feedback I get,and I also like the way these kinds of questions empower the client. Counseling is a partnership. A counselor should not be doing some intervention to you. They should not stand over you, as a judge or self-proclaimed expert.

The research shows that therapy works better the more you feel like your therapist is with you as your ally. Interactive counseling where you feel valued, where your voice is heard, and where you can feel that your counselor is on your side, gets results.

Why is it so important that you feel like your therapist is on your side? Research shows:

What’s called the “therapeutic alliance,” this sense of the therapist being on your side and working with you on what’s important to you, is so important, that:

  • In studies where clients felt like their therapists understood them and cared, placebos worked better than real medication worked when the clients worked with counselors they perceived as less caring.
  • Therapeutic alliance impacts a clients’ success far more than the therapists’ credentials, years of experience, and approach.
  • In one-year follow up studies, the extent to which a client had felt cared about by his/her therapist was the biggest predictor of success.

The good news for therapists is this: By using feedback, we can find out how well we’re really doing by our clients, and our willingness to take in this feedback and adjust accordingly is worth more than our years’ of experience, how many trainings we’ve taken, or what credentials we have.

The good news for clients searching for a good counselor is this: You can find a counselor who really cares about your feedback, and who will work with you to make sure you’re getting the help that’s right for you. Your counseling isn’t something you have to just go to and settle for, with the hope that it works.

Good counseling is collaborative, and therapist and client get to talk regularly about what’s working and what isn’t, to make it better. Better counseling makes for better results. And better results in counseling lead to a better life!

My outcomes and what they mean

The feedback system I use is able to compare the results my clients get with average results and with the effects of a placebo. My clients, on average, show what the feedback system calls a “reliable clinical change” — far better than the change expected if you got no counseling at all. In terms of average results in counseling, my clients’ average results exceed those.

One of the markers of therapy where clients stay is that they notice some of the most dramatic changes in just the first three sessions. The results my clients typically get bears that out. It’s part of why my clients pay me for  a month in advance: After just 4 sessions, we almost always know that we’re a good fit and on the right track, or if it’s time to shift gears or refer a client to someone whose approach is a better fit for their needs.

By the way, this doesn’t mean I’ll kick you out if you don’t get those results the first month. It does mean we’ll both have a barometer of what’s going on, and a natural way to discuss what’s next.

I believe the very good results that clients often get in our work together is due to a few things, and they’re not all about me:

  • My clients choose to see me rather than just finding a nearby counselor or being assigned a counselor in an agency. This shows greater motivation from the start! By the time they sign on to work with me, they’re usually sure we’re a good fit. Especially when they’ve read my web content or watched my videos, or heard me speak. This makes a big difference in their outcomes!
  • I seek out client feedback every session, and if something isn’t working quite right, we work together to make things better the next time. This accelerates the counseling quite a bit, as we both know if our work is on the right track.
  • I receive expert consultation and trainings, so the clients who see me get the benefit not just of my experience, but of the experience of experts and other counselors I respect.

All of this helps a lot with the outcomes my clients most often achieve in therapy.

Want more information? Check out more about the system I use by looking at “”. And to find out about my scores and what they mean, just ask me, and I’ll be happy to tell you more details about how my data is looking, what my averages indicate, and what that means for my clients – and potentially for you!








Posts now show up on Facebook Page!

I’m connecting with modern technology!

You can like me on Facebook by liking “Michaela’s Counseling,” and you’ll automatically see it any time I post something new here!

Cool, huh?


My Commitments to You

My Commitments To You

  • I will respond genuinely to you and to what you say. The “blank screen” school of therapy believes that therapists ought to show nothing of their reactions or feelings to their clients. For folks who’ve  have felt that other people aren’t there for them, a “blank screen” can be harmful.
  • I won’t let your therapy drift. We check to see how you’re doing every session . And if you’re not doing well, I change something. I have even consulted with experts with worldwide reputation on behalf of my clients.  Some people think therapy is an endless journey with no real destination, but not mine. I won’t let your therapy drift.
  •  Whether you’ve trusted unsafe people too quickly or you’ve struggled to trust anyone at all, I’ll do what I can to help you to gauge your own sense of trust and mistrust with me, and to honor your need to keep yourself safe.
  • I’ll protect your confidentiality (Except for in super rare and obvious cases where I need to break your confidentiality to help protect your safety or that of someone else. You can ask me about what these situations are.). What you say to me stays with me. In my talks, trainings, and writings, I will not share identifiable details about you. The stuff that happens in our work together is up to you to share or to choose not to share with whomever you choose.
  • I will never ask you to keep a secret about our work together or anything that happens in it. What we talk about, what I say and do, everything about our work, is okay for you to discuss with anyone you want to!
  • I’ll welcome your thoughts, your intelligence, your intuition, your feelings, and your feedback.
  • I’ll welcome your whole range of feelings and reactions.
  • I’ll show up for you. I heard a story by a guy named Jack Watkins. He had a client who stormed into his office in a rage and tore all the books from his bookshelf at the end of their session together. Jack, without missing a beat, said, “So I’ll see you at the same time next week?” Whether you’re happy, mad, sad, ambivalent, or numb, I’ll be there. (That said, I’ll also help you to find ways to express yourself that don’t include destruction of my stuff or yours!).
  • I’ll help you to avoid overwhelm and overload in therapy. You probably have some intense memories and feelings, and I can help you work with that stuff at a rate that works for you.
  • I’ll  honor all the different parts of you. Maybe you’re in a difficult relationship, and a part of you wants to leave, and a part of you feels very attached to the person you’re in the relationship with. I’ll honor both parts. Maybe a part of you wants to be in therapy, and a part of you just wants to get the heck outta there! Good therapy will help you to honor both parts.
  • I won’t do all the talking, and I won’t leave you to do all the talking! What we do together will be interactive.
  • I will share with you what I know that can be helpful to you. Understanding the effects of trauma, ways to counter shame, and why your reactions make sense are all helpful pieces of therapy that help to deymystify what you’re feeling and what’s happening for you. In some ways, I’m like a consultant to you, sharing information to help you to gain expertise about yourself so that you can move forward.
  • I’ll help you to find the sense of space and/or closeness you need in order to find your own thoughts, needs, and feelings.
  • I’ll acknowledge it when I think I’m wrong. (And still keep an open mind when I’m pretty darn sure I’m right!).

When looking for a counselor, use the list above to notice which things resonate with you. When you interview a counselor, avoid seeing a therapist just because they’re covered by your insurance, or they’re close by. Take care with your healing, and find someone you connect with. Someone to really share with. Someone you can cry in front of, fight with, say no to, and ask for more from. Neither their Olympian detachment nor yours helps.

Therapists need flexibility as well as relatability.  A therapist who you can connect with who knows several ways to help you to move forward is preferable to a therapist who knows just one. Ask a prospective therapist questions, and listen to your feelings, your thoughts, and your intuitions, as well as to their answers.

And if these commitments sound good to you and you’d like to explore working with me, you can set up your initial consultation here.

“I can’t afford counseling because I’m in poverty”

empty jeans pocket : closeup of someone showing empty pockets on white background Stock Photo You’re looking for a counselor. But you’re not sure what to do about the fact that most of the counselors you think could help you charge more than you can possibly afford right now.

And maybe you’ve already found out that low-cost therapy is sometimes available, but it’s not all that easy to find a low-cost therapist with experience and a specialty in the area you need help with. (And finding help for any concern that requires more than a handful of sessions can all be tough, and most counselors who do such work aren’t advertising inexpensive rates.)

You’ve discovered that some counselors say they have a “sliding scale,” and then you find out that it only goes as low as 60 to 100 dollars per hour — and that’s still too much if you’re in poverty.

Don’t count yourself out of the possibility of good therapy yet. There are reasons that most therapists don’t advertise low-cost rates (even if they’d like to offer some). More about that below.

For now, don’t automatically assume that no therapist will work with you for a lower rate. There are therapists who may not advertise low-fee slots in their practice, but that doesn’t mean that none of them will work for a low fee with a motivated client.

If you like a therapist’s profile online, or you’ve heard good things about them, you can contact them in a way that’s more likely to get you the results you want.

Here’s why even counselors who are willing to work with some counselors for lower rates don’t often advertise this factl:

Most therapists (myself included!) have had plenty of inquiries from people who are asking for “cheap” or “low cost” counseling. And we’ve learned to filter out these requests. Most people who inquire solely about cost are not motivated to come to counseling. Even if it’s free. Simple as that.

And that’s why you need to have a different message in mind when you contact the counselor you want to work with. “Do you see people for cheap or free” will not win the heart of the counselor you want to see.

Here’s what to do instead — This works more often than you’d think. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s likely to greatly help your chances of getting in to see a therapist who can help you:

1. Learn something about your counselor online. Don’t write 30 counselors with the same exact inquiry. Find just one or two that you really get the sense you’d click with, who you think can help you.

2. Speak from the heart. Tell this counselor why you’d like to work with him/her. Explain what you’ve seen online or heard about this counselor. This will make the counselor less likely to hear you as a “bargain-hunter,” and will him or her know that you’re serious.

3. Make it clear that you’re motivated to work with someone who can help you. Many folks who’ve asked for low-cost counseling don’t show up to sessions, even after pleading desperation to see someone ASAP. So you will sound different by sounding motivated to show up to an appointment and interested in negotiating a good time for this counselor to see you.

4. Don’t give up, no matter the outcome.  Some counselors might offer you low cost resources you didn’t know about.

Some might offer you a lower-fee slot.

Some will ignore you, or hold firm to their fee. And that’s okay.

You don’t know what you can find if you don’t look at all.

Some of my clients got in my door by taking a risk, and leveling with me honestly about their financial situation.

Here are some low-cost or free things you can do to help yourself and find support:

Right now, if you can’t afford therapy, there is still hope for your healing, and there are still things you can do to make your life better. Today. Some of them cost a fraction of the money counseling costs. Some of them are free.

Use the resource of online information. More and more counselors are putting information and tips out there, for free. (I’m one of them. If you’re struggling specifically with trauma symptoms, subscribe to my newsletter and/or youtube channel to keep getting useful information.)

Search out topics you’re interested in — therapy topics, self-help topics, and topics that just plain interest you. By searching online, you’ll find great information, and perhaps even an online community you can connect with!

Reach out for support, and notice who in your life it would feel safe to talk with. “Just talking things out” is not at all the same as good therapy, but good connections and having places to talk things out can help you to move forward — and you never know what resources or connections you’ll find by reaching out.

In short — keep looking, and keep moving forward as best you can. Finding low cost counseling with a qualified therapist isn’t super easy — but it isn’t impossible either. Listen to your intuition. Keep working at it. And know that, with or without a counselor, your drive for healing will help move you into positive directions — just keep moving forward.

To learn more ways to move forward, both in therapy and in life, sign up for my newsletter and subscribe to my Youtube channel on the right!