Frequently Asked Questions
How will counselling help?
Counselling/therapy can help those who have been struggling with long term personal or relationship problems. It provides the emotional safety, professional guidance and support to work through those situations, resolve issues and find the solutions you need and bring about the changes you desire. It also helps to increase awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns so you are better equipped to make choices that will empower and help you to live up to your personal and relationship potential. This can include exploring and resolving underlying relationship or personal issues. It can bring a fresh perspective to an ongoing problem and point you in the direction of a new solution. It can also help you discover new ways to cope with stress and anxiety and improve your self esteem and boost self-confidence.
Is therapy confidential?
Providing an emotionally safe and confidential environment is our top priority. In general the law protects the confidentiality of all conversations between a client and a psychotherapist. I do not disclose information without your written permission. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that apply to counsellors and therapists in Alberta, such as:
- A therapist must report suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities
- If a client suggests intent to harm him or herself, a therapist will make every effort to enlist your cooperation to ensure your safety. If you do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without your permission to ensure safety.
- If a client is threatening bodily harm to another person, a therapist must notify the police and the intended victim.
What Should I Look for in a Couples Counsellor?
Knowing what to look for in a couples counsellor could mean the difference between staying happily married, and staying together at all…. Learn what to look for.
- A couples specialist. Make sure your therapist has specific training, experience and a continued focus on working with couples.
Couples counselling demands a very different set of skills than individual therapy. Individual therapists generally help people identify and process feelings so they can achieve personal goals. Couples therapists, on the other hand, need to be skilled at helping people overcome the differences that naturally arise in intimate relationships. They need to know what makes a relationship tick and how to get it back on track.
Working with couples also has a different dynamic than individual therapy. With individual therapy, for example, a therapist can often quietly draw out an individual by saying, ‘Tell me more about that.’ In couples therapy, the exchanges can be volatile and emotionally intense and the stakes can be much higher.
The couples therapist needs to be able to see both sides and navigate an angry party of two and establish boundaries and guidelines to make the counselling experience a safe and successful one.
- A therapist who is committed to helping you work through the difficulties to come out the other side.
You need a therapist who is committed to your well-being and to your success, even when the way forward isn’t clear to you.
There is an important practical consideration, here, too. For many reasons, not the least of which are the dramatic emotional and financial costs that would be imposed on the couple and on other family members by a divorce, your couples counselor should be the last one in the room to encourage divorce.
Feel free to ask about the point at which a therapist sees divorce to be a viable alternative. You need a therapist committed to helping you find solutions to your problems rather than helping you leave your relationship when things get rocky.
- A counsellor who helps you focus, set goals and make progress.
You need a therapist who will help you to set specific goals, to give you a focus over time and to serve as a benchmark for your progress. If you don’t begin to see and feel some progress within two or three sessions, you should address your concern with your therapist.
- A counsellor who puts the power of your relationship back in your own hands.
The first step for couples is to make progress in overcoming their immediate issues.
At the same time, you want a therapist who helps you put the power of your relationship back in your own hands. This happens by learning skills of communication, how to look at problems from both points of view, how to fight constructively and how to negotiate a path that is agreeable to both of you.
With this, couples gain confidence and deepen their ability to experience a more fulfilling ongoing relationship together.
What can we expect in an initial couple session?
Expect to participate in a working session, not just an information gathering meeting.
We will spend time getting to know each other, discuss why you are here, start to explore what prompted the session and what you want to gain from counseling .
From there Dr. Ottawa will begin to work together with you to gain a clear understanding of what is happening in the relationship, the various issues that are being presented and some of the factors that have led to the development of the issues.
Depending on what information is given and what is needed, and the time left in the session, Dr. Ottawa sometimes is able to give a specific skill that will help to stabilize the situation.
The first session is about getting started. 75 minutes does not allow all the history of the relationship to be discussed nor does it allow time for specific resolutions or closure to the issues described. It is about starting to move forward in the direction you want.
The session ends with an assessment of your situation, and a discussion of your options and recommendations for moving forward. Specific homework questions to your situation will be given after the session. At times, we may agree that it is necessary to take certain actions outside of regular sessions, and/or read a book to expedite the counseling process.
Dr. Ottawa endeavors to work together with couples to finding the solutions to their situation.
Should I come alone or with my partner?
We provide both individual and couple counseling. It’s almost always best by far when couples come to sessions together and this is our strong recommendation. If you have a concern for your relationship and your partner is reluctant or unwilling to come, it is possible to make changes on your own. A systemic approach recognizes that changes in one part of the system will affect the rest of the system.
Is there a minimum booking?
In order to bring the most success out of your session with Dr Ottawa we have a minimum booking of 50 minutes for individuals and a 75 minute minimum for couples/families. There is lots to talk about and lots of progress to be made, we want to make sure you have the proper time with Dr Ottawa to do that, so extended are available upon request as well.
What is your cancellation policy?
If you do not show up for your appointment, and you have not notified our office 48 hours in advance, you will be expected to pay for the cost of the missed session. The fee for services is waived if you need to cancel due to an emergency or illness.
How much does counseling cost?
Individual and Couple sessions are available on a fee-for-service basis. To help individuals to get the most out of their sessions we have a 50 minute minimum booking for individuals, and for couples in counselling it takes longer to get into depth on the issues than it does for one person on a standard 50 minute session. It has been our experience that couples get about twice the benefit with a session 50% longer. For maximum impact, we recommend 75 minutes.
50 minute individual sessions is $159.00 plus GST = $166.95
75 minute couples sessions are $238.50 plus GST = $250.43
We leave plenty of time between appointments, so if on an individual basis or a couple basis, you and your partner are needing more time, that is available, however we charge for the time that is used after the 50 minutes or the 75 minutes.
90 minute family sessions are $286.20 plus GST = $300.51
It is recommended that you call first (780-991-5117) to make sure that we block the right amount of time for you. When 3 or more individuals are involved in the session, usually more time is needed to have a more successful outcome.
What Couples Need to Know About Insurance Coverage for Couples Counselling Coverage
You might think that insurance coverage for couples counselling is like medical insurance, but it’s different. With the combination of public health care coverage in Alberta and a typical private company plan such as Blue Cross, for example, most of us expect to have very complete and comprehensive coverage for the bulk of our medical needs.
However, when it comes to having complete insurance coverage for couples counselling, that may not be the case.
- Plans vary widely but on a typical private plan “core” insurance plan might cover as little as 25% of the cost of counselling depending on the plan. It can also be less if there is a cap on the number of sessions covered. (which is often the case.)
- It can get complicated. You could be eligible for more coverage through your health spending account, if you have one. On the other hand, you might be eligible for less since certain professionals are covered and certain ones are not. This varies from plan to plan and this can also change over time.
So, Rule #1 is save yourself disappointment and do not assume. Check your coverage in advance.
Dr Ottawa is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Psychotherapist.
Confidentiality & Privacy
Confidentiality is an essential element of the counselling service we provide.
Should you decide to use your insurance, however, you need to know this information will become part of your medical insurance record. While the intention of insurers and is always that these files remain secure and confidential, we all know that your data is stored on electronic information systems and despite their best efforts, there is no system that is infallible.
For many people this may not be an issue. For others, for example,
- in highly sensitive positions such as airline pilots, law enforcement officers, or persons with security clearances,
- with high public profiles, or medical professionals, this may be a consideration in choosing to use or not use your insurance.
Rule #2. “There aren’t hard and fast rules, here. You’re the one who needs to decide. Be aware of what you might be getting into before you get into it.”
Some larger professional service firms, for example, those with medical backgrounds, choose to offer direct billing for select insurance plans as a convenience for clients.
At New Start Counselling we find it works better to bill you directly, providing assistance where we can.
We believe this is a better arrangement for everyone since it makes it clear that we have only one client to serve and to satisfy, namely you. (Not you along with an insurance company, or even you versus an insurance company.)
There’s a second benefit as well. Your involvement in paying for your counselling gives you added motivation to get your issues resolved. Since couples counselling is only successful with your full participation, it can help when you know what you’re spending your money on and understand your essential role in creating value through your participation in counselling. Even when you’re being repaid in whole or in part by your insurer.
We recognize that, too often for many couples, counselling could be their last good shot at changing the course of their relationship. It helps to get administrative matters like insurance, right. However, we should never allow a focus on administration matters to detract from what is most important: getting the couples counselling help you need when you need it.
How long will it take and how do I know it’s time to end?
This varies with each individual, couple and situation. Your therapist will give you an assessment and discuss your options with you in your initial appointment.
How do you know when it’s time to end treatment? A simple answer is, when your goals have been met. We will make a recommendation to you as to what’s required, options for achieving your goals and an assessment of progress as we go along. And you decide.
What’s the difference between counselling and therapy?
Counselling refers to taking a short-term problem focused approach toward resolving concerns. Therapy is often more in depth, including exploring underlying issues. Both counselling and therapy involve conversations designed to resolve issues, facilitate growth, improve communication and promote healthy relationships.
What days and times are appointments available?
Appointments are available Monday through Friday including evenings. Call the New Start Counselling Services office at 780-991-5117 or book an appointment online.