Right or wrong, I often judge an organization by how well it does the little things. It may not show the worker’s skills, but it shows the attention and dedication of management. Attention to the small details tells me how well an organization will handle the big things (provided they don’t lose the forest for the trees). The little things also tell me how much an organization’s management cares about client\patient\customer care versus cost-cutting and profits because attention to the small details does not always directly pay off in dollars and cents. At Cardinal Point Counseling, most small (within reason) and every large detail is important. The following are ways in which we may be different. In fact, Cardinal Point Counseling was just awarded the “Best Marriage or Relationship Counseling Award for Dublin in 2022” for client-friendly business practices.
- It’s Not Just a Job or Business but a Passion and Calling
Counseling is, unfortunately, the lowest-paying master’s degree+ profession in the country. It’s also one of the most emotionally demanding careers and requires many skills that aren’t easily taught. Many practices and agencies need to focus on making money because we all have to eat and pay bills, and this is understandable.
Counseling happens to be my second career. I’ve already had a successful bread-and-butter career, paid off all debt, and saved a lot for retirement. My first career allowed me to receive valuable corporate experience that many counselors do not have. However, counseling is my true passion and most closely matches my aptitude, skills, and passions, My practice comes second only to my family. It’s not a job, but something I enjoy and believe I was made to do. My practice isn’t just a way to make money and isn’t just to help people, but is a fundamental part of who I am.
- A Nice Office
Many counseling and healthcare offices are understandably in old buildings with worn carpets, flashing fluorescent lights, and limited parking (among other issues). Some offices are not ADA accessible. We believe clients should have a great waiting room shared among many businesses to give them privacy. We think there should be receptionists to greet you. We believe the counseling room should have windows and privacy at the same time. I once met with a great therapist who was put in an office where patients had to turn their heads 90 degrees to see her seated at a desk directly next to them, instead of being across from them. It’s not the provider’s fault (and again, she was great), but showed poor attention to the full client experience. Counseling can be anxiety-producing the first time (understandably, but needlessly), so you should at least have a good environment with a convenient location, great parking, and good communication regarding what to expect and where to go.
- We Don’t Use Laptops During the Main Appointment
Laptops in healthcare are becoming more common. How many doctors have you seen who never or rarely have a chance to look you in the eye? Laptops are convenient and save time over writing on paper and transferring notes to a computer. That said, we don’t believe therapists should ever look at a screen (unless doing telehealth) instead of you. Many healthcare providers have canned pre-made electronic forms that save time and allow seeing more patients, but they don’t necessarily allow for individualized care. Having a professional therapeutic relationship requires eye contact (in our opinion), and the use of laptops is limited to perhaps a couple of minutes per session if it cannot be avoided altogether.
- We Read Your Intake Forms Ahead of Time
How many times have you completed intake forms from a health professional only to be asked the same questions when you entered the office? What was the point of the intake forms in the first place (probably just for insurance)? We read your forms (provided they are completed at least 24 hours in advance) and focus on asking questions about what you wrote, as opposed to making you repeat all the same information. This saves you time and money and allows us to come to your appointment a bit more prepared.
- We Don’t See Too Many Clients
I limit myself to a maximum of twenty clients a week and typically try to stick to closer to fifteen. This allows time to review your notes from the prior appointment in advance (usually), conduct essential research if needed (counselors should never stop learning, but most don’t have the time), and attain ongoing training. It also helps keep counselors feel fresh by limiting their caseload. Unfortunately, too many practices have quotas on the number of clients that must be seen, or counselors are paid so poorly that they must burn themselves out to make a semi-decent living. It’s not the therapist’s fault, but overworking is also not a model we follow. I believe everyone wants to help people and do their best, but the system has elements of brokenness (like all systems) that can make it difficult.
- You Always Have Choices Regarding Your Treatment
Many counselors tell you what you will work on (presumably after asking about your goals, but not always) and have a set process. Cardinal Point Counseling prides itself on an individualized experience. You won’t be told to complete assessment A or a certain number of couple versus individual appointments. Recommendations will be made, but the choice is yours. Pre-marriage counseling is a little more structured, and we can undoubtedly provide structure if you come in without knowing what you want.
- We Offer Different Appointment Options
Insurance often dictates appointment duration, how long you may receive treatment, and what interventions will be covered. Since we don’t take insurance, we can offer what makes sense for you instead of having that dictated by a business trying to maximize profits by limiting and controlling your care. So, for example, you can choose different appointment lengths and package options or stick with standard on-demand 50-minute appointments.
- We Don’t Mess With Insurance
You may not see this as a pro. For some people, this is not a pro. The reality is that insurance is a gray area with couples counseling. Many clients report that a prior couples counselor only asked for and worked on one person’s goals with the other person present. This is because many believe the insurance model doesn’t support a true couples model where each person is equal, and the focus is on the relationship. Relationship issues are not inherently medical problems. Suppose you intend to work on something like communication. In that case, insurance may not cover it or only cover it if your provider is willing and able to report to an insurance company creatively. Those who take insurance also often generally have longer wait times. Not taking insurance allows us to focus on client care instead of billing hassles. We can give you a superbill so you can try to submit out of network, but we don’t fudge the notes or make up a diagnosis to make them more likely to be accepted by insurance.
- We Usually Have Short-Term Availability
Not taking insurance typically allows us to find you a slot in a week or two. We also have late Wednesday evening availability and appointments from 5-6 on other week days. The prime spaces, of course, fill faster.
- We Offer Some Weekend Appointments (during the summer)
Not everyone can make appointments during the week. For that reason, we offer Saturday morning appointments. Some people complain that these are too early, but it gives you the rest of your day. If you have Saturday mornings off and the appointment times are too early, you may not be genuinely committed to counseling, and it may not be a good use of your time 😊
- There is Easy Online Scheduling
Scheduling is easy and transparent. You can see our calendars and pick whatever times are open. While clients are welcome to call or email, online scheduling eliminates potential back and forth. You can also reschedule or cancel online. The process is not meant to be difficult for you.
- There is a Great Client Portal
All of your records are stored securely on a client portal. You have access to the portal for completing intake forms (no need to sign and scan paper), sending secure messages, scheduling and managing appointments, and viewing or uploading relevant documents.
- There is Transparency in Pricing
The fees for all appointments are displayed from the “Fees” menu on the website. Costs also appear when scheduling. So there is no need to call and receive a sales pitch where you only find the price at the end.
- We typically have a <24 Hour Return Message Time
If you contact us, you will be contacted within 24 hours (often sooner) unless there is a vacation or other out-of-office reason.
- We Offer Specialized Couples Counseling and Have a Narrow Focus
With a focus on couples, anxiety, and depression, you get a therapist with specialized knowledge in that area. Many therapists understandably try to treat many things and become a jack of all trades but a master of none. However, there is enough to learn just about treating couples to keep a counselor busy full-time, all the time. We help a few clients with anxiety and depression, as they are such common conditions, but most work deals with relationships. Cathy Dye has specialties in other individual counseling as well.
So, I already created the title “Fifteen ways…”., but am thinking of more. Here goes:
16. We Are Not Afraid to Make Appropriate Therapeutic of Self-Disclosure
Many therapists are afraid to share information about themselves. It is true that counseling should absolutely and unequivocally not be about the counselor’s problems and self-disclosure is sometimes avoided for fear that it could be inappropriate or compromise a professional relationship. That said, research shows that intelligent clients like to know when their counselor can relate or if they have something from their own experience that can help the clients. Personally, I dislike seeing a therapist, sharing everything about myself, and knowing absolutely nothing about them. If and only if self-disclosure helps with the therapeutic process, we are not afraid to use it.
17. We won’t Hesitate to Apologize
Many healthcare professionals are trained to NEVER apologize. In fairness, we live in an overly litigious society. We are all human and sometimes make mistakes due to the emotionally draining nature of the job and because we are human. If we are three minutes late and not actually sorry because of an emergency, you’ll still be thanked for waiting. One client said they didn’t think I was fully attentive because I was drinking coffee during the session. I apologized and put it down, but expect that I’ll be drinking coffee if the appointment is at 8 AM.
And beyond these things, the therapist’s fit is perhaps the most important. We are not salespeople and want you to find what is best for you. Some high-conflict couples want an aggressive therapist who will just tell them what to do (they are probably not looking for us), and some want a therapist who can be kind when appropriate and also appropriately direct when necessary. If we aren’t the right fit, we can help you find someone who is. Having a specialist in your area of concern can be important, especially with couple therapy. Does your therapist see couples, or do they specialize in seeing couples? There can be a big difference.
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