dixonjparnelllpc

People have a lot of questions about therapy! Definitely drop a line if you have additional stuff you're wondering about.


About Therapy

Don't you get tired of people sitting around and talking about being sad all day? - No way! You know why? That's not all that people come to therapy for! Sometimes people's lives are totally together...but are still really anxious, or feel really lost but never talk about sadness at all. Or they just need help organizing their thoughts during a tricky phase of their life. Or simply to figure out what they'd be good at if they changed jobs. There are tears sure, but tears show up alongside joy too, you know!

So, do you think you can fix me? Or am I crazy? - Well, I don't consider myself a fixer of people-I think that's more what a chiropractor or dentist does! And you may well be crazy, but I don't think there's any truly unique crazy out there. We all do life our own way. Let's talk and see what we come up with.

I've never done the therapy thing before. What do you like, do? - I've found that people usually have a sense that something's just not right and they don't feel like they've got people with whom they can talk. Or they just want to be heard about some stuff they're not able to talk with anyone else about. Maybe they've had a recent loss, life transition, or a relationship that's gotten to a point of needing some changes. You don't have to justify coming to therapy-I definitely get that from people. It's a place to come where every single aspect of it I can control is solely about you and you alone.

How long will this take? - Everybody's case is different, so there's no set length of time for doing therapy. But people don't do the 'years' thing very often anymore. Sometimes people come twice a week; sometimes people do twice a month or even once a month. We both tend to just sorta 'know' when it's run its course, and is a natural place to end.

I cry a lot, I'm sorry. I hope you don't mind! - Not in the least. Just like on TV, tissues are always close by.

All I really need is someone to give me good advice. - Well, I'd be the wrong guy then. I want to come alongside you and try and lead you into clarifying what's valuable to you, what's not working, and maybe how to address it. Whatever changes you decide to make need to be yours-not the best ideas that come to my mind-so that you can stand on them when the going gets tough again in this area or others, long after we're done together. I'm looking to inspire long term "psychological muscles" in you, and talking through things with someone with no agenda at all can bring pretty serious change a lot of times.

Don't take this personally, but I don't want anyone to know I'm coming to see you. - Definitely get that! See the part below about Confidentiality. My job is to protect that too! So we're on the same page there, even before we meet face to face the first time.

Will you be able to give me meds? - No. You're looking for a psychiatrist. I can coordinate with them about the medical aspect of things, but in no way prescribe or make recommendations. You can think of us on your team, but both having skillsets that compliment each other's.

Does your office look like the ones on TV? - Yup. Too many pillows, soft lighting, comfy couches and comfy chairs lots of Kleenex. All that stuff. I favor argyle socks too (when I wear them at all).

Somewhere else on here you mentioned that some people would prefer to see a male counselor. Why is that? - For some people, maybe there are things they're embarrassed to talk about with a female (maybe men and issues of sexuality or confidence, or women who believe men have a fundamentally different perspective that they would welcome in their lives). It's also not unusual for women to want a safe male in their lives with whom to practice boundaries and trust. Sometimes it's a very simple individual preference-a person has just learned that they communicate better with a guy.  


Moving On and Getting Over

How will we know I'm making progress? Do you have tests or something we take? - Great question! No surprise, it's different for everyone, but in my experience things start to change even a little, pretty fast, especially if you'd never talked about any of that stuff before. People very often finish that first meeting saying they felt better already. I think we start to get a good idea of what all we're working with after about 3-4 sessions, once you sort of get used to having this stuff out in the open as well as get used to having a place to talk about it every week. 

How quickly can I expect to feel better/different/more settled? - As mentioned above, everyone's story is different, but folks notice things seem different in some way-at very least during actual sessions-pretty early. The more we meet, the more the stuff we're working on has to be generalized to elsewhere in your life.

How will I know things are working? - I'd say your increasing ability to make decisions, communicate better, respond more effectively in difficult interpersonal situations, and endure emotional ups and downs without say, substance abuse or resorting to food extremes-those are all signs that things are changing. Another sign is simply feedback from others around you. Remember, you're the one trying to make changes-they're not. Sometimes that creates friction, but also often inspires clarity and stability in a relationship!

What if it seems like things aren't getting any better? - Another great question! I can cop to that at the top, as should any honest person in this field. It's a high ethical standard of mine to look out for your best interests-including your wasting your time and money in our time together. Sometimes we need to reorient or point at another goal; sometimes we're just stuck; and sometimes, we realize we're just not a good fit, and I'll help you find someone who might be a better one. As always, let's have an open and direct conversation about it.

Do I like, have a subscription to seeing you? Can I quit any time I want?- Yes, you can definitely quit anytime you like. You're in complete control of your therapy. You pay per session and you don't pay ahead for sessions. If you decided to quit, I'll certainly want to talk through what's got you in that place. Sometimes we're just in a natural place, or your life has just gotten very busy, or money is tight; sometimes, we've begun work that you'd rather avoid, or times are tough at home and coming weekly is adding stress. Sometimes, you grow to not like me-that's definitely a real possibility too! But yes, by all means, you're in control on that. As always, let's talk openly and non awkwardly about it.

Do people get sad when they quit? - Usually yes, to different degrees. We call the quitting process "termination," and it is indeed a processYou will have likely opened up some very intimate places and we've shared some powerful moments, and choosing to bring a final end to that relationship will be no different. It invariably stirs up strong reactions and we handle it deliberately.


Insurance and the Money Part

Do you offer discounted rates (typically referred to as 'sliding scale')? - I do, but only after discussion of your specific financial situation. The rate I charge is standard in my field and the numbers I've built my business on assume a certain amount of clients paying that full fee.

How does insurance and stuff work? - It can get complicated but I'll hit the main points. Start with looking into whether I myself (specifically by name!) am a provider in your insurance's Provider directory, just like you do for a doctor or a dentist. (You can save some time by looking at my Appointments and Fees page to see if I take your insurance.) If those things check out, you'll likely have somewhere between $20-40 you pay me directly at each of our sessions. (You'll need to ask your insurance what that amount is, called a copay or coinsurance.) If your insurance says I'm in their network, but you've got an amount more than $20-40, you may not have met your deductible yet. I'll give you a 'receipt' any time you pay if you need it for any reason. It's important that you understand your insurance is between you and them---not me and them. At the end of the day, we have a professional relationship and I expect that I won't have to chase you down for the agreed upon payment.

What if I decide I don't want to come anymore? - You're certainly not obligated in any way, but, if you choose to just ghost, I will stay in touch until any outstanding money issues are resolved. Again, remember, our relationship is a professional one that does involve money and a high level of training and responsibility on my part, and it doesn't end until that "being done" has been acknowledged in writing by both of us. 

What happens if I forgot to tell you I can't make it one afternoon or just don't feel like it? - Please give me as much a heads' up as possible as a professional courtesy, just like you would any other medical provider. Except for certain circumstances, if less than 24 hrs notice I'll still charge a fee for the session which you'll read about in the paperwork you sign. (See next question.)

Why do you charge a fee for me late cancelling or forgetting? That's kind of mean. - Well, not so fast. I know it stings, but think of it this way: this is my job, and our relationship is based on trust. It goes both ways, and your end of things is that if I have prepared for our session, and I keep time cleared on my calendar to not see another paying client, or to not go to a meeting or schedule a dentist appointment or make any plans otherwise, I trusted you enough to give you that time on my calendar with the assumption you’d be paying me for it in the future. If you don't show, I still have rent to pay. If you don't show, I still have electricity, this website, printer toner, and my own personal bills to pay. If you don't show, that's an hour burnt that I could have planned other things for. This is one reason why we always hold professional boundaries-at its core, we're in a professional, business relationship, and I'm in it to help people...but that's a function of me being able to get paid enough to not need to grab another job! If clients don't show I may literally be put out of business and unable to buy food for me and my cats. So I'm trusting you to show up. If you choose to consistently ditch appointments, as always we'll have an open and direct conversation about this, and how perhaps we're not the best fit.

Man, therapy is expensive. What's up with that? - I know, and I understand! One way I approach explaining it is to share a little about what goes into what it is I do besides sit with you for an hour a week and collect $100. In order to deliver counseling services, approved and licensed by our state, people like me have to get a three year master's degree (that's after we did the four year college degree right after high school) and complete a state license (during which time we pay a clinical supervisor to look over our shoulders at our cases once a week). My license took right at two years to achieve (which is actually kind of fast) and I was paid very little while doing very difficult work. I couldn't accept pay directly from clients-it has to go through a middleman, who always takes a little piece-and I was not allowed to charge much of anything in the first place. According to the expectations of our profession we spend time working on your case beyond the 50 minutes we sit together (for instance, talking to your psychiatrist about your meds, to a previous therapist, studying up on cases like yours, dealing with your insurance company, making sure your records are up to date and organized, for a few examples). Think of your hair stylist and the training they put in. They put in training and achieve a state license, which reassures you that they're trained and trustworthy. They do lots of stuff before you sit in their chair and after you get up. In the same way you can be sure that more happens around our meetings than just our 50 minutes together face to face every week! I see the standard fee in our field as realistic, given the amount of work I put in in a typical week besides sitting face to face with someone. Because of all this, plus the simple rigors of the actual sitting and listening part, there's simply no way I could have a 40-hr work week of seeing clients for 40 of those hours. 


Contact and Scheduling

Are you available to talk between sessions? Or email? How does that work? - Yup, I definitely am. I'm a big emailer (dixon@dixon.life). It's very rare that I don't respond within 24 hrs. For phone messages, If I have your email address I'll typically respond via email unless the message requests otherwise.

How do we set up or change appointments? - We typically have an ongoing, regular set time on the books once we agree to start working together. Of course, we can dialogue about changing those times in sessions or over email. It's usually not tough at all to find a time that suits us both.

Do we have to see each other regularly, or can I just call for an appointment whenever? - I lean toward 'no' on those situations, except under certain circumstances. Let's talk about it after we've seen each other for a while.

Where are you located?  - I see folks in north central Austin, off of Spicewood Springs. Here is an address and map. You an also just type my name into your GPS of choice.

Do you text? - I try not to for a few reasons. Email for me is often identically efficient.

Do you fax? - Yup. 855.765.7552. (HIPAA secure too, if you're wondering.)

Do you do super secure encrypted email? I've got stuff I'd like to share over email but know that's not a good idea. - I do and I agree. When you have that kind of stuff let me know and I'll run with it from there.


Confidentiality

What does confidentiality look like with a therapist? - I love talking about this and thinking about it. Basically, it covers-in any and all ways imaginable-anything generated as a result of our relationship and requires that I keep it confidential from anyone at all times, even for a period of years after we stop working (at which point I'll simply destroy the records). Pure and simple. There are some caveats, which I speak to below and which you'll also read about when we start working together.

So it's just like the stuff I see on TV with lawyers.  - Well, I don't like talking about legal stuff, since I'm not a lawyer, but I can give you one basic difference. I think you'll see it come up as we go on together. I cannot in any way even acknowledge that we know each other outside of the office. (You may not want it known that you're seeing a therapist! Or it my make you feel awkward or anxious in the checkout line if we chat!) From what I can tell, lawyers play golf, eat lunch, and hang out with clients and it's no big deal. The basic rule, even in my interactions with professional colleagues (say, asking for advice) speaking professionally is that we keep it so vague no one overhearing us could figure out whom we were talking about. We keep it so vague that even that particular professional wouldn't be able to figure out who you were if they didn't already have a relationship with you. (It gets a little comical sometimes...but we do take it very seriously!)

Do you make any records of what we talk about? - Yes. The standards of our profession require that I make, keep up to date, readily accessible, and completely secure documentation of our sessions. I also keep records of any documents you sign, as well as conversations I've had with any others in your life for whom I have a Release to chat. But I don't make video or audio recordings like they show on TV. Because that's always just awkward, and I'd ask your permission anyway.

What if my partner/spouse/neighbor wants to talk to you? - Nope. Dead in the water, not a chance. Not unless you sign a written Release of Information-you will always know exactly who I'm talking about your case with and why, if anyone.  Talking about you and the work we're doing, or letting people see those records, is something we take deadly seriously and nobody can yell or scream enough to break through that.

I've been really down lately, and that's one reason I'm thinking of coming in. Sometimes I think about just ending it all. What happens if I tell you that? - I'm so glad that you're looking into help for what's going on right now. Even if it's not with me, life can and will get better. As far as me and any other therapist type, our main concern is your safety. If it becomes clear that you're actively planning and not sure you can keep yourself safe before our next session, we may call your Emergency Contact or break confidentiality in other ways. We don't do that lightly either-breaking confidentiality is a very big thing to do, so we've got to be pretty confident in how worried we are. I never, ever want someone to be surprised when I have to break their confidentiality, so I will have always done my best to tell you before it happens. I've found that as long as we talk about those thoughts and urges openly and directly, the sunlight shining on them helps the urges to calm down. You'll read more about this in a document at the beginning of our time together.

When else would you break confidentiality? There are a few other situations, but not many. We'll talk about them more, but they involve abuse or danger to others, as well as any court or legal stuff. Again, our profession sort of lives or dies on how much people can trust us coming in to talk about stuff and feeling safe doing so.

What about kids? I don't want my parents knowing what I talk about with you. - I get that. Here's the deal: I'll only tell them about anything that worries me for your safety, including you hurting yourself or someone else or someone hurting you. Your parents are trusting me to keep most of what we talk about between us and they know you need your space. Anything big I tell them, I'll make sure you know about it and why.

What about kids?  I want to know what my kids talk about with you. - I understand, and that's your right. This can be tricky, and it involves faith on the part of you the parent that I'll get you involved when there's something I think you should know. For instance, a kid skipping class is typically not something I'll alert you about...unless it's because they're beginning to experiment with drugs and it's getting out of control. My sort of unwritten rule is that the closer they are to 18, the less I share with you, partly because of their increasing need for space as well as to encourage their being in control of how they choose to take care of themselves as (young) adults. We can always discuss this directly and non-awkwardly. I'm on your side as well as you child's, obviously.


Faith and Religion in Your Work

Are you a Christian counselor? I really need to know, because if so that's not what I'm looking for. - No, I am not. Just a bit of hair-splitting terminology: I won't do some silly dance to hide that I'm a Christian. I am a Christian and I do therapy. The way I was trained to do therapy and to see human growth and functioning was on philosophical grounds that were not faith-oriented at all. So it's perfectly natural to me to work from a place that doesn't have God in mind at all.

Are you a Christian counselor? I really need to know, because if so you're exactly what I'm looking for.  - No, I am not. I am a Christian however, and I am a therapist. I like to phrase it as, if you see the world through explicitly Christian eyes, I can meet you there as a familiar presence who speaks that language. It's certainly interesting to me to try and determine why it is that someone wants a Christian who does counseling, so I can figure out the way their faith lives amongst all the other parts of their life.

Do you pray with clients? - No, I do not and would never.

Do you pray for clients? - Once in a while, yes. It's more praying for myself if I'm being honest, to try and be a vessel through which light and hope can come into one specific person's world.

Could you work with people who are a religion besides Christian? - Yes. I have familiarity with the basics of all of the world's major religions. I believe reverence for the Divine, however that reverence guides an individual's life, plus respect for the incorruptible dignity of the human being as made in the image of God, make me a completely qualified for any work touching on this stuff.

Can you help me find a church/religious community? - I could certainly help you think through what your values seem to be along those lines, based on the things you keep bringing up or the longings you share. But I would not likely recommend a church for you.


About Dixon

When we talked on the phone, I noticed you have an accent. Where are you from? - I call Memphis, Tennessee home now, but I got my start in Texarkana, Texas. I grew up sort of in all points Arkansas and went to college at this place in the middle of the Natural State.

I've noticed you share a lot about yourself on here. That's cool. - Thanks. It's deliberate...and not because I'm looking for people to listen to me talk for once. I operate from a place that says you knowing more about me may help the work we're doing, and that's fine with me. I choose to use the things we experience together in the office to shine a light on warmth between us, areas for growth or insight that might help you understand yourself and how you relate to others a little better. Again, if you knowing a little more about me helps facilitate that, I'm fine with it-I am completely comfortable with my boundaries and limits. I typically share a few thoughts on this when we meet the first time.

Where did you go to school, what did you study, stuff like that? - I did my college degree in Philosophy and Religion at a place called Hendrix College, just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. I did my grad degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee. I moved to Austin in 2013 to be a hospital chaplain and finished my Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license in 2016. I also studied music theory, classical guitar and voice during college. I won’t sing to prove it though.

Are you married, single, divorced, etc.? - Ask me in person.

What's up with you and cats? - I love all animals (well, except snakes-#sorrynotsorry). I grew up with cats and have never known different. I daydream about a big silly dog one day, with a big backyard to run around in. You might see me around town somewhere taking selfies with dogs I meet.

What are your cats' names? - WInstonBiscuit and Silly Billy. Want to see a picture?

Sure!

#BillSton