We have found that most of your questions can best be answered by talking with our office staff, Cathy Murphy, Mariana Karrasch, Joanne Allen, or Nancy Starks. Some questions are also best answered by a therapist in a first session. However, we have tried to summarize the answers to some of those questions here for your convenience, regarding the counseling services we offer:
Am I committing to work with my therapist from the very first session?
No. It is not unusual for people to take several sessions to see if there is a “good fit” with their therapist. There is no expectation or obligation to continue therapy. However, it will be helpful to you to clarify your level of personal investment with your therapist. Also, if your therapist determines that you may be best helped by seeing another therapist, they will discuss with you the possibility of a referral to another therapist–either at The Summit or in the community–depending upon your needs. Our goal is to get you the best help possible in a timely manner!
Are all of your clients Christians or church members?
No. While the majority of our clients would identify themselves either as Christians or as having “grown up” as Christians, many of our clients would not identify themselves this way and have not come from a Christian background. While our largest ministry partner is Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church, the majority of our clients have no affiliation with Mount Pisgah. Some clients are members of other congregations or have grown up in the church, but may have no current affiliation. Some clients choose our services because of our faith-based orientation, but have no faith commitment themselves. We have seen a number of clients of other faiths, including those who were Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish. Some clients choose our services because they hear about the quality of the services we provide, but they would not describe themselves as people of faith.
Can I request a specific therapist?
Yes, we strive to honor the requests of our clients while matching clients with the therapist who is best able to address their specific need.
Do you prescribe medications?
Medication must be prescribed by a physician and there are no physicians on the staff of The Summit. However, if a therapist believes you may benefit from medication, you may be advised to seek a medication evaluation by a physician. Our staff is committed to working collegially with physicians in caring for our clients, when a physician’s care is needed.
If medication is needed, clients often choose one of two types of provider–either a primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Primary care physicians can include your general practitioner, your family physician, or your internist. For women, this may include your ob-gyn physician, and for children or adolescents, this may include their pediatrician or adolescent specialist. Most primary care physicians are now trained to prescribe medications aimed at improving mental health. However, it is important to discuss this with your physician.
Board Certified Psychiatrists are the physicians with the greatest training and expertise in prescribing mental health medications and may be an important resource in treating some conditions.
Do you use a couch for therapy like they show on TV or in comics?
No. We do have couches in our office, but you won’t be laying down on one. Our therapy is provided through direct conversation- speaking and listening. (We do love the furniture in our new building that we entered in June of 2007!)
Do you use tools and techniques that are standard within the mental health community?
Yes, we follow recognized standards for treatment within our respective mental health disciplines while integrating a Christian faith perspective.
How long does the therapy take? How many sessions should I anticipate?
The length of time required for therapy varies widely. The average course of treatment for outpatient therapy (nationally, across all diagnoses) is 6-10 outpatient therapy sessions. However, this statistic assumes a clearly defined single diagnosis and a brief therapy approach. Therapy of less that one year in duration or 20 outpatient sessions is considered brief. At the Summit, our experience mirrors these national statistics, but we strive to tailor our approach for each client. It is not unusual for our clients to find help rapidly and require fewer sessions. It is also not unusual for people to choose to see one of our therapists over a long period of time, addressing multiple problems of living and celebrating spiritual and emotional growth (not just symptom relief). Ultimately counseling is a voluntary venture and our clients determine the length of therapy in consultation with their therapist. Often people decide to continue seeing a therapist infrequently for consultation and support, even after they are “better.” Many people come to see it as “preventive care.”
How often will I meet with my therapist?
There is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. Typically in the beginning of therapy, we need to meet on a regular basis to obtain information, make an accurate assessment, give you the opportunity to help create a treatment plan, and begin to implement suggestions. Often as you experience some relief or success, it is not unusual to consult with your therapist and to decide to meet less frequently. It is also not unusual to meet several times a week at the beginning of therapy if you are in a crisis or if you are experiencing multiple or severe symptoms. Especialliy in regards to marital or relationship therapy, there is good data to suggest that “massing sessions” at the beginning of therapy — meaning to have sessions more frequently at the beginning — results in better outcomes. So this may be a recommendation from your therapist. However, again, once stability is established, the frequency of therapy typically drops.
Is this professional counseling, psychotherapy and education?
Yes, every therapeutic staff member at The Summit holds an appropriate graduate degree in a mental health field AND is licensed by the State of Georgia.
Is this “Christian Counseling”?
Yes, The Summit seeks to offer counseling that is faithfully Christian and exhibits the following hallmarks:
- Our therapy is offered as Christian ministry, accountable to Christians, provided by Christians, uses Christian tools, and seeks the leadership of Christ.
- The counselor will strive to be a good steward of the faith and trust you place in us. We will claim our legitimate authority as a licensed mental health professional—a professional that you have sought for consultation. As a Christian we are not experts, but fellow pilgrims. We will share our knowledge of God and the life of faith, while honoring your perspective.
- We will covenant with you to be ongoing students of the scripture and scriptural principles will inform our work. We will seek to use the scriptures in our work when appropriate and will seek to use them with wisdom and discretion—to clarify and expound, rather than to prevent us from hearing you.
- The counselor will strive to relate to you and to God in a manner that is authentic and respectful. We will empathize, educate, and admit our limitations.
- We will honor your spiritual experience—whether that is an experience of faith or of no faith. We will take interest and listen and ask questions. We will not seek to make you over into our own image.
- We will also share with you our own faith and our convictions about the Christian faith in a respectful manner. If you would like to know more about how to become a Christian, churches you might want to attend, how to choose a Bible, and other specifically Christian concerns, we will gladly help you move forward in your faith.
What does it mean to “integrate” the insights of the behavioral sciences and the wisdom of Christian faith?
To “integrate” means to unite two things into a unified, functioning whole. At the Summit, our goal is to relate and treat the whole person- body, mind, spirit and relationships- including our relationship with God. Integration is best seen in each part of the therapy as the therapist listens, interprets, teaches and plans with attention to each part of our client’s life– including, rather than excluding– the spiritual and faith dimensions. We relate to our clients with the conviction that we are not simply engaging in a dialogue, but rather a three-way conversation that includes God. We understand that this integration cannot be accomplished simply with “the head.” So our staff is built of people of faith who have devoted their lives to Christ and are active in their own congregations. Integration begins with the heart. Secondly, each of our therapists see their work as a “vocation” or “a calling,” and we understand that we are co-workers with God in healing. Thirdly, each of our staff holds one or more Masters degrees or a Doctoral degree in a mental health related discipline and maintains state licensure.
Who is your typical client? What kind of people do you see?
Our clients come from every walk of life and are dealing with a wide variety of issues.