Frequently Asked Questions

What is CBT?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an empirically supported treatment based on the idea that our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors.  Often, by changing the way we think, we can feel better and act better even if the situation around us does not change.  Cognitive-behavioral therapists focus on identifying maladaptive thought patterns and the underlying beliefs and then work with clients to enable them to replace these thoughts with more adaptive ones.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is goal-directed and tends to be briefer and able to achieve positive results much more quickly than many other forms of psychotherapy.  It has shown to be effective in addressing a variety of issues including mood disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders.  CBT can be used alone or in conjunction with medication.  


See also the article on CBT.

How does a Social Worker differ from other health care professions?

Perhaps you’re not even sure where to begin looking for help.  The mental health profession can be complex and confusing.  What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?  How about a therapist?  Counselor?  Social worker?  Which one do you need to see?

Here’s a chart that will hopefully help you understand the difference in qualifications and services of various types of professionals and assist you in deciding which one might best be able to meet your needs:

Profession Can Diagnose Can Prescribe Medications Provides Counseling
Psychiatrist yes yes yes
Psychologist yes no yes
Pediatrician/ Family Doctor yes yes no
Neurologist yes yes no
Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) yes no yes

The terms “counselor” and “therapist” tend to be used rather broadly for any number of professionals (and in some cases, non-professionals!) who offer mental health services such as counseling.  Before receiving  treatment from anyone, it is best if you ask them about their specific qualifications, including their degree and any licenses they hold.

LCSWs provide mental health services for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in individuals, families, and groups. Their goal is to enhance their patients' physical, psychological, and social functioning.

LCSWs must have a master's or doctorate degree in social work, with an emphasis on clinical experience. They must undergo a supervised clinical field internship and have at least 2 years of postgraduate supervised clinical social work employment.

LCSWs are approved providers in most insurance and managed care plans, and practice in the following settings:

  • Private practice
  • Medical facilities (e.g. hospitals)
  • Mental health clinics
  • Child welfare agencies
  • Schools
  • Community organizations
  • Places of employment
Does it mean I am weak or that there is something wrong with me if I am in therapy?

No, in fact, just the opposite – it is a sign of strength to seek help!  I encourage clients to think of having a therapist as similar to having a personal physical trainer - a luxury and a chance to have a trained professional help build you up so you can reach your optimal levels of wellbeing and performance.   Some clients come for treatment of a diagnosable mental health disorder, others come to address a challenging life circumstance or relationship, and others purely for personal growth and development. 

What are the most common issues that people seek counseling for here in Shanghai?

The statistics below are based on a compilation of data collected from all the Community Center Shanghai (CCS) counselors.

Most Common Issues




Couples refers to sessions where both partners attended a marriage/couples counseling session.


Marriage refers to sessions where only one partner came to the session but the focus was on the marriage.


Relationship covers any other relationship, including friendships, family/family of origin, coworkers, and so on.


The remaining pie piece consists of a broad range of other issues including but not limited to eating disorders, substance abuse, anger, workplace issues/stress, and adjustment and transition challenges.

How many sessions will I need?

The number of sessions varies greatly from client to client, depending on need and preference.  Some clients benefit from coming in for just a few sessions to get some ideas, tools, and strategies they can use on their own.  Others find that having more long-term, ongoing support is very helpful.   In general, 6-8 sessions is about average, but again, it could be much fewer or many more.  You and I can work together in the initial session(s) to establish a treatment plan.  This plan, of course, will be flexible and dynamic and can be adapted as needed as you progress.

Will insurance cover session fees?

I am not able to offer direct billing options, but can issue you an invoice that you can submit to your insurance company and many insurance companies will reimburse for the services I provide.  However, you will want to check with your insurance company regarding your specific coverage and policy.

What if I need or want to see a counselor but cannot afford the fees and do not have insurance coverage?

Please do not let finances be an obstacle to getting the support you need.  I will do everything in my power to help you find an affordable option.  I have several interns who work with me who are able to see clients at a deeply discounted rate. 

What should I do if I think my child needs to see a counselor but he/she resists?

In general, I don’t advise forcing anyone to do counseling as much of the therapeutic process depends on what the client invests in the sessions and on the rapport between the counselor and the client.  However, children and teens often surprise themselves and realize that counseling is not at all what they expected or imagined and find that they actually enjoy it and benefit from it.  So, I recommend that parents try to get resistant or reluctant kids to agree to try at least a couple of sessions so they can make an informed decision about whether or not they would like to continue.  In my experience, in more cases than not, both kids and teens discover they really like having an hour of undivided attention and the freedom to express anything they are thinking or feeling in a safe environment and willingly agree to keep coming.