Why You May Be Better Off Skipping Insurance for Therapy

No insurance?

As a busy psychologist in Littleton, I work to provide the best treatment at an affordable cost. For many, this means working with and utilizing health insurance benefits to pay for therapy costs. Especially since many new mental health and substance abuse treatment options have become part of “standard” healthcare packages in the few years due to recent federal policy changes, more and more people are seeking mental health providers in Colorado who take health insurance. While this does have the potential to save your family money on these costs, there are also some reasons why you might be better off skipping the insurance for therapy. Read on to find out the most common health insurance issues my patients in couples therapy and ADHD counseling in Littleton have experienced.

  1. Long waits. Many insurance providers are booked up, often for months! If you have a time-sensitive mental health need, waiting until the next season to get help may not work for you.
  2. Mental illness diagnosis. Unlike your physician or pediatrician’s office, your insurance does not allow you to head into a psychologist’s office for a “check up” or even “follow up.” In fact, without a diagnosed mental illness, your insurance won’t cover your costs. This can be very difficult for parents seeking to learn new parent strategies from a child behavior psychologist, or for couples who simply want to learn how to communicate better. Speaking of couples…
  3. …Only one person in the couple is the “patient.” The way that health insurance works is to code couple’s counseling sessions the same as an individual counseling session with a family member present—just like you might have if you were very depressed and needed a family member to help explain your current functioning. This means that one partner must be designated as the “patient,” while the other is simply “attending” the session.
  4. Pre-existing conditions. Mental health diagnoses can be considered pre-existing conditions. Something as simple as chatting briefly with a counselor in Highlands Ranch for ADHD counseling can indicate to your insurance company that you’ve had this problem—and may hinder you from getting competitive rates in the future.
  5. Time vs. money. With health insurance comes paperwork, phone calls, and a lot of time spent making sure you meet your deductibles, pay only your co-pay, and do not exceed your yearly limits. Some insurance companies may ask that you submit additional paperwork to “prove” that you still need services. At the end of the day, you may find that your health insurance covers so little that you may have been better using a Health Savings Account or Flex Spending Account to cover these costs.
  6. Confidentiality and Control. When you meet with a mental health provider, you are told that your information remains confidential, private, and protected by law… with certain exceptions, including compliance with health insurance requests and requirements. While your psychologist will work to keep your information as confidential as possible, we cannot control the actions of your health insurance company. For 100% peace of mind about your health information, self-pay protects you the best.

Dr. Steve Lazarus provides counseling and couple’s therapy in Littleton and Highlands Ranch. While he does take some health insurance, he encourages all clients to weigh the pros and cons of using this sort of payment, and is open to discussing these concerns further in a free, 15-minute phone consultation.





Harness the Power of Praise in 4 Simple Steps

Power of Praise

As social beings, we love doing a good job—and we love hearing the feedback on our successes! However, in an attempt to praise more, many people take the “easy” route—a simple “good job,” “nice work,” or “that was great” becomes a standard reply. And, just like other standard replies, this makes the praise less powerful and effective. Kids, being the apt little learners they are, catch on quickly, and tend to stop responding to praise. So how can you help your child to feel confident, proud, and accomplished, without “blowing smoke?” Read on to find out the 4 steps to harnessing the power of praise from a Littleton child behavior psychologist.

  1. Evaluation vs. Description. Consider these two statements: 1. “Your drawing is the best!” 2. “Wow! you used my favorite color, you drew a flower just like the one we saw yesterday, and everything is so creative and expressive!” Which would you prefer? The first is an example of evaluative praise, or praise that creates a judgment. The second is an example of descriptive praise, or praise that describes the reasons why you like something. Descriptive praise does not imply judgment, and clearly outlines what caused you to feel the way you did.
  2. Praise descriptively. Now that you know the difference between evaluative and descriptive praise, it’s time to start describing! Challenge yourself to replace at least one “good job!” or other generic praise statement with descriptive praise. It may surprise your child, and may be a challenge for you, but everyone can learn how.
  3. Observe your child “putting the pieces together.” Evaluative praise tells the child what to think. “You are smart,” “you are a great soccer player,” or “you are nice” all create a self-image for the child—that may or may not seem dependent upon effort or action. Worse, what if that “smart” child does poorly next time? Are they still smart? You know they are, but kids have a harder time. Instead, descriptive praise is more clear and effective, as it allows your child to put the pieces together to figure out their own judgment, and provides a great way for parents to model emotional reasoning. Instead of “that was nice,” try something like “when you offered to let your friend borrow your game for the weekend, that was a big sacrifice for you, I bet he is so happy and excited!” This will help your child see that his actions, not him as a person, are creating these feelings and making him a nice and generous person.
  4. Practice makes perfect! The great thing about praise is how many opportunities you have to practice it. This demonstrates your own gratitude and helps to point out the specific things that you want to see more of. Even when those things don’t happen, your child will not feel down on herself, but will continue to have a strong inner feeling of self-worth and pride.

When I work with children and parents in Littleton for ADHD counseling  or play therapy, we have plenty of opportunities to practice praise. Sometimes we try it out on Zeke, our therapy dog, and other times, we incorporate other evidence-based, proven strategies to help you and your child succeed. To find out more, or to set up an appointment, use the contact section on this website.



Top Four Active Listening Tips for a Strong Relationship

Strong Relationship

What’s the number one reason why people seek counseling and couples therapy in Highlands Ranch? Based on my clients, communication is the main reason! Too many couples find themselves constantly on “different pages,” missing one another’s messages, and struggling to communicate about the good, the bad, or the in-between. Some of the past blogs on this website have addressed ways to communicate with your partner in a healthy way , but that only deals with one side of the equation. When people seek to improve communication, they must address both parts: “sending” the message, or talking, and “receiving” it—listening. This post will review the five basic steps of active listening and how they can help you to build a stronger relationship.

  1. Pay attention! Easier said than done, but reminding yourself to pay attention is key to listening actively. This includes not looking at your phone, eliminating distractions, and setting your mind intentionally to listen. This shows the listener that you value their time and their thoughts.
  2. Show attention. How does the speaker know you’re listening? It’s usually obvious. Your body language speaks louder than words, so make sure you show it. You can accomplish this by making good eye contact, nodding or shaking your head at appropriate times, facing your speaker, and using small gestures where needed. This lets the person speaking know that you are actively listening and valuing their statements, strengthening the bond between you and the speaker.
  3. Check for understanding. A good deal of verbal communication is missed or misunderstood—check with the person speaking to make sure you truly understand what they are saying by asking a clarifying question (“is this your friend, John, or your brother, John?”), rephrasing their comments (“I hear you saying that your car is having problems and you’re not sure if you want to sell it”), or reflecting their emotions (“you’re sad about the business loss, but still feel motivated”). These statements demonstrate your understanding and open doors to correct miscommunications.
  4. Be polite. Don’t judge, interrupt, or dismiss someone who speaks to you. Easily said, but remember, this requires active, mindful effort!

Active listening means that you are focusing your thoughts, energy, and attention 100% (or close) on the other person and what they are saying. It requires your brain to be working hard, not to think of your next statement or argument, but working hard to truly understand and hear the person you are speaking with. This is just a small sample of the various skills that you would learn in intensive couples therapy in Littleton. To find out more or develop a personalized plan to improve relationships and communication, set up an appointment with Dr. Lazarus today.



Annoying Habits that Might Have a Purpose

Anyone who has or works with kids knows that they can do some pretty annoying things—in fact, most parents state that their children have at least one annoying habit that they would love to make disappear. But before you start digging out the reinforcements, you may want to consider the purpose of these annoying habits! That’s right, some of the most annoying things that your children do actually do serve a purpose—and those purposes might surprise you.

Putting things in their mouths. From thumbs, to fingernails, to pencils, some kids just love to put something in their mouth whenever they get the chance. For parents, this is not only annoying, but may trigger concerns about germs. The surprising finding? Kids who engaged in nail-biting or thumb sucking in childhood are less likely to have allergies by the time they reach their 30s, making this a potential immune booster.

Keeping a messy room, desk, locker, or other space. Do you feel like you are constantly begging for clean? Is it a battle to clear a walkway? If so, you may think your child is doomed to a life of disorganization . While this may or may not end up being true, recent research has found that messy people are often more goal-oriented—the effort that some would spend keeping a tidy space gets redirected into seeking order and goal achievement elsewhere. Turns out, your kid was right when he said “but mom, I have good grades even though my room is messy!”

Um… like… uh… If you have teens, you probably recognize these terms, otherwise known as “filler words.” Little sounds that fill in during a conversation are quite popular amongst teens, and can make even the most patient of listeners cringe. We have all been taught not to use these terms in presentations, but recent research actually shows that listeners understand and remember a speech better when there are a few filler words included, and that people who are highly conscientious often use these words in their conversations.

Chewing gum. Parents might remember the days when gum in school was linked with sticking on their noses—others just remember the “smack, smack, POP” noise that their children make  while chewing gum. But before you lose your cool à la the musical Chicago, consider this: kids who chew gum are more likely to feel awake and alert, which can help to support Littleton ADHD counseling. Some studies show that those who chew gum report a better mood and reduced stress hormones.

Do your kids have any of these annoying habits? By considering them from an adaptive, purpose-serving framework, you may just find yourself being a little more understanding… or at least resisting the urge to rip your hair out! Of course, any habit, big or small, that causes distress or poor functioning at school, at home, or with friends should be brought up with a trained child behavior psychologist in Littleton. Otherwise, try to see the silver lining—and don’t forget, adults have annoying habits, too!

If your child is showing a destructive or problematic behavior that goes beyond “annoying,” contact Dr. Steve Lazarus today to find out how to live a happier, healthier life!