Counseling Basics

What is counseling?

Counseling is a way for people who analyze and solve problems that they can’t understand, can’t control, or just cannot handle, with the help of a trained professional counselor. I will listen to the problem and ask insightful and probing questions to get to the deepest possible level of understanding of what is going on. Once the current situation is clearly defined and understood, I will help you explore alternatives and options toward more effective coping strategies.

What is the difference between counseling and psychotherapy?

Counseling differs from psychotherapy. The former generally applies to adjustment and coping problems and issues that occur at certain specific stages of life and in certain situations, while the latter is applied to specific mental health disorders.

What kinds of counseling are available?

I counsel individuals, couples and families on a wide variety of issues, such as abuse, anger management, attachment, change management, emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, family of origin, life history motivation, meaning, fulfillment, occupational, relationships and stage of life.

What happens in counseling?

In counseling, I seek to help you clearly describe the problem and create a strategy to solve or manage it. This occurs through specific steps which includes the following: assessment stage, where information about the problem is gathered; goal establishment stage, where desired outcomes are identified; treatment strategy stage, where a strategy for treatment is created; and action stage. Evaluation occurs throughout counseling, which allows the counselor and client to make any needed changes in an effort to reach the client’s goal. Referrals to additional community resources and/or professionals will be recommended when appropriate for your circumstances.

What is expected of me in counseling?

Your responsibilities include being on time for your appointment, canceling with a 24-hour notice when it is necessary to cancel or reschedule your appointment, paying for services when rendered, and being as open and honest as you can with your counselor. It also helps to be ready to focus on a specific problem or issue, therefore making the most of each session. See my cancellation policy.

Do I even need counseling?

Many people have loving friends and family who are a vital support when weathering difficult situations. However, a counselor undergoes specific training to recognize unhealthy life patterns and ways of functioning, and to help the client address these unhealthy patterns unto real change. Counseling sessions are a time when you can share whatever is troubling you without fear of judgment or punishment; counseling is a safe and empathetic place. Supportive family or friends can be a ballast during stormy times, but a counselor acts as a propeller: an additional and temporary force to help you become the person you long to be.

How often do I come in for counseling?

You will get as much out of counseling as you put in. Consistent, weekly sessions are important, especially in the beginning of our work together. If you were training for a marathon, but only trained every other week or so, you may never be ready for that race! Studies consistently demonstrate that sustainable change and growth happen with clients’ regular, weekly visits with their counselor. Often the work done in one session can serve as a building block for the next week’s work and so on. Life does get busy, and you need to schedule what is most reasonable for you. Counseling should not be another stressor in your life, rather the opposite. That said, regular, weekly, scheduled sessions are highly recommended.

How long will I be in counseling?

Though counseling can take time, most people feel relief even from the first meeting. A good way to think about the process of counseling is to think about the length of time you have had the current problem that brings you in. This amount of time correlates to the amount of time you’ll be in counseling. In other words, if you have had a lifelong struggle with something, counseling may be more long term. If, however, you have recently encountered a road block and need some support to get through it, counseling may only be a few months. Your time in therapy ultimately depends on you and you may begin or end therapy whenever you feel you have accomplished what you hoped for. Whether that is a few weeks, months or years, we will work together to create an appropriate time frame that meets your needs and accomplishes your goals.

Can I be assured of confidentiality?

Counseling is a professional service whose ethical and legal guidelines require that what you share is kept strictly confidential. There are four exceptions to a counselor’s confidentially guidelines, which include: concerns about a client’s intent to harm themselves, a client’s intent to harm another individual, a court order, or a client’s written permission for information about their counseling session to be shared with another person or professional.

Counseling Process

How does counseling help?

Counseling can help alleviate emotional pain and suffering. It can teach new skills that can be applied to the problems at hand. It can save a marriage. It can help increase self-esteem. It can give hope that there is a better way, or a way out. To put it simply, counseling can help clear the path toward freedom of choice, liberating the individual from the trap of automatic, unconscious behaviors and patterns from which there seems to be no escape.

What is successful counseling?

Successful counseling is said to occur when something has changed, such as thought patterns, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors; when there is more hope and self-confidence; when new behaviors are tried and they work; when other people begin to comment that something about the person seems different; when different results are obtained from actions that in the past did not go so well.

What if counseling doesn’t work?

The first thing to do is to tell me what does not seem to be working and why. It helps to discuss things that have worked in the past and do not seem to work now. I will not be offended or get defensive: I will put the feedback to the best use to better identify what stands in the way of making real progress.

How do I know when I am done?

When counseling is done producing results, it is done. Most of the concerns and anxiety that create the need for counseling will have dissipated. There will be better coping skills and new behaviors to deal with any issues that may persist. I will be able to provide feedback and discuss the best time to terminate. At any time, it is always the client’s decision whether to continue or terminate counseling.

How many sessions do I need?

Because each case is different, I will ascertain your needs and discuss a treatment plan with you. In my experience, counseling becomes effective and begins to produce results after a minimum of five or six sessions.

How does medication work with counseling?

Often the problem that brings one into counseling can be resolved through talk therapy and the personal changes you make as a result of the counseling process. However, there are circumstances under which medication can act as a buoy, helping one get up to the level where difficulties are manageable. When one starts medication, counseling can be more beneficial because one is in a healthier, stronger frame of mind and can more consistently make improvements in his or her life. If you decide medication would be beneficial for you, make sure you find a psychiatrist you feel comfortable with to manage your medication.

What is the Prepare/Enrich assessment?

Prepare/Enrich is an assessment highly recommended for pre-marital and marital counseling. Premarital couples take the Prepare/Enrich assessment online and generally work through the results in six sessions. Married couples may take the assessment at any point in their relationship and will work through the results in as many sessions as needed.

New Client?

How do I make an appointment?

Please visit the appointment page. Fill out the appointment request form. When I receive your request, I will contact you within one business day to schedule your first appointment. I regret that I am unable to accommodate walk-in appointments and that I cannot guarantee same-day appointments.

I’ve never gone to counseling before. What can I expect?

For counseling to be productive, you and I must establish trust. It will definitely take more than one session for me to get to know you before I will feel sufficiently informed and comfortable and begin making sensible and appropriate suggestions. In the early stages, I will ask a good number of questions, and I may ask you to take an online or written assessment. I will work with you to define the problem you’re seeking help with, discuss your goals for counseling and determine the best course of action. Because counseling is dynamic and interactive, you should feel free to ask me questions to help you connect with the counseling process and get actively involved.

How much does counseling generally cost?

The price range varies by provider and by location. From as little as $10 a session through an agency or through an insurance co-pay, all the way up to $300 per session and more. Regardless of the cost, even within the same price range there can be a wide variety of expertise and knowledge. See my fee schedule.

What about low cost counseling?

The lowest cost counseling is usually provided by county mental health departments. The second alternative is to locate a low fee counseling center that employs interns or trainees to provide low cost sessions. Third on the list are graduate schools. Colleges that offer graduate degrees in psychology usually operate an on-campus counseling center where students train to become counselors. Last but not least are local churches, where ministers and pastors who are trained in counseling may offer their services at a very low fee or free of charge.

What are your fees?

See my fee schedule. You are expected to pay for services when rendered.

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes, I accept credit cards, as well as cash or checks. Please make checks payable to Dr. Mark Zuccolo. Payment is due at the end of each session. A credit card on file is required for all new accounts.

Do you take any health insurance?

I do not take insurance. However, I provide a “superbill” (invoice or receipt for your payments) which can be filed with your insurance company for possible reimbursement. Read more about out-of-network insurance coverage.

Counseling Logistics

Where are you located?

My office is located at 5755 North Point Parkway, Suite 33, Alpharetta, GA 30022. See map and directions.

What are the available counseling times?

I see clients from 8 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, by appointment only.

Do you have sessions in the evenings or on weekends?

I do have a limited number of evening sessions available, and I will do my best to accommodate your scheduling needs. My last available evening appointment is at 6 pm. My earliest available morning appointment is at 8 am. I do not see clients on weekends.

How long are the sessions?

Each session is 50 minutes in length. The reason for this is that each session must end before the hour is up, if the next session is to start on time and on the hour.

What if I am running late to my session?

Please contact me directly by calling (678) 554-5632 to let me know if you’re running late.

What if I need to cancel or reschedule my session?

Please notify me by email or telephone at least 24 hours before your scheduled appointment time, if you wish to cancel or reschedule. Otherwise, you will be responsible for the full fee. Please see my cancellation policy.

Do you have a psychiatrist on staff?

I do not have a consulting psychiatrist who is on-site. I have a network of psychiatrists for referrals.