Over the years there are common questions that I get asked prior to setting up our 1st appointment, or questions that come up during the future sessions. Some questions relate to logistics, others could be more personal. Typically with younger clients they like to ask me personal questions.
A guiding principle that I try to abide by is to not disclose personal information about myself with a client, especially if it’s not relevant to the focus of our time together.
Q: So it seems like you mainly work with children, but do you work with adults?
A: It is true my website would suggest that I mainly work with children, and I do enjoy working with children and adolescents. But, on any given time, I have a good mix of clients who are still in school, or adults who are working. Also, I would not schedule an appointment with a client if I did not feel comfortable with their presenting problem, or if I did not think I could be of help to them.
Q: What is your religion? or Are you a Christian? or Are you religious?
A: This is a question that I do not answer directly, rather I usually have to follow up with a question, to determine why one may be wanting to know. Here in the South, there are many “Christian counselors,” or offer “Christian based counseling.” To some there is great comfort in knowing that one’s world view and beliefs are similar to their’s. To others, whether they are religious or not, they would prefer to not have their counseling sessions interspersed with religious tones, themes, prayers, etc. It saddens me when client shares they have had negative experience with a previous counselor due to religious undertones that were not helpful, or it was a distraction. Having said all that, I feel that I am able to respect the needs of each client.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Kids are curious, and often times they just say things. Sometimes they really want to know where I am from, beyond neighborhoods and cities, such as ethnic background, or where I was born. Sometimes people realize that I do not talk/sound like them, so they also wonder where I from. The most benign answers are: I live in the Chattanooga area, I’m from Boston, I grew up in MI.
Q: Is this normal?
A: My instant response is, “What is normal?” People tend to think that something that they may be doing or involved in is somehow “not normal,” while the rest of society has all agreed to what “normal” is. The truth is, we’re all unique individuals that may have a shared experience with others, but that doesn’t determine if we will all have the same opinions or reactions about it. My goals in working with a client is not to be “normal,” but to really listen and try to understand how it is that I can be of support or help.
Q: When can I come back? or How often should I see you?
A: Starting out, I typically like to meet with a client every week for 3-4 sessions and then re-evaluate. For children, often times a week seems like a long time to them, and appointments longer than 1 week can feel like “starting all over,” or “getting re-acquainted” at the start of every appointment. It is common for clients to lengthen their time between appointments as they feel things are getting better.
Q: What do I call you?
A: First and foremost, I am not a medical doctor, nor do I have a doctorate degree of any kind, so Dr. Lee is certainly inaccurate and probably not something I would answer to. Some parents like to tell their child to address me as Mr. Lee, but really John is just fine. When I am sitting across from a client, a client rarely has to say my name to get my attention or address me.
Q: How long have you been doing this(counseling)?
A: 10+ years at this point, but in my current office space, just over 2 yrs.
Q: Are you married? Do you have any children?
A: Some people look for the wedding band on one’s finger, others do not.
A colleague once told me when asked about having children, he usually states that he indeed has “many children. . . but they are not his children.” I thought that was a clever response in that, often times one is wanting to be assured that I indeed care about children, know how to work with children, or can empathize/understand/support parents with parenting their child. Just like my colleague, I too have “many children” that do not exclusively belong to me 🙂
Q: How old are you?
A: I am probably older than you think, despite appearing to be younger than my age (good genes, I guess). For children I like to give a very exaggerated answer like “a million” or “89.” For children, it’s less about actually wanting to know, but more it’s a common way for them to socialize with others.
Q: Which is your chair? (upon entering my office for the 1st time)
A: I tend to think that I do not come off as rigid. It is true that I do have strong preferences for things, but in my office, I do not have a preference on where I sit. I sat on every chair/couch before I bought them, and find them all equally comfortable in different ways.
Q: Do you like Lego?
A: I do, certainly something I grew up playing with. I aspire to continue to build upon my existing Lego collection for the office.
Q: Can I have one? Can I have a candy?
A: The candy bowl is there for anyone and everyone that is in my office, and it’s not something you have to ask for. We may have to come up with a rule about the number of candies you can have during a session, but other than that, it’s free for the taking.
Q: Do you take cash?
A: Yes, most people are comfortable writing out checks or swiping their credit card, but at the end of the day cash is accepted. I just may not have change for you if you do not pay the exact amount. I am also able to accept credit cards, Health Savings Account credit cards, checks, or via PayPal.
Q: Can you prescribe me medication?
A: I am not a medical doctor therefore, I could not prescribe you medication. I am happy to help you find a doctor, or talk to you existing doctor re: medication(s).
Q: How come I have to dial 423, when calling you?
or Why does your number come up as Newport, TN on my caller ID?
A: I am using a virtual number, and chose the phone number 423.248.2482 because it was easy to memorize. 423.248.XXXX unfortunately is not a Chattanooga number, so when calling locally from a landline, you will have to dial 1+423, sorry.