Author: Coronado Psych

Is therapy or medication a better treatment option for me?

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When considering options for treatment of anxiety or depression, some may wonder whether they should take medications or engage in psychotherapy to find relief. The answer to this question is complex and there are many components to consider. Here, we hope to highlight some of the issues that can arise as you think about what type of treatment plan will ultimately work best for you.

Psychotherapy v. Medications: What are my options?

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Psychotherapy can help people cope with anxiety and depression. Through therapy, you can learn long-term coping skills and address underlying psychological, emotional, and social sources of anxiety and depression, leading to lasting results.

Although psychotherapy can reduce the cost of care in the long run, it can be more costly and time consuming during the time you are receiving care compared to medication therapy. Moreover, it does not always produce immediate results and, alone, it may not be as effective for severe cases.

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Medication Only

Medications can also help people cope with anxiety and depression. Some medications can work quickly to alleviate symptoms, while others can take several weeks to take effect. Taking certain medicines to manage symptoms can be less expensive and less of a time commitment compared to psychotherapy.

However, medications can also have unwanted side-effects that may affect adherence to treatment, and medications alone cannot address the underlying psychological, emotional, and social sources of symptoms. Moreover, some medications can only offer a short-term solution, can increase risk for dependence, or have no effect.

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Combination of Psychotherapy & Medication:

For people suffering from severe symptoms of anxiety and depression, a combination of both medication and psychotherapy can be the most effective course of treatment. With the combined approach, medications can provide enough symptom relief to enable individuals to explore their many underlying sources of anxiety and depression and make the most of their psychotherapy experience.

Although this approach can have many benefits, there are also some disadvantages, including problems resources (e.g. time and money) needed to engage in both medication management and psychotherapy.

How do I get help?

It is important to remember that you do not have to choose either medication or psychotherapy—it is possible to choose both. Most providers are happy to help you explore all of your options to ensure that your treatment plan addresses your unique needs. Medications for anxiety and depression are prescribed by medical doctors, including psychiatrists or family doctors.

Psychotherapy services are provided by mental health professionals, including psychologists or counselors. While the process of finding the right course of treatment can be overwhelming, the reward of an effective treatment plan is well worth the journey.

Please see the links below for more information on courses of treatment:

https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/medication-or-therapy

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments

What are Life Transitions and When Should I Get Help?

New Life

Life transitions are significant changes that people go through over the course of their lives.  How we deal with these transitions can vary depending on the nature of the transition (planned or unplanned, temporary or permanent, etc.) and the personal resources and strengths we have to face such challenges.

Acknowledging and understanding the toll that life transitions can take on our mental health can be a crucial first step in making the adjustments needed to cope well and embrace our new normal.

What are life transitions?

Life transitions are major life events that often require us to change many aspects of our lives all at once. Changes in relationships (e.g. marriage, divorce, break ups, becoming a parent, or “empty nesting”), moving, major illness/injury, or changing employment status (e.g. starting a new job, being fired, or retiring) are life transitions that many of us will likely experience at some point in our lives.

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There are transitions that we choose for ourselves (e.g. accepting a job offer and relocating to be closer to work) and transitions that happen to us (e.g. transitioning from a healthy status to a patient status). Although these situations can be common, they can also pose a great challenge, as they require a significant adjustment in not only how we lead our daily lives but also our broader sense of self in relation to the world around us.

As we face these changes, we can sometimes find what worked for us before may not work moving forward. Some of us have an easier time adapting to transitions, but for others, it can be more challenging. We can all benefit from assistance with life transitions whether by leaning on friends, family, and co-workers for support, and when necessary, by enlisting the help of a mental health professional to guide us through these life events.  

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When is therapy helpful?

Psychotherapy can be helpful throughout the transition process. For life transitions that are more predictable, psychotherapy can be helpful to bolster our skills and plan in anticipation of a big change.

Psychotherapy can also be helpful for people who are currently navigating life transitions or for those who realize weeks or months after a transition has occurred that they may still be struggling with the change. No matter the circumstance, it is never the wrong time or past the time to seek support. 

What is Insomnia?

Woman sitting awake in bedHow to Get Better Sleep

A poor night’s sleep can leave us feeling tired and frustrated and influence productivity and our ability to think. Poor sleep can lead to behaviors that further worsen sleep in the long run, including increasing caffeine intake to stay awake and skipping work outs because we are too tired. Moreover, over time, poor sleep can increase anxiety and negative thoughts about sleep that can further worsen our ability to sleep in the future. With this post, I hope to clarify what insomnia is and highlight some strategies that can help us find a good night’s rest when we fall off track.

What is Insomnia?

Man lying awake at nightInsomnia happens when we have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Most people experience some amount of trouble sleeping throughout the course of their life. Sleep difficulties can come as a result of a variety of factors, and brief episodes of insomnia often pass without any treatment. However, when the insomnia lasts for a long period of time (3+ nights/week for 3+ months), it can affect our mood, energy, and overall health. Chronic insomnia can lead to increased anxiety and worry about sleep and promote behaviors that can work to worsen our sleep. Luckily, however, there are strategies that can help those struggling to get a good night’s rest.

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Strategies to improve quality of sleep:

  1. Create a dark, quiet, and comfortable environment for sleep.
  2. Reserve your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only.
  3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  4. Practice relaxation before bed.
  5. Exercise during the day.
  6. Avoid caffeine.
  7. Refrain from taking long naps late in the day.

If you find yourself consistently struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep at night, it might be time to consider seeing a psychologist trained in providing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I has been found to be more effective than medication to help improve sleep and is a proven course of therapy for individuals who are experiencing trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning all night, or keep waking up throughout the night.

If you would like to learn more about CBT-I and how it can work for you, please feel free to contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.  

How to find the “Best Therapist” for you!

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Finding the best therapist for you is the most important part of maximizing your successful with psychotherapy. However, as many people who have experience looking for a therapist can attest, finding a provider who is just the right “fit” can be very challenging. Here, I outline some strategies to help you find the therapist that is right for you. 

Strategies for Finding the “Best Therapist” for you 

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1)    Evaluate your needs and goals for psychotherapy 

Who will be in therapy?

Therapy and counseling services can be provided to individuals, couples, families, or groups. Therapists often also specialize in providing care to clients within certain age ranges (e.g. children or adults). When searching for the “best fit,” it is important that you are clear about who will be engaged in treatment, as not all providers are trained to serve all these different types of clients. 

What symptoms are you experiencing?

Because treatment modalities vary by symptoms and diagnoses, being able to broadly describe your symptoms and concerns can be extremely helpful in finding a therapist who is the “best fit” for you. This can help ensure that you are matched with a provider who has experience working with clients like you; and you can be confident in their ability to help you meet your goals for psychotherapy. 

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What kind of treatment are you seeking?

There are many ways in which providers treat mental health concerns, ranging from medication management to different types of talk therapy. While it can be challenging to understand all the differences in treatment options, it can be helpful to consider what approach might work best for you (e.g. short or long-term therapy, focus on the “here and now” or preferences to understand how past experiences influence how you feel today, etc.).

What resources do you have available?

When seeking therapy, you will need to consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to therapy (e.g. time spent commuting, parking, and practicing new skills in between sessions). If you plan on using your insurance, it is important to know what types of services they cover and any limitations to this coverage. If you do not have insurance, it can also be helpful to consider budgeting how much money you plan on investing in a course of therapy.

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2)    Evaluate potential therapists.

What is the therapist’s area of expertise?

Psychology is a very diverse field of study, which means that most therapists specialize in some area of clinical service. When evaluating a provider’s expertise, it is important to consider their level of education or type of license, their defined client focus, and the treatment modalities they offer. A therapist who specializes in working with people who are like you, are more likely to be able to provide services that will meet your specific needs and goals.

How and when will you access care?

You should be able to access therapy with relative ease, as you will likely be attending sessions regularly, especially at the beginning of treatment. It is also important to understand your provider’s availability to take on new clients, any flexibility they may have in their scheduling, and, when applicable, estimated waitlist times.

3)    Choosing the “best therapist” for you. 

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Which profile or website do you connect with most?

For most people, first impressions of potential providers tend to be online. As you look for a therapist, I suggest that you read through their various online materials and visit their websites to get a better sense of who they are and what they do. It is important to be mindful of their expertise and how they fit your needs and goals for therapy. Once you have narrowed down your search, it is common to call several therapists or practices for an initial consultation before you ultimately make your choice.

Booking an initial consultation to evaluate fit. 

The initial consultation can be a great way to evaluate fit, as it allows you to assess what it would be like to work with this therapist. You can assess the timeliness of their response, their communication style, and ask more questions about their expertise and approach to psychotherapy. Once you know your provider has the right qualifications for you, it is important to assess if feel as though you can build a trusting therapeutic relationship with the provider.

By following the steps above, you will likely be well on your way to finding the “best therapist” for you. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but taking your time in choosing the right provider for you can make all the difference in determining your success in finding relief and support through psychotherapy.

To learn what the best fit for you looks like, read more here…

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If you would like to more information about the psychotherapy services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation. 

How to Find the Best Therapist in Coronado & San Diego

best therapist

Finding the best therapist for you is crucial when looking to begin a course of psychotherapy. However, as many people who have experience looking for a therapist can attest, finding a therapist who is just the right “fit” can be very challenging. But, what does “best fit” mean in the context of therapy?

Defining “Best Fit” in Therapy

The therapist who is the “best fit” for you, is somebody who can meet your needs in terms of their expertise, availability/accessibility, and interpersonal style.

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Expertise

When searching for a therapist, many people may not realize just how broad the field of psychology is. There are many specialties within mental health, and most providers are experts in some but not all types of psychotherapy and counseling services. A therapist’s expertise can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the type of clients they see (e.g. child, couples, adult, or group), the problems they address (e.g. anxiety, depression, substance abuse, behavioral problems, personality disorders, etc.), and the kinds of treatments they provide (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Biofeedback, Psychodynamic, etc.). A therapist who is a good fit for you would naturally be somebody who is trained to assess and treat your specific concerns.

Availability and Accessibility

A therapist who is the “best fit” for you will also need to be accepting new clients and available to provide services at times when you can attend sessions. These sessions will need to be readily accessible to you (e.g. reasonably close in proximity or available via telehealth) and you will need to consider how you will pay for these services (e.g. payments made out-of-pocket or through insurance).

Interpersonal Style

Psychotherapy and counseling services are very personal experiences, as they involve being open and honest with your provider about your biggest challenges. A strong “therapeutic alliance” or connection between you and your therapist, is one of the main components of a successful course of psychotherapy. This means that, ultimately, the therapist who is the “best fit” for you will also need to be someone with whom you feel you can build a trusting working relationship.

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Compatibility

It is important that you and your provider are compatible across these three domains. That is why I often encourage people who are interested in therapy to talk to several potential providers before they commit to a course of therapy, to ensure that they can feel confident in their choice.

It is also important to keep in mind, however, that there is not only one person who is the “best fit” for you. There are likely many providers who are equally capable of helping you reach your therapy goals. While it may take some time to find the “best” therapist for you, it is worth taking the time to make the right choice, as it can make all the difference in the success of your treatment.

Continue reading & learn strategies you can use to find the best therapist for you…

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Do Anxiety Tests Work?

Depression Quiz

You may have come across an “anxiety test” or “quiz” online in your quest to better understand your symptoms. These “quizzes” are often multiple-choice questionnaires that ask you about your symptoms of anxiety, their severity, or their frequency over a certain amount of time.

These tests can be useful to understand your anxiety, but they can also be misleading or unhelpful, depending on how they are used. A common assessment for anxiety is the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire (GAD-7).

Although a full discussion of the psychometric properties and clinical implications of the GAD-7 are beyond the scope of this blog, here we provide some basic information on how mental health professionals use this tool in practice and the general benefits and pitfalls of such assessment tools.

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What is the GAD-7?

When providing evidence-based care, it is common to ask clients to fill out various questionnaires to assess existing symptoms and to track changes in symptoms over time.

The GAD-7 is commonly used to allow clinicians to quickly and objectively compare their client’s symptoms to a larger sample of individuals with similar concerns.

Results from the GAD-7 can tell us whether symptoms are mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe. There are many great attributes about the GAD-7 that make it popular and widely disseminated.

However, it is important to know that the GAD-7 alone cannot be the basis for any diagnosis. Licensed mental health professionals integrate the results of assessments like the GAD-7 with other important information, including the results of a comprehensive clinical interview and the review of other available records, in order to make a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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What do I do after I take an anxiety quiz?

Following a self-administered “anxiety quiz,” it is important to know that whatever the outcome, a diagnosis can only be made after a comprehensive assessment with a trained mental health professional.

While online quizzes can be helpful to get an initial understanding of your own symptoms, it cannot replace the other information and clinical expertise needed to truly assess for any mental health disorder.

Regardless of the outcomes of such “tests” or “quizzes,” if you are experiencing anxiety for an extended period, I would highly encourage you to reach out to a licensed mental health professional for additional information and support.

If you would like to access care and want more information about our services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.  

Please see below for more information about the psychometric properties of the GAD-7:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/410326

Do Depression Quizzes Work?

Depression Quiz

In order to better understand your symptoms, you may have come across a “depression “quiz” or “test” online. Such assessments are often multiple-choice questionnaires that ask you about various symptoms of depression and their severity or frequency over a specific period of time.

Although such tests can be useful for people to gain awareness of their symptom severity, they can be misleading or unhelpful, depending on how they are used. A common and readily available assessment for depression is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9).

Although a full discussion of the psychometric properties and clinical implications of the PHQ-9 are beyond the scope of this blog, here we attempt to provide some baseline information to inform you on how mental health professionals use this tool in practice and the general benefits and pitfalls of such assessment tools.

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What is the PHQ-9?

When providing evidence-based care, it is common to ask clients to fill out various questionnaires to assess existing symptoms and to track changes in symptoms over time.

The PHQ-9 is a commonly used questionnaire that allows clinicians to quickly and objectively compare their client’s symptoms to a larger sample of individuals with similar concerns. Results from the PHQ-9 can tell us whether symptoms are mild, moderate, moderately severe, or severe.

There are many great attributes about the PHQ-9 that make it popular and widely disseminated. However, it is important to know that the PHQ-9 alone cannot be the basis for any diagnosis.

Licensed mental health professionals integrate the results of assessments like the PHQ-9 with other important information, including the results of a comprehensive clinical interview and the review of other available records, in order to make a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Depression Test Results

What do I do after I take a depression quiz?

Following a self-administered “depression quiz,” it is important to know that whatever the outcome, a diagnosis can only be made after a comprehensive assessment with a trained mental health professional.

While online quizzes can be helpful to get an initial understanding of your own symptoms, it cannot replace the other information and clinical expertise needed to truly assess for any mental health disorder.

Regardless of the outcomes of such “tests” or “quizzes,” if you are experiencing depression or anxiety for an extended period, notably more than two weeks, I would highly encourage you to reach out to a licensed mental health professional for additional information and support.

If you would like to access care and want more information about our anxiety and depression services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.  

Please see below for more information about the psychometric properties of the PHQ-9:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1495268/

Do I Have Anxiety or An Anxiety Disorder?

Co-Author Courtney Maliakkal, B.S.

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Public awareness of anxiety and related disorders has spread considerably, leading many of us to wonder, “Do I have an anxiety disorder?” Because there are many kinds of anxiety disorders and these disorders vary in presentation, the answer to this question is complicated. With this blog post, we hope to give you a broad understanding of what Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is and how you can get help. 

What is GAD and what are the symptoms?

Anxiety is often considered a “normal” and even adaptive part of everyday life. For example, worrying about a problem at work or an upcoming exam can lead to finding solutions quickly or studying more effectively.

However, a diagnosis of GAD requires clinically significant anxiety or feelings of worry and/or fear that are persistent and excessive. With GAD, this anxiety also impairs your ability to function in various aspects of your life, including work, school, relationships, health, etc.

Symptoms of anxiety can be emotional (e.g. excessive worry, fear, panic, or irritability), cognitive (e.g. inability to focus or remember things), or physical (e.g. sleep disturbance, shaking, sweating, or heart pounding), and can be triggered by many different types of stressors.

If you find yourself struggling with anxiety for a prolonged period or find that your excessive worry keeps you from daily life activities, it is likely time to ask for help.

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How Do I get help?

Because Anxiety Disorders are complex in their presentation and can only be diagnosed by a licensed health professional. A course of treatment should begin with a comprehensive assessment to tailor treatment plans that accurately and effectively helps you work towards reducing your symptoms.

Treatment plans often include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. If you are currently suffering with anxiety, you can consult with your primary care physician, talk to family and friends, and look at therapist directories online to understand your options for treatment.

Although it can feel overwhelming to open yourself up to a comprehensive psychological assessment, it is an important first step to finding relief and support.

Anxiety Support

If you would like to access care and want more information on our anxiety services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.  

Please see the links below for more information about anxiety:

American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/

National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml
American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders

What is Depression & How Do I Know if I’m Depressed?

Co-Author Courtney Maliakkal, B.S

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As public awareness of depression increases, many wonder, “Am I depressed?” Because depression can look very different from one person to another, the answer to this question may be more complex than one would expect.

A full discussion of all the complex components of depression are beyond the scope of this blog post; however, we hope that with this post, we can help provide a bit more insight into what depression is and how to get help. 

What Is Depression?

What is depression and what are the symptoms?

Most people experience feelings of low mood or sadness at some point throughout their lives (e.g. grieving a loved one or even just feeling a little blue).

Depression is different from these everyday feelings, as clinically elevated symptoms are often prolonged (over 2 weeks), cause significant levels of distress, and greatly impact your ability to function in your everyday life.

Symptoms of depression can affect how you think, feel, and behave. In addition to persistent feelings of sadness and/or a disinterest in previously enjoyed activities, depression can make you feel hopeless, worthless, alone, indifferent, ashamed, or unmotivated.

It can make it difficult for you to focus or concentrate, pessimistic in the way you interpret your experiences, and lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression can also impact your physical health by making you feel restless and tired or by disturbing your sleep and appetite. Any combination of these symptoms can be a sign of depression and can impact different aspects of your life, including but not limited to your ability to work, to take care of household responsibilities, or to develop and maintain meaningful relationships with those around you.

What Is Depression?

How can I get help?

Diagnosing depression is complex and can only be made by a licensed health professional. A skilled health professional can ensure that you receive a proper diagnosis and create a treatment plan tailored to help you cope with your specific symptoms and areas of concern.

Although it can feel daunting to talk about all the ways in which you feel depressed, the good news is that there are proven methods to treat depression and improve quality of life.

Effective treatment plans often include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. With the right provider, a proper assessment can lead to personalized treatment plans that can be highly effective in helping you cope with depression.

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If you or someone you love is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, we encourage you to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255), for free, 24/7 support. 

If you would like more information about psychological services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120, info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.  

Please see links below for more information about Depression & Suicide:

24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/

National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml

What Is an Initial Consultation?

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What is the purpose of the initial consultation with your new psychologist or therapist? Most clinicians offer some form of an initial consultation for clients prior to booking their first session.

This allows for you, a potential client, to gather more information about the provider and their practice. It also allows the therapist to assess whether they can be of service to you. The consultation is used to broadly assess reasons for seeking psychotherapy and other important information to ensure that the therapist is the right fit for you.

There are 3 main goals of the initial consultation:

Broadly assess your needs and whether the therapist can meet those needs.

During the initial consultation, a provider’s goal is often to determine if your needs fit within the scope of their practice. For example, it is common for clinicians to specialize in providing services to clients within certain age groups (e.g. adults or children only) or with specific diagnoses. It is important to clarify who the client will be (e.g. individuals, couples, or families) and what types of problems the client is looking to address, as not all providers are trained to address every client’s potential needs.

Inform the client about how psychotherapy can be helpful

Once it is established that the provider might be a good fit for you, it is important to use the initial consultation as an opportunity for you to learn about HOW this provider may be able to help. During the consultation, the provider will likely orient you briefly to their approach to psychotherapy and clarify broadly what types of methods they use to help their clients. Information about the provider’s therapeutic approach is important to consider as you begin to assess whether you think this therapist is the fit for you.

Initial Consult Coronado Psych

Orient the client to the practice  

Initial consultations are also a great way for clients to learn more about practice policies. Important logistical information can be clarified, including fees, insurance coverage, online/remote therapy options, provider availability (e.g. is there a waitlist; and if so, how long is the wait?), how to schedule appointments moving forward, and other resources (e.g. parking availability, provision of emergency services, etc.) that may be important to know before scheduling a first session.

Despite the initial consultation being brief, there is a significant exchange of information. This information is important to evaluate whether it is beneficial to move forward and book the first session. Ultimately, initial consultations can set the foundation for a productive first session and increase the likelihood of your compatibility with a specific clinician—an important part of any successful course of psychotherapy.

Online Consultation

If you would like to access care and want more information about our services at Coronado Psych, please contact us at 619-554-0120info@coronadopsych.com, or click here to schedule an initial consultation.