1. Do you take insurance as payment?
We don’t take insurance as a substitute for payment. Unfortunately, we’ve had some hard-bought experience with denied or painfully slow claims with insurance companies and managed care companies. And, even more unfortunately, we’ve had patients who actually pocketed the insurance money and refused to pay for the services that were provided in good faith. As a small business, we do not have the capability of keeping our doors open to serve you without ongoing cash flow.
2. Do you prescribe medicine?
No, we do not prescribe medication. Dr. Smallwood is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors. When medication appears to be a necessary addition to your therapy, we gladly refer you to your own medical doctor or a psychiatrist to prescribe the necessary medication while we continue to work with you in counseling to give you the insights and skills to overcome your difficulties.
3. Will my religious beliefs be honored or will they be discouraged at your clinic?
We work within the context of your religious beliefs. Our therapists are Christians and are comfortable integrating Christian faith into the counseling process, if that is the perspective of the client. However, we also work with people of other faiths or no religious affiliation and do not try to impose our own religious beliefs on our clients. Incidentally, it is our belief that there is no contradiction between healthy psychological principles and healthy spiritual principles.
4. How long will therapy last?
Of course, the answer is, “That depends.” It depends on the type of problem you are experiencing, how long it has been going on, and whether there are experiences in your personal background that make your current problems more painful. Most importantly, it depends on YOU – your current level of insight and skill, how open you are to honestly looking at yourself, how diligently you are willing to work outside the sessions. After we’ve spent time in the initial diagnostic session(s), we’ll be glad to discuss with you what will be involved in your treatment and approximately how long it will take.
5. Do you do custody evaluations?
No, we do not do custody evaluations. We have the utmost compassion and concern for the horrific process that can occur in the process of divorce, particularly with respect to the custody of children. However, custody evaluations involve a long, difficult, expensive process that must assess a myriad of factors that judges must take into account in these important custody decisions. We’ve made the decision not to take any more custody evaluation cases.
6. What about confidentiality? Can I be absolutely sure my secrets are safe?
We guard the confidentiality of your information with ultimate care. We follow privacy guidelines of HIPAA. We do not reveal your information or even the fact that you are a client to anyone without your written permission. When appropriate, we ask you to sign confidentiality release forms to professionals with whom you’d like us to consult or other individuals who you want to be involved in the discussion of your case.
There are, however, exceptions to confidentiality. When there is a clear and present danger to you (suicidal threats) or someone else (homicidal threats), or when a child or vulnerable adult is being abused, we are required by law to warn appropriate family members, prospective targets of violence, or relevant authorities. Occasionally, our records are subpoenaed as a part of a Court proceeding. In such a case, we will contact you immediately. If you do not wish your records to be released, we will make that known to the Court, either in writing or by appearance in person. Usually, the Court honors our confidentiality privilege. However, if we are ordered to produce the records, we must comply. If you have put your mental health at issue in a Court case, such as in a personal injury lawsuit, you are considered to have given implied consent for the release of your mental health records.
7. What if I miss an appointment?
As you will see in your Fees Agreement, missed appointments or those not cancelled on the business day prior to your appointment are charged at the regular fee. Exceptions to this policy are events like sudden illnesses, family emergencies, or violent weather. We had to make this policy because we have reserved that appointment time for you and have usually denied it to a waiting client. When you don’t come to your appointment or cancel at the last minute, we cannot fill that hour. Therefore, we must ask you to pay for that time unless you give us notice.
Also, if you are late for a scheduled appointment, you are charged for the entire scheduled time. On the other hand, if for some reason we have circumstances that prevent our being able to give you the full 50-minute hour, we will reduce the charge accordingly.
Therefore, please always record your appointment time on your calendar and post your appointment card in a prominent place. We’d much rather you get the benefit of your therapy hour!!
8. Why is a therapy hour only 50 minutes?
This is standard in the mental health industry. After your session, your therapist must make clinical notes on your session, schedule your next appointment, and occasionally go to the restroom! So, a clinical hour is 50 minutes. When we do not adhere to that, we get behind and then you are waiting for us beyond your appointed time.
The 50-minute hour is also the reason that the fee for ½ hour (30 minutes) is greater than half of the hourly fee. We prorate the minutes for ½ hour and ¼ hour
9. Why does the initial session cost more?
This practice, too, is fairly standard in the mental health industry. Your therapist has more work to before, during, and after the initial session. Often, she/he consults with you, a relative, or other referring person before the session. She/he has to review the information gathered in the diagnostic session to determine and record diagnoses and treatment plans. In some cases, our office has to follow up to secure records or gather/supply other information from sources you designate.
10 .Do you charge for report writing?
Yes. Hours we spend in review of essential documents or report preparation are changed at the customary hourly rate.
11. If my spouse and I see a therapist for counseling, then we wind up in a divorce – can you go to court and testify for me?
No, unless both parties agree and sign appropriate confidentiality releases. To testify against a client, basing an opinion on confidential information, would be an ethical violation (except in unusual cases, as described in Question 6 above).
12.How long does it take to get an appointment?
That depends on how flexible you can be with appointment times. If you must have late afternoon appointments, that takes longer, as most people who work outside the home and/or school children/adolescents prefer those. Normally, one of our therapists can see you within a week. We try to accommodate emergency appointments as soon as possible and, if all else fails, consult with you by phone to help you get help promptly.
13. What are your hours?
Normally, we see clients between the 9 A.M. and 6 P.M Monday through Thursday, and 9 A.M. to 12 noon on Friday. In cases of urgent need, we occasionally see clients a little earlier or later than that. We do not have weekend hours.
14. What if I have a emergency after hours or on a weekend?
Dr. Smallwood leaves her mobile number on the office voice mail. You can call her cell if your need is truly an emergency.
15.Where are you located?
We are at 206 S 28th Av. in Hattiesburg, MS. Get a map to The Hope Center.
16. How do I make an appointment?
Call our office between the hours of 8:30 A.M. and 5:30 P.M., Monday through Thursday, and between 8:30 A.M. and 12 noon on Friday. Our number is 601-264-0890. If you get the voice mail during those hours, we may be working out of the office, at lunch, on the other line, or running errands. Leave a message and we’ll return your call as soon as possible.
You can download the Client Forms you need from this site. Fill them out and bring them to your first appointment. Or, you can plan to come about 30 minutes early to your initial appointment to fill out the forms.
17. What if I have other questions I need answered?
You probably will, and we want you to ask them! If our Director of Hope Center Services, Ashley, doesn’t know the answer, feel free to ask your therapist. We never want you to be uneasy or confused. We’re here to help!