Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)?
Marriage and Family Therapists are mental health professionals with a minimum of a Master’s Degree and two years of post-graduate supervised clinical experience.  MFTs are licensed to independently diagnose and treat mental health issues. Trained in evidence-based psychotherapy and family systems, MFTs focus on understanding their client’s symptoms and interactional patterns within their existing environment, and treat from a relationship perspective that incorporates family systems. Go to for more information.

Why should I choose Marriage and Family Therapy over a different mental health discipline?
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are the relationship experts amongst mental health professionals. They are uniquely qualified and vigorously schooled almost exclusively via the use of raw data utilizing video-taping and live supervision with a one-way mirror. This is a unique and highly effective training modality amongst the mental health professions as it promotes, among other things, the value of multiple realities within a system. This understanding is crucial to being qualified to work with more than one person at a time (as in couples and families). It is also integral to being able to see the function of seemingly erratic or undesirable behaviors.

MFT is based on research and theory that mental and relational health are best viewed in a familial context, and as such, MFTs see clients as embedded within the context of their relationships --- to themselves, to patterns of emotions, to their partner, to their children, to their roles, etc.  Hence, the relationship becomes the medium for change.  

Psychotherapy is a process of expertly guided self-exploration/discovery that occurs within the relationship between client and therapist.  Clients move through old defensive dynamics and into self-care where healing can occur. Outside of the original context of our suffering/trauma, we usually no longer require the same defenses/blocks/protective parts that were necessary then.  Lowering emotional intensity and thereby allowing more conscious thought is one technique that allows for greater clarity. When your psychotherapist is also an MFT, you have the added benefit of creating even greater positive change in your life as you can legitimately bring more of your system in for healing if you choose. You can also improve those connections with the guidance of a relationship expert even as an individual client.

MFTs understand the interactional patterns among systems and the wounds that correspond with those patterns between couples. Even work with an individual has as its focus the individual in relation to others. Marriage and Family Therapy is very different from individual therapy. An MFT has a graduate degree from a university giving specialized training in this field.  Many other programs of training in the social sciences often provide only one course in the relational field of Marriage and Family Therapy whereas a program awarding a specific degree in MFT will have at least 45 credits in this area. If you are looking to efficiently create lasting positive change in the quality of your life and relationships, an MFT is what you are looking for.

What sort of services do you provide?
In-depth relational therapy for individuals, couples, families, and groups. Sessions are collaborative, full and as brief as possible. See Services.

How long does the therapy process last?
The length of therapy is dependent upon each client’s specific goals, history, intensity of pain, degree of woundedness, trauma defenses, current coping skills, dedication, and motivation to the therapeutic work. After 3-5 sessions a reasonable expectation can be given as to the potential length of the therapeutic relationship.  

Debra’s therapeutic approach is generally considered to be brief and fairly directive.  Many clients choose to continue to work with Debra after attaining their initial goals to occasionally refresh their skills or to address additional areas of concern. Of course, clients have the right to terminate sessions at any time they wish with no obligations other than any fees accrued during the time spent in therapy.

Are you a doctor or social worker?
No.  Debra is an expertly trained and seasoned Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with over 35 years of clinical experience.

Do you see couples that are not married?
Yes.  All couples in committed relationships and at different stages of a relationship see Debra for therapy. You may be living together with your partner, dating, engaged to be married, newlyweds, same sex partners, or former partners trying to remain good parents amidst your split. 

Do you accept insurance?
No, Debra is not a provider for any insurance company. Payment for services is due at the time of service. Some insurances reimburse for services through their out-of-network provision, however, clients are requested to pay for each session in full and arrange for reimbursement between themselves and their insurance company. It is recommended that the client wanting to submit a claim to their insurance provider first call about their benefits, verify out-of-network coverage for mental health services, and if the services will be reimbursed if provided by a Marriage and Family Therapist. Debra can provide a receipt for services rendered.

Where are you located?
Syracuse NY. Debra’s office is easily accessible from 81 and 690. Directions will be provided.

Are you HIPAA compliant?
Debra’s practice is not a “covered entity” under the HIPAA regulations, and therefore is not required to follow the standards outlined in the legislation. However, Debra neither transmits any health information electronically, nor does she clinically collaborate with any other professionals electronically. She functions as a sole provider. Her clients’ health records are for the sole purpose of clinical treatment.

How do I (we) get started?
Email Debra at or call her office at 315.478.0083. As she is frequently in session, please leave a message that you’re interested in discussing options for therapy. Your call will be returned promptly.

Is there a free initial consultation?
No, the initial session is the same rate as any regular session. However, a free 15-minute phone consultation is provided for all new inquiries to ascertain degree of fit between client and therapist.

I have never done this before so what can I expect?
When your call is returned, you’ll be asked why you are seeking therapy at this particular time. You’ll also be asked some brief questions about your experience of the problem.  Debra will answer your questions to enable you to make an informed decision about working with her.  Should you decide to continue, logistics will be reviewed and an appointment made. 

At the first session, which is typically 1.5 hours for individuals and 2 hours for couples/ families, Debra will construct a three-generation genogram and collect further information to better understand contextual factors impacting your life, relationships and, where applicable, problems. Goals will be identified so that there is a focus and a foreseeable end. Sessions that follow will focus on how to reach that end and addressing barriers, conflicts and steps towards your goal. Couples/families are seen together for the initial session and ongoing sessions unless otherwise suggested. 

Contact Info

Email or call 315.478.0083 for a free 15 minute consultation