Welcome! I am Dr. Andy Santanello, a psychologist who provides both in-person and online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
**Due to COVID-19, MOST services are being offered via telehealth for the foreseeable future. However, limited in-person services will be offered to fully-vaccined clients beginning in June***
Overall, I specialize in using effective strategies for helping my clients to get “unstuck.” I offer various forms of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). CBT is an effective, short-term type of psychotherapy. It is an evidence-based therapy for many common problems such as depression, stress, anger, PTSD, and anxiety. Evidence-based therapies or “EBTs” are “[treatments] that have been evaluated in research and have been shown to lead to therapeutic change.” In other words, EBTs are types of therapy that are supported by actual data rather than simply the judgment or preferences of the therapist.
Training and Experience
I earned my doctorate in clinical psychology from La Salle University in 2006. After completing graduate school, I received years of intensive training and supervision in many forms of CBT and ACT for a variety of different conditions. Specifically, I’ve had very good results providing CBT to clients experiencing panic attacks, excessive worry, social anxiety, different types of fears/phobias, PTSD, depression, insomnia, and difficult life transitions. For the first decade of my career as a psychologist, I served as a Staff Psychologist in the Trauma Recovery Program in the VA Maryland Health Care System. Since that time, I have transition into my current, full-time role as a Military Behavioral Health Psychologist, and a National Trainer in Cognitive Processing Therapy.
Do you accept insurance?
I am not part of any insurance network and am considered an “out-of-network” provider. If your insurance plan allows you to see out of network providers for telehealth services, you may be able to submit receipts from our sessions for reimbursement. It’s important to check with your insurance provider about what services are eligible for reimbursement and what documentation needs to be submitted in order to request reimbursement. I may be able to provide the information required by your insurance company. However, you (not your insurance company) are responsible for full payment of my fees.
I have an Health Savings Account (HSA). Can I use that to pay your fees?
Yes! IRS Publication 502 states, “You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay to a psychologist for medical care.”
“Although we all have a unique history and set of problems, I believe that each and every one of us can create a life of meaning and purpose. This requires the courageous decision to make room for pain in the service of taking action on the things that are most important.“
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an evidence-based therapy for many common problems.
What is the goal of CBT?
The ultimate goal is to teach the client to become his or her own therapist. CBT is effective in the long term because clients can continue to use their skills once therapy is over. Treatment is completed when the client’s unique goals have been reached.
What is it like to do CBT?
CBT is similar to physical therapy in some ways. Both types of therapy are:
- Focused on targeting specific problems
- Designed to teach new ways of dealing with problems in therapy sessions
- Often require short term discomfort to achieve long term change
- Require the client to practice new skills at home between sessions
Therapists teach clients ways to manage emotional pain and to solve their practical problems in the lives right now. It is a very engaging and active form of therapy.
How much does it cost?
Initial Appointment: $170
In Person 60-minute Psychotherapy: $170
Telehealth refers to the provision of psychological services remotely through the use of technology.
What is it like?
Basically, the experience of participating in telepsychology is very similar to video chat with other people in your life. Dr. Santanello and his clients interact through the use of web cameras and microphones over a secure internet connection. Often, Dr. Santanello will follow-up with his clients after sessions through secure messaging, a type encrypted email, to provide them with helpful worksheets that assist in learning new coping skills.
Do you have to be a computer genius?
No! If you know how to use email, click on internet links, fill out forms, and use videochat, you already have 95% of the skills you need to make the most out of telehealth. Of course, you will need access to high-speed internet, a web cam (most computers have them these days), and a microphone of some sort. Earbuds with integrated microphones that often come with smart phones are perfect for telehealth.
Why choose telehealth?
Telehealth is a great option for people who are pressed for time and/or who don’t have access to evidence-based, cognitive behavior therapy in their area . Telehealth is also a much more convenient option for many people compared to traditional, in-person therapy.
How much does it cost?
Initial Appointment via interactive video teleconference: $170
60-Minute Psychotherapy via interactive video teleconference: $170
Even the most seasoned therapists need to keep their skills sharp.
Why is coaching helpful?
Although CBT is a science-based therapy, there is certainly an art to effective delivery. Coaching is a great opportunity to practice your skills in a low-stakes and supportive environment.
What is coaching like?
Coaching is similar to other types of skills-based consultation. Dr. Santanello tends to favor conceptualization and experiential practice over didcatic training methods.
How much does it cost?
The charge for a 60 minute coaching session is $100.
Andy Santanello, Psy.D
You can learn a bit about my clinical training and experience up above.
While all that stuff is important, I think it is equally important to know a bit more about your therapist in addition to where they went to school and where they have worked.
Creativity, intimacy, bravery, adventure, generosity, spirituality, and SILLINESS are guiding principles in all domains of my life.
You’ll notice that I am wearing a ceremonial garment called a “rakusu” in the picture I’ve chosen for this section. This means that I have received the 16 Bodhisattva Precepts, committing myself to the path of Sōtō Zen Buddhism. In addition, my rakusu is brown, signifying that I am a “dharma holder” or teacher-in-training.
Hobbies and Interests
I am a HUGE animal lover. When I am not spending time with my dog, Clancy, and cat, Duncan, I volunteer as a Nursery Nanny, Cat Cuddler, and Dog Deputy at the SPCA. Being creative is also a passion for me, and currently I am “scratching that itch” by homebrewing beer. Also, I think it’s really important to find humor in life. That is why I REALLY enjoy torturing other people with my corney jokes and puns.
Let’s get started.
My Approach to Psychological Treatment
My approach to therapy is straightforward. First, I take some time to get to know you: your struggles, the ways you cope, and what you really want out of life. Second, we will work together to figure out what is getting in the way of living the life you want. Third, we will start developing new ways to relate to your problems so that you will have more freedom to live your best life. Overall, the goal of my approach to therapy is to become more psychologically flexible.
Every person is unique, so your treatment plan will also be unique. We will work together to figure out a path forward.
Do you prefer structured or unstructured?
Do you prefer more or less structure in therapy? Well, the good news is that we can do some powerful work together with either approach.
Some of my clients prefer a more process-oriented approach. Usually, this means that therapy is focused on a few general goals and then each session is tailored to the specific issues that are currently most important to the client. In this approach, I help clients develop a broad collection of psychological flexibility skills that can be applied in many situations.
A Protocol-oriented approach is usually a better fit for clients who want to focus on one, very specific presenting problem (e.g., panic attacks, PTSD). Treatment protocols help me and the client stay on track so that we can systematically address all the factors that contribue to the presenting problem. Typically, treatment protocols include a step-by-step progression of psychological skills that build on each other. In this approach, clients learn the skills that are most relevant a specific presenting problem.
Is it more healthy to have flexible or rigid muscles? It doesn’t take much thought to answer that question. Imagine life with muscles that were inflexible and unable to move and stretch according to life’s physical challenges. That would be a pretty difficult life!
Similarly, having a psychologically inflexible approach to life’s emotional challenges tends to lead to all sorts of difficulties. The goal of therapy, in my opinion, is learning to be more psychologically flexible.
What is Psychological Flexibility?
According to Steven Hayes, Ph.D. (co-creator of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy),
“Psychological flexibility means contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behavior in the service of chosen values.”
How does therapy with Dr. Santanello help to improve psychological flexibility?
If you want more flexible muscles, you need to practice stretching your body in the right way. In much the same way, learning to be more psychologically flexible involves practicing six key skills.
Taking Thoughts Less Seriously
We are often drawn into a futile battle with our thoughts, one that we can’t win. Because. we tend to overvalue thinking, human beings forget that no paying attention to unhelpful thoughts is an option. Defusion skills help us reduce the impact of thoughts so they don’t have as much influence on what we do.
Opening Up to Your Experiences
If you don’t like it, try to get rid of it. That strategy, when applied to our internal worlds, is called experiential avoidance. Relying on experiential avoidance to cope with unwanted emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations predicts the development of many, many different types of problems including depression and anxiety disorder. Learning to “make room” for and feel all of life’s experiences, even the painful ones, as a choice, helps us to learn from them.
Human beings need to have a sense of where we are and what is happening. Our minds often try to help us feel oriented by thinking about how we got here and where we are going. Unfortunately, we can get caught in the past through rumination and fearful about the future through worry. Learning to reorient to the present moment helps to bring us back to NOW. This move allows us to create choice points: opportunities to remind ourselves about what is most important and to take effective action.
Perspective Taking and Self-Compassion
Who are you? The answer your mind gives to that question is your “self story.” It’s perfectly fine to have a story about yourself (I’ve got one in my “About” section). Unfortunately, problems start when we start to believe that we ARE that story. This often fuels harsh self-talk and gets in the way of being kind to ourselves. Perspective taking helps us connect with a more fundamental and flexible sense of self that is supportive, loving, and compassionate.
Clarifying What Really Matters
What do you want your life to be about? What really matters to you? Questions like these are helpful in clarifying the adjectives that descibe the person you want to be in your life. Knowing your values allows you to return to them again and again just like you would check your GPS to make sure you are moving in the right diretion.
Taking Meaningful Action
Lives that work are the result of making choices to do what works based on what really matters. Taking meaningful action is the way to manifest your values and bring them to life.
Being an introvert in a culture that idolizes extroversion can be really challenging. Introverts tend to need time alone to “recharge” and are often very sensitive to overstimulation, espeically in social settings. Introverts aren’t neccessarily shy, socially anxious, or unskilled socially. Rather, social situations are draining for introverts. Unfortuantely, much of our society is set up to cater to extroverts who crave stimulation and social contact. If you have been struggling to be an introvert in an extroverted world, I feel your pain! Learning to embrace your unique strengths and abilities as an introvert, to take care of your needs for “alone time,” and to set appropriate limits with others will help you to go from surviving to thriving.
Worry, Anxiety, and Stress
No matter how much you try, your mind won’t stop focusing on the “what ifs.” Chronic stress, feelings of anxiety, and worry can leave you feeling stuck. If only you could just find a way to keep all the anxious thoughts and feelings away. I’m guessing that you’ve tired that already. Treatment for anxiety helps you to learn how to face your anxiety in the service of what matters.
Feeling empty, unmotivated, overwhelmed, and exhausted just plain sucks. Ironically, depression is an attempt by your mind to save you from pain. The emotional hibernation of depression is supposed to help you conserve your energy so that you can function. Long term, that doesn’t work because avoiding the things that make us uncomfortable simultaneously blocks us from doing things that matter. Treatment for depression is about reconnecting with what matters and then choosing to take action even when your mind says you can’t.
Panic and Health Anxiety
Panic feels like you are about to die. It makes you start to mistrust your own body, worrying that physical sensations are signs that something is terribly wrong. Looking for reassurance from the internet or other people in your life just seems to make it worse. Over time, worrying that you might have another panic attack or that some unexplained sensation might mean you are seriously ill or about to die can consume you. Treatment for panic and health anxiety helps you to make peace with your body so you can start living again instead of always worrying that panic, or worse, is right around the corner.
Trauma, Grief, and PTSD
Exposure to death, serious injury, sexual assault, the unexpected loss of a loved one, sudden life changes, and other significant losses are major life events. Making sense of these experiences can be extremely difficult, and many people get stuck in their recovery process. Treatment for stressor-related problems is focused on creating a safe environment to face the past so it doesn’t define your future.
Focused ACT (FACT)
Focused ACT or FACT is a brief and lazer-focused version of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. FACT is a great approach for clients who have a specific problem or two that they would like to address in therapy. Sessions are generally shorter than traditional therapy (30-40 mins) and the duration of therapy is somewhere between one and six sessions.
Professional Development for Therapists
If you are feeling like you are in a professional rut or just want to improve your CBT skills, professional coaching can be incredibly useful. I offer professional consultation in general CBT skills as well as ACT, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and other specific CBT protocols.