Image representing Jenai Wu Steinkeller's FAQs page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please inquire about fees when you make your initial call.  Dr. Wu offers a free phone consultation.  You are expected to pay for subsequent sessions out of pocket, and at the time of the session. Dr. Wu’s office does not process insurance claims and does not belong to any insurance panels.

Some health insurance plans will offer limited out-of-network coverage for psychotherapy. You have the option to submit your claims for these sessions to your insurance company for reimbursement. If you wish to pursue this option you should contact your insurance company by calling the phone number on the back of your insurance card to find out how to submit your claims, and to find out the extent of coverage.  If you need insurance coverage as a condition of seeing Dr. Wu, please make this call before booking your appointments.

Dr. Wu treats a general population of patients working on a variety of problems. These include life changes or events; the need to improve functioning at work or school; the wish to have better quality relationships; problems in personal or emotional functioning; cultural issues; or stress and trauma. Below are examples of each of these areas.

Personal and Emotional Functioning

Depression or anxiety

Compulsive behaviors, addictions

Self-criticism, self-recrimination and guilt

Self-destructive behavior

Unidentified ennui, boredom, or lack of happiness

Jealousy and envy

Anger and fear

Other mental disorders

Personal and Emotional Functioning

Problems in an important relationship such as spouse, parent, children, siblings

Difficulty forming or continuing relationships

Frequent conflicts or avoidance of conflict

Shallow unsatisfying relationships

Sexual issues, intimacy, avoidance, commitment, performance, fetishes

Negative or unhappy relationships

Functioning at Work or School

Pressure to perform, perfectionism

Fear of competition or fear of success

Procrastination

Insecurity and lack of self-confidence

Overload and stress

Conflict with authorities or peers

Developmental or Life Events

Career change, relocation, promotion, demotion, retirement

Marriage or divorce, pregnancy, children

Relationship break-up

Caring for elders

Grief and mourning

Coping with illness, aging, or dying

Cultural Issues

Mixed marriage, adoption, first-generation issues

Conflict with immigrant family of origin

Cultural assimilation at work or school

Dealing with prejudice or stereotype

Gender issues

Trauma

Suffering symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to traumatic event

Surviving war or combat, imprisonment, refugee status

Childhood abuse or trauma, including sexual trauma

Past trauma interfering with present functioning and relationships

Dr. Wu will want to speak with you in person to help you decide whether an appointment would be appropriate for you.  The 3 areas of focus in this phone consultation (15 minutes) can be viewed as “background, goals, and logistics.”

Logistics:   Logistics often determines whether an appointment is possible or not.  If it’s important to you to avoid sharing personal information about yourself only to learn that it will be logistically impossible to see Dr. Wu, you could ask her about the following issues up front:

Scheduling:  Be prepared to let Dr. Wu know of any scheduling constraints you may have.  Dr. Wu does not have office hours during evenings or weekends.  Finding a time to meet will depend on your availability and openings in her schedule.  Dr. Wu’s sessions last from 50-90 minutes.  Session frequency may range from 1-3 meetings per week, or on an as-needed basis.

Fees:  Fees for appointments with Dr. Wu should be out-of-pocket, check or cash payments only.  She does not process insurance claims although you can research reimbursements that you can seek on your own by contacting your insurer.  You are asked to pay for each session at the time of the session.

Location:  Dr. Wu’s office is located in downtown Boston between Downtown Crossing and Government Center, across from Millennium Tower.  While there are numerous ways to get there by public transportation, traffic and parking can involve extra time if you are driving.  There is a parking garage right next door and for regular visitors it can be possible to get reduced rates.

Goals:   If you have an appointment with Dr. Wu, your goals and background will be explored mutually at greater length.  However during your initial phone conversation, she will want to know: what help are you hoping to get right now?  Why are you calling, what triggered your call?  What expectations do you have of this process?  What problem would you like to solve?  What difficulties are you experiencing?

Background:   This is usually interwoven with a discussion about goals, but previous experiences with psychotherapy, prior treatments are a part of this discussion.  Extended background, such as family and personal history may be discussed during the phone consultation but will usually be covered in more depth in subsequent sessions.

The short answer is that I am qualified to work with a wide range of people and problems.  Some of the “problem areas” that I see commonly, are covered in my Areas of Focus.  My training and experience are both very deep and very broad.  Since I did my graduate training at a major city medical school and medical center, by the time I got my Ph.D. I had evaluated or treated thousands of patients, not to mention all the different people (adults and children) I treated during my postdoctoral trainings at MGH, Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cambridge Hospital, or during 20+ years of private practice. After my post-doctoral training I undertook and completed psychoanalytic training, which is a profoundly in-depth process involving 10+ years of post-graduate studies, supervised training, and personal analysis.

In a way the reason I’m a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst is that I find people inexhaustibly interesting and unique.   After all these years and so many people, I find helping each person identify and work through their unique brand of stuckness and helping them connect to their own deep vitality more and more rewarding.

My special interests, training and activity in mindfulness, corporate consulting, culture and conflict management also broaden my “areas of specialization.”  Having worked as a management consultant in a boutique global firm and maintaining my own coaching and organizational consulting practice has made me very familiar with the concerns of people in the business world.  My own deep interest in meditation and extensive mindfulness training has sensitized me to the growing array of people who are inspired or motivated to change through mindfulness.  As an Asian-American my earliest interest in psychology was in its intersection with culture and gender.

Intellectually I could say that I specialize in the nexus between psychology, culture and spirituality.

But in my practice I specialize in individuals.  It is in joining people wherever they are and helping them move to a more liberated, flexible, joyful and vibrant state of being in the world that I am ever honing my skills in.

If you are interested in counseling, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or any kind of clinical consultation, I can only see you in my Boston office located downtown in an area known as Downtown Crossing.  If you are planning to move to Boston, or are interested in traveling into Boston for an appointment, then you may request a consultation.

If you are interested in executive or career coaching and would like me to help you privately (without your company getting involved), then you can meet me in my office, or we can augment face-to-face meetings with video-conference and telephone calls.

If you are part of an organization and would like my consultation and coaching services, then please visit my consulting and coaching site and contact me through that portal.  Organizational clients who engage me can usually expect me to see you on-site, although if it is convenient to meet in my downtown Boston office that is always an option.

No, that is not true, unless we could agree that there’s something “wrong” with everyone.

The 13th century Zen master Dogen is reputed to have said “To study Buddhism is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.”

A core purpose of psychotherapy is to improve functioning. This involves studying the baseline of where one is starting from, and learning to relate to oneself in a particular way that involves healing and respect for self and others.

The Zen saying unites the aim of healing and self-improvement with the spiritual and human aim of fulfilling one’s potential. Many people come to therapy because something is going on in their lives that is so painful that it is hard to keep functioning without help – somewhat akin to walking with a stone in the shoe. Many people stop therapy after removing the metaphorical stone – when the immediate difficulty is behind them. Some people choose to take the opportunity to attain deeper levels of self-understanding and functioning. In this way, coming to therapy does not mean there is something “wrong” with a person – but that they aspire to be better and to fulfill their optimal functioning.

Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are change processes whose aim is integration — healing, or making whole. This process addresses the totality of the individual’s personality, behavior, habits of interaction and relationship, emotional states and self-image, personal history and memory – in short the whole of a person’s functioning in the world and within themselves.

People seek this modality of help to address unsatisfying patterns in functioning, internally or externally, or when they are blocked in fulfilling their goals or potential. Psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are related methods. A central idea in both is the view that an individual’s mind and personality are strongly influenced by relationships, both relationships one has in present life, and relationships that were formative in early life.

Both treatments work with unconscious aspects of the mind — aspects of personal functioning that are automatic – like the operating system on a computer – rather than explicitly conscious. Such aspects can include habits of interactions and ways of relating to people; persistent or recurring emotional states or themes; and self-esteem and challenges to it.

This modality of treatment is helpful in understanding oneself at a deeper level, including persistent or unsatisfying patterns in life — such as difficulties making a commitment, or habitual self-sabotage, or other forms of imbalanced behavior.

Key to this form of treatment is the psychotherapeutic or analytic relationship with a professional who is well-trained in this methodology. Techniques include using deep listening, free association, dream analysis, observation and interpretation of interpersonal process, and using the safe, confidential, and structured therapeutic relationship to explore and understand how one functions in the world.

It depends. For some severe mental states such as clinical depression, severe anxiety, severe attention deficits, and psychotic states, medications can be very helpful to restore balance and mental equilibrium. Sometimes taking medication can be very helpful to augment the work of psychotherapy, not to mention helping with functioning.

However all medications have side effects, and psychotropic medications are no exception. Sometimes psychotherapy is more effective and enduring in solving problems than taking drugs. Whether medication is indicated depends on a thorough clinical assessment. A psychologist can often judge whether medication is likely to help. However only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and make judgments about which medications and dosages should be recommended. In some cases a Primary Care Physician will make the judgment to prescribe medications for depression and anxiety, sometimes in consultation with a psychotherapist working with a patient.

There can be convergence between these roles as well as important distinctions.

A psychologist goes to graduate school where, in addition to earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in a subspecialty of psychology, they get extensive clinical training in a specialization of their choice. There are different kinds of psychologists: clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, developmental psychologists, and so on. Clinical psychologists also sub-specialize, but many of them focus on psychotherapy.

A psychiatrist goes to medical school, where after they earn their M.D.s, they do residency training in psychiatry including extensive clinical training.

Psychopharmacologists are psychiatrists who specialize in treating patients with psychological complaints with drugs. All psychiatrists are qualified to write prescriptions, but some of them choose to practice psychotherapy primarily.

Both psychologists and psychiatrists as well as social workers can do special training to become a psychoanalyst.

Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy, which can be conducted by all three groups, is an approach to holistic and depth psychology which relies heavily on using the relationship and interaction between therapist and patient to yield insight into a patient’s mode of functioning.

Such work should be conducted by someone with rigorous clinical training, and there are institutions that offer and certify such training. The American Psychoanalytic Association requires its graduates and members to have licenses and clinical training prior to initiating analytic training. However some institutions in the U.S. and abroad train people to become psychoanalysts without prior clinical training.

Psychoanalytic psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy both seek to strengthen an individual’s capacity in awareness. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the focus is on becoming aware of patterns of thinking which are repetitive and maladaptive. Psychoanalytic therapy is broader based, including attention to thoughts and feeling states, as well as the tracking of what is happening within the relationship between therapist and patient. Mindfulness training and psychotherapy could work well together to the extent that there is a great deal of overlap in what is being cultivated, while the techniques are somewhat different.

Other important parallels between mindfulness practice and psychoanalytic psychotherapy include: developing a non-judgmental attitude, increasing and expanding the awareness and tolerance of mental states, and developing the capacity to observe one’s own mind in a non-reactive way, which is a very important and high-level psychological function.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are related in terms of theory, approach, and techniques.

Central to both modalities is the view that an individual’s mind and personality are strongly influenced by relationships, both relationships one has in one’s present life, and relationships that were formative in early life.

Both treatments work with unconscious aspects of the mind — aspects of personal functioning that are automatic – like the operating system on a computer – rather than explicitly conscious. Such aspects can include habits of interactions and ways of relating to people; persistent or recurring emotional states or themes; and self-esteem and challenges to it.

This modality of treatment is helpful in understanding oneself at a deeper level, including persistent or unsatisfying patterns in life — such as difficulties making a commitment, or habitual self-sabotage, or other forms of imbalanced behavior.

This modality is also particularly well-suited to the work of helping individuals with painful feelings and emotions, both which are short-term, and those which are of long duration.

Key to this form of treatment is the psychotherapeutic or analytic relationship with a professional who is well-trained in this methodology. Techniques include using deep listening, free association, dream analysis, observation and interpretation of interpersonal process, and using the safe, confidential, and structured therapeutic relationship to explore and understand how one functions in the world.

The main difference between psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis is the depth of work that is undertaken. Psychoanalysis may occur at a frequency of 3-4 times a week, and may involve the use of a couch. The effect of lying on a couch, facing away from the analyst, is to allow you greater freedom and mental space to freely associate, to say what might come to mind, and to reflect on your own inner experience, with less self-consciousness than sitting face-to-face. This method may take a little practice but has a track record in helping people do some of their deepest psychological work.

Yes. Increasingly in the past few decades neuroscience

[brain] research has turned to exploring more complex human behaviors, emotional states, and personality traits. While these explorations are still very much at the beginning stage (fledgling discoveries of the immense complexity of the human mind, brain and behavioral repertoire), neuroscientific and neuropsycho-analytic research is validating many fundamentals of psychoanalytic understanding of the human mind.

For instance it has become clear that from infancy the brain is overwhelmingly organized to function in a social environment, and that early primary relationships and their quality actually hard-wire the brain in how it regulates emotions, creates and maintains a sense of self in context, and how people learn to act and communicate with others. Fortunately research has shown that the brain has the capacity to grow and change (it is “plastic”) so that even deeply engrained patterns of feeling, thinking, and functioning can become modified over time.