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What to Expect When Meeting with a Therapist

Matthew Edrington
By Matthew Edrington

In popular media there are two kinds of therapists. We’ve all seen the movies where the therapist sits back with his notebook, wearing some kind of sweater, and adjusts the glasses on his face while taking mysterious notes. All the while the person in therapy is expressing their soul’s disturbances and life troubles and the only kind of response the therapist gives is an occasional “hmmm” or “mmmm” and will go back to taking notes. The therapist will quietly give a one to two sentence response to the patient that usually doesn’t offer any advice about their situation or teach any coping skills. The patient is told to look inward at their life, and boom, they are cured!

The second version is the therapist who is well-dressed, with an entire wall of degrees and specialties framed for all to see. Most of the time, the therapy patient can barely get a word in edgewise because this therapist will often cut them off and drop a huge truth bomb about the client’s life that will change everything! Boom! Fixed! These two examples of therapists are incredibly one-dimensional and often not that helpful.

Therapy is a process toward growth and healing, not a one-stop-shop for a quick fix. Some therapy offices may have different processes, but this is what you can expect at Health West. When you first start seeking mental health services, you will either meet in person, virtually, or do a phone visit with one of our care coordinators who will gather a psycho-social history about you. This way, when you come in to meet with a therapist you can get right to business.

Your therapist should be willing and ready to start wherever you are and be a strong support for you in any situation. Therapy has multiple levels that go beyond wearing sweaters and glasses and dropping huge life truth bombs. Therapists are here to listen, to help process, to teach healthy coping skills, and to help facilitate healing. I have been a full-time therapist for more than five years now, and some of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had during therapy include exploring life, wonder, hardship, and change with the people I meet with.

Some situations require mental health prescriptions. Some therapists can write prescriptions, while others cannot. Even if your therapist does not prescribe medications, they should work closely with your medication provider to make sure they understand what you are taking. Your medication provider should work with you to ensure you understand why you’re taking the medication, the side effects, and the plan for their use. Sometimes, a therapist who does not prescribe can help you follow the instructions of your prescriber if you are having a hard time remembering to take your medication or remembering the instructions. Some questions you could ask your prescriber include:

  • Do I need to take this at the same time every day?
  • What are the side effects of this medication?
  • Will I be able to stop taking this medication at a certain point?
  • What can I expect when I start/stop this medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Should I take this on an empty stomach or with food?

If the movie version of therapy has turned you off from seeking help, know that therapy in real life is positive, powerful and effective. You will be listened to, validated, and learn skills to improve your life in a collaborative environment.

– Matthew Edrington is a licensed clinical social worker for Health West in Providence, UT.  


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