For too long Americans have separated mental health from overall well being in ourselves and others. According to a 2016 Mental Health America study, 57 percent of adults who have or experience mental health issues do not receive treatment. There are many contributing factors to this startling statistic. Two of the biggest factors in why Americans don’t seek or get help is financial/health care costs and the fear and shame that is associated with getting help.

To dispel the stigma that has long-plagued those who seek therapy, counseling and other mental health services, I took a trip to local Psychologist, Jeffrey Verrecchio’s office in Camp Hill. Verrecchio has been a licensed clinical psychologist in Central Pa. for nearly 40 years. Last year, Verrecchio and Therapist Mark Verber opened Inspired Counseling Solutions where I attended my first therapy session.

I should note that this was my first time speaking to a psychologist – ever. So, I was just as much at the whim of preconceived notions, stereotypes and portrayals from TV and movies as the rest of the public.

When I had called to schedule my first appointment, I wasn’t sure what was expected of me. Verrecchio said to have something in mind that I wanted to discuss, but the more I thought about it, the more I over-thought it.

My internal monologue jokingly answered the question – “I don’t know where to start,” it said. Just like anyone else, my life has been a zig-zag of highs and lows, successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies, but all those experiences are personal, so how or what do you reveal about them to help your therapist help you?

As it would turn out, even what you don’t reveal can be uncovered by your doctor. Verrecchio was thorough, asking many follow up questions, ultimately honing in on anything he found to be useful in our conversation or to understanding my prerogative.

Keep in mind, it’s not just the what the counselor brings to the table that determines your experience in counseling. I went in with a positive attitude, knowing that Verrecchio’s job was to listen, to understand and to give me tools tailored to my specific experiences. The doctor’s office is a judgement-free zone, so leave your ego at the door.

The journalist in me had a difficult time holding back my own questions during our session. I wanted to ask, “what made you ask that question?” I also caught myself paying careful attention to his word choice. Verrecchio was deliberate, making sure his interjections were useful in guiding the discussion rather than just talking points filling quiet spaces.

To my surprise, the session never once felt awkward or forced – something I half expected considering the subject matters that can be discussed during any counseling session.

My talk with Verrecchio was both positive and productive. Though we discussed experiences that were once troubling to me, I didn’t feel like we dwelled on them. Instead, it was a well-rounded discussion, picking up certain details of my life and viewing them with clarity for the first time.

My first session opened my own eyes to all that I have done, experienced and accomplished. When our first chat was over, I left with a genuine smile and a feeling of satisfaction I have not experienced in some time. My car ride home was sanguine. I felt relieved to have vented to an unbiased, third-party who didn’t judge my life decisions.

The most rewarding part of the experience were the tools Verrecchio recommended to help me continue to better myself. I look forward to reporting back on session two in the next issue of Harrisburg Magazine.

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