help The Petri Dish

The Petri Dish featuring Dr. Gladys Smith – WashU Mental Health

Dr. Gladys Smith is a licensed Psychotherapist, Nationally Certified Counselor, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Master Addiction Counselor, and Registered Yoga Teacher. Gladys is also an Approved Clinical Supervisor. She is a veteran of the United States Navy, serving as a Chief Petty Officer (HMC) Hospital Corpsman and Sexual Assault Therapist, Substance Abuse Counselor, and Trainer. She has lived in Iceland, Scotland, and The Republic of the Philippines, Guam, Scotland, Australia, and various locations throughout the world while serving in the Navy. She is an avid runner and movie buff. She obtained a Doctorate in Psychology from California Southern University (Psy.D), Master of Education from University of Missouri, and Master of Health Science from Washington University, St. Louis (M.Hs).

Dr. Smith serves as a Trauma therapist/ Relationship & Sexual Violence Therapist at the Washington University Medical School.

She is also a Certified Trauma Professional and Compassion Fatigue Facilitator. She volunteers in the community with several organizations. She is an Alive & Well STL Ambassador and is a member of the Steering Committee for Alive & Well. She teaches Emotional Emancipation, Trauma Awareness courses, and Trauma focused and Peace Yoga classes in the community.

Today she joins us to demystify making and going to mental health appointments for DBBS graduate students. You can listen to the entire session, or read the TL;DR below!

Q: How should one go about making a mental health appointment?

A: I recommend email! You can call, as well, but sometimes the phones are weird, and we miss it. Emails are perfect because we can check our schedule right there and get back to you about availabilities. There are three therapists on campus, myself (smithgladysa@wustl.edu), Dr. Kenton Wertman (k.wertman@wustl.edu), and Dr. Rimiko Thomas (rlthomas@wustl.edu). Our bios are on the website.

Q: Why would someone need to go to counselling?

A: Let me make this clear, you do not need to be in crisis to come to counselling. We’ve all got issues and things that are bothering us, so nothing is too small to be addressed.

Q: What if you had a counsellor back home?

A: We can continue that treatment! Come on in!

Q: What does counselling do?

A: We don’t make you do anything, instead, we provide toolkits of things you can do to manage those issues.

Q: What do you see people for?

A: The most common things we see people for on the medical campus is first, imposter syndrome, and second, anxiety and depression (and often self-inflicted anxiety that goes along with imposter syndrome).

Q: On the website it shows you have specialties. So how do I go about picking the right provider?

A: We are all therapists, so we can all treat general mental health issues, but we have all areas that we are more interested in, just like you all with your research, so if you’re coming to us with anxiety, you can see any of us. If you are dealing with trauma, maybe you want to see myself, since that is one of my expertise areas.

Q: Okay, so I’ll shoot an email and get that appointment.

A: Remember that you don’t have to just email one of us and say “I need an appointment”. You can tell us in the email what you’d like help with and ask if we’re the right person to help. Or you can say that your personality is really chill and ask us if we are, too. We can tell you what type of methods we use and anything else you may want to know when picking a provider.

Q: What if I go to therapy and I don’t click with my provider?

A: Firstly, don’t fret – we get that we won’t all match with each other. I recommend that you see someone for 3-4 sessions before you make a decision. Then, if after those sessions it just doesn’t work for you, just tell us and make an appointment with a different therapist. We won’t be offended, and we don’t share anything with the other therapists.

Q: What are the appointments like?

A: Therapy isn’t like in TV. We don’t have couches (well, actually, we do have couches but we won’t be making you lie down on them – we’re not psycotherapists). Appointments are 50 minutes long. The first session is an assessment (45min), so really learning about you and setting your goals for therapy. We’ll ask you things like:

  1. Do you have any siblings?
  2. Who are your parents, and are they still married?
  3. Were you adopted? Were you in foster care?
  4. Have you experienced any trauma?
  5. Have you had any operations?
  6. Have you been to a therapist? If so, what worked and what didn’t?
  7. What do you want to achieve in therapy?

Then we’ll make an appointment for you to come back. The next 2-6(ish) sessions are to work on building that toolkit for dealing with the issue at hand. These appointments may happen every week, every two days, whatever seems appropriate for your scenario. After we’ve built a toolkit, we’ll see you less, and these appointments are where we check in with how the use of the tools are going. Are they managing the issue? Do we need to make new tools?

Q: What if I’m really busy in lab?

A: Look, you can find time to leave lab and come to therapy. 1) No one is watching you, 2) no one cares what you’re doing, and 3) you deserve it. The better and healthier your state of mind, the better your science will be.

Q: How long will I be in therapy?

A: As long as you need! Maybe it’s 3 sessions. Maybe it’s 10. Maybe you solve the issue, and then in 4 months it comes back, well, then come back and see us. Maybe you get a new issue, come back and see us for that. It’s fully customizable.

Q: When do I know I should go to therapy?

A: When something is causing a disruption to your life, come to therapy. Sure, you can live with the mental pain, but you don’t need to. We’re here to reduce and eliminate that pain, so why wait? No issue is too small because it’s all important because you are important.

Q: How long does it take to get your first appointment?

A: Usually the provider you’ve emailed will have an opening in 2-7 days – not bad! There is no super long wait. Additionally, if the schedule of the provider you’ve emailed and you’re schedules just clash, then we’ll recommend you see a different provider. It’s most important that we can see you regularly. We won’t be offended if it’s not with us, specifically.

Q: Does that mean you might see different therapists for the same problem?

A: No, that wouldn’t be a comprehensive treatment, as we all have different approaches. You can only have one therapist at a time.

Q: Are appointments virtual? In-person? Via phone?

A: During COVID, everything is virtual. I want to see your shiny faces. I have my patients show me their room, that they’re in a safe environment. And do you live with a roommate? I have clients who do their sessions with me in their car! We use HIPAA-compliant services for the virtual calls.

Q: What if I need a prescription for medication?

A: Let’s say you’ve seen us for 4-6 weeks and you just can’t get out of bed, you aren’t yourself, you’re snippy, etc. Then we’d give you a referral to see our psychiatrist, Dr. Allyson Bass, MD, who you’ll meet and have an appointment (you can get the referral from either us or Dr. Karen Winters). Dr. Winters can give you script for medications for general anxiety and depression, as well.

Q: What is an appointment with Dr. Bass like? Is it an appointment?

A: Yes, its very similar to seeing a therapist. You go in, she interviews you and goes into more detail of your history. She’ll talk about different medications, but you may not get it first appointment.

Q: So I only need a referral to see Dr. Bass?

A: You’d actually also need a referral to see one of the off-campus psychiatrists, just like seeing Dr. Bass or if you need to see a behavioral therapist. You do not need a referral to see an off-campus therapist on the sheet.

Q: What are some reasons to see an off-campus therapist instead of an on-campus therapist?

A: Maybe your schedule and all three of our schedules just don’t match up! Then an off-campus therapist might be able to fit in your schedule. Or maybe you just don’t want to be seen going into the building where therapy is. But, FYI, it’s pretty private on our floor, there are only radiologists walking around down there.

Q: Where are you located?

A: We’re in the Scott building, where student health is, but they are on the 3rd floor and we’re on the 1st floor, so we’re so far removed no one from that branch will see you visiting us.

Q: What about the cost? Is it difference between on- and off-campus?

A: It costs $10 per appointment (and the first appointment aka assessment is free), and both on- and off-campus appointments are the same price if you see the therapists on the list.

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