Matthew Taylor is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Florida specializing in anxiety, codependency, and grief & loss. We asked Matthew more about his work with clients and his guiding philosophies on therapy.
Matthew’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
In my younger years, I saw a lot of children, my friends, have issues that I didn't understand at the time. As it turns out, those "issues" were really symptoms of things they were struggling with, that very few people recognized. Back then, all I could do was be a friend and try to just be supportive and understanding, but it left me wanting to do more for people. I knew I wanted to connect with those who are lonely, enlighten those who are confused, and light a path for those who are lost. My first psychology professor in college was the test of this passion and he helped me fall in love with the field. I had a great deal of professors, classmates, friends, and family support me on the journey that led me to this today.
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
I spent many years in treatment facilities before opening up my private practice. I first worked with a program that catered to those with Pervasive Developmental Disorders, so we worked on life skills and social skills a great deal then, in addition to helping them start a vocational rehabilitation program. I worked for several years at a facility that worked primarily with those with substance use issues and addictions. My stance was always to go for the meat underneath the substance issues and treat the person, rather than their masks.
I then worked for a facility that carved itself a niche of being the ones to accept those "too complex for most facilities" while also being "too stable to stay in the hospital." We saw a great deal of complexity in those individuals and I enjoyed helping them to find some peace and self-acceptance. My last facility took a focus on mental health and especially trauma, where we wove the subject into everything we did in order to create a place of understanding and connection.
A majority of what I have done across the years has been group work because I liked being able to help a greater number of people understand themselves and work together to support each other.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am a nerd. I am not shy about my nerd level, nor will I apologize for it. I am a husband and a dad to two beautiful boys and we love going to Disney when we can. I also am an Eagle Scout and my love of nature has never waned so I like being able to walk a trail or ride in a kayak. I like watching movies and TV shows that are comic-book related, and I'm not afraid to rewatch some of the classic animated shows from when I was younger, again, because I am unapologetically a nerd. I also like long walks on the beach at sunset.
Matthew’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
My first guiding principle is called "unconditional positive regard", which means that I task myself with seeing you in a positive light in an attempt to understand you. I also operate from an assumption that your "issues" make sense once we put the pieces together, which is the principle of "empathy." Finally, what you get from me is not a stuffy nor cold "professional", nor the TV therapist that stares at you and then says something akin to "hmmm, that's interesting". What you get from me is genuineness, or congruence, that I am a real person who is going to treat you in a real way, even if that means more dad jokes than you might be able to handle.
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
I work with adults, primarily from age 18 through the 30's but I am open to seeing adults at almost any age. I have a heart for members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well as Veterans and First Responders. I spend a lot of time focusing with my clients on their childhood trauma as the beginnings of the domino cascade that is the rest of their lives. Certain individuals have recurrent traumas that have complicated their daily experiences and so need a place that they can feel safe enough to let a couple guards rest and explore what it is like to "just be yourself."
Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?
Anxiety is the symptom, not the problem, where you feel "on edge" and hypervigilant. The real cause can be any number of things, but I tend to focus on root Traumas that perpetuate these symptoms. One of the first things we would establish is ways for you to feel safe and in self-control. We work on decreasing your somatic symptoms (physical sensations) through skills of muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing. I want you to know that you aren't "crazy" for having anxiety and worry, and maybe we can find a way to let the anxiety go.
Can you tell us more about your work with clients on codependency?
Codependency often another "symptom, not the cause" issue, where someone experiences a trauma that causes them to question the stability of their relationships. This question then drives them to create an over-dependence on others and behaviors of consistent testing of those relationships in order to prevent abandonment. The issues here are that these relationships are toxic and not based in a mutual understanding of respect, but rather a projection of expectations onto the other in the relationship and then resentment when they person cannot live up to that relationship.
Our work will be in helping you to find you. I want you to find the strength and skill inside you. I want you to have the worth inside you. We will not be focused on you being "alone" but rather to increase the health of your relationships by you "filling your cup first" and then the other relationships are the gravy to your meat and potatoes.
Can you tell us about your specialties in grief and loss?
Grief is something that is common among us all, but is so easily misunderstood. Grief happens in many ways, not just death, but in loss of a lot of things we value. This could include relationships, job, status, and innocence. In society, people will try to offer the grieving person a platitude that sounds comforting, but often feels patronizing to the individual in pain. I will not be giving you any such platitudes, but instead work to let you know that what you feel or not feel will be ok, and you will not be judged or demeaned as you work on your process.
Each loss is unique, and each person experiences each loss in a unique way. My job is to give you the freedom and safety to explore where you want to go with your pain, and walk the journey with you as a consistent reminder that you are not alone.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The ripple effect: I could help one person with one issue and that might be the end of it, or I could help a person with how that one issue affects their lives and the lives of those around them and now I'm helping the individual and their circle. Then I took that to a group setting where I am helping as many as 25 people at once make a positive impact on their lives and those around them. I also really enjoy being a Qualified Supervisor for Mental Health Counselors, which means I help train other therapists who help those clients who make changes in their lives and those around them.
Therapy sessions with Matthew
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
I offer a free 15 minute consultation so that I can get the basics of our work together, while also assessing if we would be a good fit. This gives you an opportunity to hear from me as well without any "commitment" needed. Our first session is the big and boring assessment where I ask a bunch of questions so I can get all the angles of your issues down, but after that, we get to work.
We start with baseline and stability, so I want you to get some skills under your belt that can help you to feel like you can handle the day in front of you while also exploring the history that informs how your mind works. We'll have conversations along the way as to whether or not to include EMDR to progress past any specific blocks you may have with specific traumas.
How long do clients typically see you for?
I have seen clients anywhere from 4 weeks to several months. It completely depends on the individual's needs for continued help, but we can also step down in frequency as timing allows.
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
I don't do this a whole lot because the population I tend to work with has a lot of issues with patience and focus, but Codependent No More and The Body Keeps the Score are the two that I would recommend the most often.
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
I do like to foster what we call "Third Order Change" which is where you begin to self-generate the change process. This means that you will be doing work outside of our sessions, some written, some reading, and mostly behavioral practice of skills.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
Every week is another chance to check for progress just in how you feel from week to week, but I will also have you complete some recurring assessments so that we can have metrics for observing progress.
How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?
Do the same issues keep coming up in your life in different areas? Do you have to work hard to try to control them? Are you not living up to your expectations and responsibilities because of your struggles? That's how you know it's time to call someone.
How can I prepare for our first session?
You may want to bring a notebook and pen but its not necessary. Be ready to talk about, or at least around, some of the things you don't like talking about. Also it is absolutely crucial that you bring your funny bone! I want you to feel comfortable and at ease through the process of change because if you expect to cry every week then you won't want to come back. I know my humor is terrible dad jokes so just be ready to let out a good groan or facepalm in response.
How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?
We both will tend to know when the work hits a plateau and starts to run a little stale. We might have little to discuss or I might have very little to direct and intervene on. If that happens more than once than we have that discussion. I'll also mention it after a few weeks just to keep checking in with you to make sure that what we do works out for you.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
You should absolutely do BOTH! Have all of the support! The only difference is that I have experience with literally thousands of peoples' stories and have tested the suggestions that I give. Your friends and loved ones are important to utilize as a part of a greater network, but a therapist can give you an impartial (or partial to you) perspective on your issues because they have no stake in the result of your decisions. We have been trained for this, we went to school for this, we have been doing this for years, so let us help you too!
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
Not advice. Just a suggestion: if you have read thus far, you have been thinking about help and there is NO risk at all in just calling and having a conversation. Do yourself and your future a favor. Start the change process now while it is on your mind!
Visit Matthew’s profile to watch his introductory video, read more about him, and book an initial call!