Therapy with Megan Connell, PsyD

Megan Connell is a Clinical Psychologist who offers remote teletherapy sessions to clients living in Washington state and Virginia. She specializes in anxiety, trauma, perfectionism, women’s issues, and military-related challenges. Dr. Connell also has a special interest in working with the gaming community and has done extensive work in developing the clinical role of Dungeons & Dragons in group settings. She strives to make her sessions with clients fun, educational, and solution-focused.

We asked Dr. Connell about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy!

Dr. Connell’s background and personal life

1. How did you decide to become a therapist?

I have always wanted to help people, and I have found throughout my life, no matter what I do, that helping others always comes to the for-front. I love sitting with people in their most difficult times, connecting with them, and helping them walk through change. To witness the growth and recovery of others is powerful and wonderful.

2. What was your previous work before going into private practice?

Before private practice I was a psychologist for the US Army. I completed my internship in a number of Army clinics then deployed to Iraq. Following my deployment I was the officer in charge of an outpatient Army clinic in Virginia. I have also worked as a manager of a sailing program, a grocer, private music teacher, and summer camp counselor.

3. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love playing games, both video and board games. I greatly enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons and watching Critical Role. When I can, I also like to watch shows such as The Good Place, The Office, and She-ra.

Dr. Connell’s specialties and therapy philosophies

4. What guiding principles inform your work?

I want to learn about who my clients want to be. I want to help them figure out what their personal values are in life and help them live by these values. I also enjoy education about how the mind works to help build my understanding of how the mind thinks the way it does. The mind is not the enemy (and is often well-intentioned) but can still become a not-so-helpful tools in our lives.

5. What clientele do you work with most frequently?

I greatly enjoy working with those who struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. Helping clients learn how to move through and beyond anxiety is something I greatly enjoy. I also love working with those in the geek and gamer communities. I believe that geek culture is its own specific subculture and having specific training and understanding of geek culture is important to clients that identify themselves as being a geek.

6. Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?

The American culture puts forth this idea that any anxiety is bad. When we experience anxiety we can often start to think there is something wrong with us and get anxiety about our anxiety. This becomes a loop that can get us stuck in our heads and stop us from living our lives. I like to help my clients learn to have a more effective relationship with their anxiety in order to not get stuck in the anxiety feedback loop.

I work on teaching compassion for our minds and the work they do for us. Through learning how our mind works and interprets the world around us, we can break away from feeling shame or guilt for having anxiety. Explaining how our minds work and the function of anxiety is not challenging; changing how we interact with our experiences, however, can be quite difficult.

7. Can you tell us more about your specialty in trauma?

While in the military, I worked with many soldiers experiencing PTSD with identified traumas ranging from bad accidents to combat to sexual assault. Trauma is a particularly difficult load to bear as we often do not want to think about what happened, yet it is often all we can think about. The good news is that trauma is treatable. It can be a challenge, yet it can be treated. I work to help my trauma clients build a solid foundation from which we start to work through the trauma experiences. Once we have a solid foundation, we will use a specified treatment modality to help work through the challenges in the way of reclaiming life after trauma.

8. Can you tell us more about your work with women?

The culture of the United States can be challenging for women. So much has happened in the last 50 years for women's rights, yet there are still so many challenges to overcome. Understanding how culture can impact our experience is important. From working with girls trying to navigate complex social structures of middle and high school to women facing challenges in the work place, I work with clients to discuss and tackle these issues. We discuss culture, cultural change, advocacy, assertiveness, and the stressors that can come with trying to "do it all."

9. What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Most rewarding is seeing the moment my clients realize how much they have grown and how they can now do something that they could not have previously done or imagined overcoming in their lives.

Therapy sessions with Dr. Connell

10. What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

During the initial meeting we will complete an intake interview. I ask a wide range of questions to get a general sense of what your life is like now, what the path has been like for you thus far, and where you want to see your life moving towards. I then ask you to choose goals for therapy and we develop a plan based upon your goals. Following sessions will involve a check-in then following up on therapy 'homework' and working on your identified goals.

11. How can I prepare for our first session?

If you have done any psychological testing previously, it would be very helpful for you can bring a copy of the report. Also, if you are on medications knowing the name and dosage is helpful.

12. How long do clients typically see you for?

I try to see most of my clients for 12 sessions (not counting the intake), though some need as few as 6-8.

13. Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

So many! The one book I believe all people should read is Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel. This book has a wonderful way of helping us look beyond our experience to our values and finding what matters in our lives.

For those struggling with perfectionism and anxiety, I like the book You Are Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. She is relatable and her discussion of her experiences of trying to feed her anxiety are wonderful.

I also recommend The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. It has many activities in it that I use in my therapy, and I find it a good refresher book for clients to have once therapy is completed.

14. Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

I do! Unfortunately, I never received my letter for Hogwarts, so I am not magical, and spending time with me alone will not be sufficient to create meaningful and lasting change for you. Our homework will typically be things such as "try doing X before bed" to help with sleep difficulties, or "three times a day try focusing on deep breathing." I ask that my clients treat the homework as a scientific experiment, in that we need multiple data points to draw conclusive results.

15. How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?

We will check-in on your goals on occasion. If we are not making progress we have frank discussions about what is occurring and getting in the way of your recovery. My ultimate goal is to be 'fired' by my clients, and if we are not making progress we will discuss what is happening and what we think is getting in the way of our work.

16. How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?

Typically if you are thinking about it, it is time. Prevention is easier than recovery. Also, once we reach a certain level of distress, reaching out for help can actually become more difficult. If you think that you might need or benefit from therapy, it likely is time to get started with a therapist.

17. How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

For the first 4-6 weeks I like to meet with my clients weekly, then start meeting every 2 weeks, then once a month. The first few sessions being weekly is so that we can hit the ground running and start working on skills and techniques to help you reach your goals. Once you seem to be doing well, I like to have us meet every two weeks so that there is more opportunity for unexpected things to occur and we can see how well you are able to handle them. Then if you are doing well we will do monthly appointments for a couple of months to ensure gains are maintained. Then, if you feel ready, we can terminate therapy, or schedule maintenance sessions for every 1-3 months to continue to ensure gains are maintained.

18. Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?

The therapeutic relationship is a special one as you do not need to worry about the feelings or life of your therapist. This is a relationship that is all about you and what you need. While loved ones can be helpful and offer advice, they are not impartial the way a therapist is. Having a safe, confidential place to talk about all that is going on can be incredibly powerful and helpful.

19. What advice would you share with therapy seekers?

It's okay to be choosy. Find a therapist that you connect with and you think can understand you. It can take a lot of energy to find the right therapist, but it is energy well spent to find a good therapist.

Visit Dr. Connell's profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and contact her!