This Woman Made a Mental Health Resume for Her New Therapist—Here's Why Experts Say That's a Good Idea

Disorders, trauma, treatment, medications, coping mechanisms, and target behaviors: they were all in there.

We've all experienced being a new patient of an unfamiliar doctor. The transition process to a new provider has its pain points—new office procedures, new forms to fill out, and having to rehash your entire medical history during your first visit.

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One woman on Twitter has a solution for that latter issue. On April 20, a user who goes by Carol posted a picture of her mental health "resume," something she made for her new therapist so she didn't "have to waste time catching [the therapist] up." Included in the resume are all the disorders, traumas, treatments, medications, and coping mechanisms in Carol's medical history. Carol also listed her target behaviors, so her new therapist would know what her therapy goals are. (Carol blurred that section out for privacy reasons.)

The resume tweet attracted a lot of attention, with more than 132,000 users liking it. "Wow, this is so smart! I hate to say it but the hardest thing about getting a new therapist is the 3-4 'Let's get you caught up' sessions before we can even start talking about what's new," one person wrote. "This is honestly such a good idea! I went through 5 counselors in less than 4 years and I had to just keep retelling everything over and over again which is really tiring," someone else said.

Some people asked for a resume template of their own, so Carol shared an outline (without her personal information) to show how she organized it.

It's not just patients who are excited about the idea. "As a therapist, I would LOVE this from a client. As a client I just might do this for my next therapist," someone commented.

Michi Fu, PhD, a psychologist at Garfield Health Center in Los Angeles, tells Health that a pre-prepared, detailed list like this would help her learn about a new patient's history. She says she'd probably use it as an initial conversation starting point, in combination with the intake paperwork that she has her patients fill out before treatment.

But a patient-made resume isn't something she'd primarily rely on. "Experiences may vary greatly between individuals," Fu explains. "For example, the impact of witnessing intimate partner violence can be different depending on the duration, intensity, frequency, type of violence, etc. so it would be important to clarify the points on an already-prepared detailed list."

That's one reason discussing health history in the initial sessions is still key, even with a detailed health resume. "Being able to share history as part of the intake process not only provides critical background information, but is also important for rapport building that is the foundation of the therapeutic relationship," Fu says.

While the resume shared on Twitter was made for an appointment with a mental health professional, something like this might be good for a first-time appointment with a provider looking at your physical health, too.

Sterling Ransone, Jr, MD, a family physician who also serves as the president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), tells Health that he would "absolutely" find a patient-prepared detailed health history helpful—especially because many of his new patient visits are for serious concerns. "Many of those visits would be more efficient if the physician knew the patient's personal health history. This history is likely to influence treatment decisions in the future," Dr. Ransone says. "For example, if a new patient comes to me with abdominal pain, it is of great clinical importance to know if the patient has had their gall bladder removed."

But isn't your health history on the office-provided new patient forms anyway? Yes, Dr. Ransone says. But having the information even before the patient gets to the office gives the physician the ability review the info in advance. Typing up a health history resume before an appointment can also prevent the misinterpretation of information that you jot down with a pen in the waiting area. Plus, with a resume, you'll have the confusing and hard-to-spell names of all medications you take at your fingertips. Knowing the exact medication and dosage makes a big difference for the physician who is providing your care, says Dr. Ransone.

So if you need to get your primary care doctor up to speed on your history with some type of self-made health history resume, what points are most crucial to include? Here's what Dr. Ransone suggests including on that list:

  • Chronic medical conditions, along with the list of medications you're taking to treat them
  • Vitamins and supplements you are taking
  • Past allergies to any medications
  • Hospitalizations, surgeries, and vaccinations
  • Family/social history

The AAFP has provided a "Personal Health Journal," or a "Health Diary" template of its own that patients can use to create their own health resume.

Even if your provider doesn't look at the information, making a list like this can be good just for your own quick personal reference and knowledge. It's something that can especially come in handy when travelling. That's what Dr. Ransone says he does: "I keep a list of medications and medical conditions on my mobile device to which I can refer. Even the best of us can have trouble remembering the exact date of their wrist fracture or colonoscopy."

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