When is Ther­apy Nec­es­sary?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Ginelle Nel­son

The de­ci­sion to seek pro­fes­sional as­sis­tance from a psy­chother­a­pist is of­ten daunt­ing. Even to­day, with the per­pet­u­at­ing mis­con­cep­tion of men­tal ill­ness, ther­apy and/ or coun­selling are still re­garded by many as only nec­es­sary for ‘crazy peo­ple’, re­fer­ring to in­di­vid­u­als who ex­hibit overt psy­chotic symp­toms such as hal­lu­ci­na­tions and se­vere delu­sions. The idea of ex­press­ing your in­ner­most thoughts and feel­ings to a ‘stranger’ is some­what un­set­tling for some. Oth­ers pur­port to “know ex­actly what’s wrong with them­selves” and hence point out the seem­ing fu­til­ity of the ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, de­spite the ex­pected trep­i­da­tion, there are some in­stances in which psy­chother­a­peu­tic in­ter­ven­tion by a pro­fes­sional is crit­i­cal to the men­tal well-be­ing of an in­di­vid­ual.

In de­lib­er­at­ing the type of as­sis­tance re­quired, it is im­per­a­tive to un­der­stand what psy­chother­apy en­tails. Although clas­si­fied as a ‘talk tech­nique’, ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is merely one as­pect of ef­fec­tive psy­chother­apy.

Psy­chother­apy in­volves the use of spe­cific, ev­i­dence­based psy­cho­log­i­cal tech­niques to im­prove re­la­tion­ships and so­cial func­tion­ing. It re­quires iden­ti­fy­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions and de­struc­tive be­hav­iours, ex­am­in­ing the ge­n­e­sis of these con­di­tions, and em­ploy­ing ap­pro­pri­ate meth­ods to cor­rect such. Ap­pre­hen­sion is ex­pected dur­ing the ini­tial phase of psy­chother­a­peu­tic in­ter­ven­tions as the process com­mences sim­i­larly to the start of any re­la­tion­ship. Yes, re­la­tion­ship. The suc­cess of any ther­a­peu­tic in­ter­ven­tion hinges largely on the re­la­tion­ship es­tab­lished be­tween the client and the ther­a­pist. Of grave im­por­tance is an at­mos­phere of trust, ac­cep­tance and non-judge­ment. Fur­ther­more, many aca­demics and in­tel­lec­tu­als err in their belief that it is suf­fi­cient enough to know and/or com­pre­hend their own men­tal chal­lenges. How­ever, it should be noted that knowl­edge of one’s flaws does not nec­es­sar­ily equate to self-cor­rec­tion of said flaws. Con­sider the fact that a sur­geon, de­spite his abil­ity to as­sess his con­di­tion and prog­no­sis, can­not per­form the op­er­a­tion to re­move the tu­mour in his brain him­self.

As pre­vi­ously men­tioned, know­ing when it has be­come nec­es­sary to con­sult a pro­fes­sional can be dif­fi­cult. The fol­low­ing is a check­list to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als in mak­ing the de­ci­sion to seek pro­fes­sional help. It should be noted that this in­stru­ment is not a stan­dard­ised as­sess­ment tool and is only meant to aid per­sons in de­ter­min­ing whether or not the chal­lenges fac­ing them could be re­solved by a com­pe­tent clin­i­cian Fur­ther­more, these symp­toms are in no way the only sit­u­a­tions re­quir­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. There ex­ists a myr­iad of mal­adap­tive be­havioural pat­terns sug­ges­tive of poor men­tal func­tion­ing that re­quires as­sis­tance from a psy­chother­a­pist. Once these be­hav­iours have be­come se­vere enough to af­fect fam­ily life, work and in­ter­per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, it is ad­vised that some dis­cus­sion be held with a pro­fes­sional.

Com­plete the fol­low­ing by in­di­cat­ing the fre­quency with which you may have ex­pe­ri­enced these symp­toms: of­ten, some­times or not at all. I feel sad or ‘down in the dumps’ for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son. I hear voices that tell me what I should do. I feel so anx­ious or ‘on-edge’ that it is hard for me to func­tion. I have a lot of trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing suf­fi­ciently to get any work done. I feel strong urges that make me act in ways I know I shouldn’t. I alien­ate other peo­ple when I re­ally don’t want to. I feel fright­ened by things that I know shouldn’t be so fright­en­ing. I seem to get sick more of­ten than most of my friends. I can’t seem to re­mem­ber cer­tain pe­ri­ods of my life very well. I feel so good that I al­most feel su­per­hu­man. I worry that peo­ple around me might be plan­ning to hurt me. I smell strange scents that no one else seems to be able to smell.

If life does not seem very sat­is­fy­ing and you an­swered “of­ten” to any of the items listed in the check­list, you may want to con­sider speak­ing with a cer­ti­fied ther­a­pist. Note though, that some of the symp­toms may re­quire in­ter­ven­tion from a psy­chol­o­gist even if you mark the item as “some­times”. For ex­am­ple, smelling strange scents and hear­ing voices and sounds that other peo­ple may not hear, war­rant in­ter­ven­tion from a pro­fes­sional, even with mi­nor ex­pe­ri­ences of this na­ture. Ad­di­tion­ally, crip­pling anx­i­ety that stymies pro­duc­tiv­ity and ev­ery­day func­tion­ing, com­pelling urges and strong im­pulses, loss of mem­ory for cer­tain pe­ri­ods of your life and worry re­gard­ing the ill in­ten­tions of oth­ers can all be ad­dressed with the as­sis­tance of a psy­chother­a­pist and/ or psy­chol­o­gist. Of crit­i­cal im­por­tance is the feed­back gleaned from per­sons within your im­me­di­ate cir­cles. Of­ten, in­di­vid­u­als are not con­scious of dra­matic changes in their be­hav­iour or spe­cific mal­adap­tive be­havioural pat­terns and it is up to fam­ily mem­bers, friends and co­work­ers to high­light these prob­lem be­hav­iours. If the peo­ple around you are no­ti­fy­ing you of your ac­tions or changes in such a way which may re­quire at­ten­tion, chances are your be­hav­iour has now be­come so se­vere that it is af­fect­ing your re­la­tion­ships and/or daily life. Con­tact a pro­fes­sional. Help is avail­able. Ms. Ginelle Nel­son is a Con­sul­tant Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­o­gist /Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, PsyDA Con­sul­tancy Ltd. PsyDA (pro­nounced ‘Cider’) Con­sul­tancy pro­vides psy­cho­log­i­cal ser­vices in­clud­ing in­di­vid­ual and fam­ily psy­chother­apy, psy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tions and assess­ments, coun­selling and foren­sic con­sul­ta­tions. Con­tact 727-1490 for week­end ap­point­ments.

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