Noth­ing wrong with see­ing a ther­a­pist

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/opinion - Gen­der Tsun­gai Chek­erwa-Ma­chokoto

ONE of the peo­ple I ad­mire so much in life is my friend, my con­fi­dant, my voice of rea­son, De­bra Machando. The way she car­ries and han­dles her­self is very ad­mirable while her gen­eral com­po­sure is just a marvel. De­bra is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist. Psy­chol­ogy is a study area that ques­tions the men­tal func­tion­al­ity of peo­ple. I of­ten watch De­bra as she per­forms her du­ties and makes some of her pre­sen­ta­tions; peo­ple look at her in a funny way.

They don’t think she is rel­e­vant in the lives of nor­mal peo­ple. Peo­ple mostly don’t know what to ex­pect from De­bra and so they an­a­lyse her to see ‘how she will an­a­lyse’ them. It is al­ways a very in­ter­est­ing sce­nario.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy is con­cerned with the as­sess­ment, di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment, and pre­ven­tion of men­tal dis­or­ders.

These things can hap­pen to ab­so­lutely any­one. No­body is im­mune to men­tal dys­func­tion be­cause no­body is im­mune to stress which is com­mon among mar­ried cou­ples and in all forms of re­la­tion­ships.

While pro­fes­sion­als in this field of­ten work in med­i­cal set­tings, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists are not med­i­cal doc­tors and do not pre­scribe med­i­ca­tions gen­er­ally.

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy also rep­re­sents the sin­gle largest sub­field of psy­chol­o­gists.

While all clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists are in­ter­ested in men­tal health, there are ac­tu­ally a wide va­ri­ety of sub­spe­cial­ties within this field.

Some of these spe­cialty ar­eas in­clude child men­tal health, adult men­tal health, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, emo­tional dis­tur­bances, sub­stance abuse, ge­ri­atrics, and health psy­chol­ogy.

Science tells us that speak­ing your fears and goals out loud to some­body in per­son is pow­er­ful. Ther­a­pists are trained to not judge you, and can help you map out a new strat­egy for life.

So if you are not sure whether mak­ing a ther­apy ap­point­ment is right for you, here are six not-so-ob­vi­ous signs that you might ben­e­fit from a psy­chol­o­gist.

1. You al­ways as­sume the worst. Your re­ac­tion is al­ways ex­ag­ger­ated and you think of the worst pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion.

Be­ing stood up on a date equals dy­ing alone with 200 cats. Blow­ing a job in­ter­view des­tines you for a life un­der a bridge.

When you al­ways as­sume the worst, facts have very lit­tle mean­ing. Op­ti­mism seems so hard, and your neg­a­tiv­ity can turn into a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy.

Ther­a­pists call this “catas­trophis­ing,” and over time it can lead to se­ri­ous de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety prob­lems.

Pro­fes­sion­als of­ten use a pop­u­lar in­ter­ven­tion known as cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy, to help you prac­tise iden­ti­fy­ing and re­struc­tur­ing your ir­ra­tional thoughts into more re­al­is­tic ones.

2. You men­tally beat your­self up. Some of the kind­est and most com­pe­tent peo­ple in this world have a se­cret bat­tle be­ing waged in their brains.

Noth­ing they do is good enough, and they re­live mis­takes over and over like a Real World marathon. As much as they care for oth­ers, they strug­gle to ex­tend the pa­tience they have for friends to­wards them­selves.

As writer Anne Lamott says, “My mind is a neigh­bour­hood I try not to go into alone,” so tak­ing a pro­fes­sional along for the trip might be worth it.

One ther­apy tech­nique is called “ex­ter­nal­is­ing”. This is where you learn to stop see­ing prob­lems as ex­ter­nal forces rather than char­ac­ter flaws.

By not tak­ing prob­lems so per­son­ally, you can start to pri­ori­tise the health of your mind and body.

3. You take re­spon­si­bil­ity for other peo­ple’s prob­lems. While cer­tain peo­ple man­age their fears by avoid­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, some try to con­trol oth­ers.

The psych term for this is called “over-func­tion­ing.” You might seem like the healthy one if you are al­ways solv­ing ev­ery­one’s prob­lems and tak­ing your de­pressed mom’s phone calls a dozen times a day.

But be­ing a suc­cess­ful adult is about not do­ing for oth­ers what they can do for them­selves.

A ther­a­pist can help you see a pat­tern of over­func­tion­ing in your own fam­ily and what trig­gers you to take on some­one else’s load.

From there, you can be­gin to strate­gise how to be an as­set to the peo­ple you love with­out nec­es­sar­ily be­ing re­spon­si­ble for them.

4. You feel help­less when you’re stressed. It feels pretty good to text a friend to com­plain about your boss, but con­stant re­liance on oth­ers to calm your emo­tions can cause prob­lems.

Good men­tal health is about tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for your own dis­tress rather than blam­ing or al­ways de­pend­ing on oth­ers.

When you think about it, ther­a­pists are kind of soc­cer coaches. They help you learn and prac­tise the plays that help you feel in con­trol of your life.

Re­search has shown that peo­ple who feel they have no con­trol over their en­vi­ron­ment, also known as an “ex­ter­nal lo­cus of con­trol,” are more at risk of suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, low-self-es­teem, and even phys­i­cal health prob­lems.

Ther­apy is the train­ing ground for gen­er­at­ing healthy re­ac­tions to stress, helping you bounce back faster on a tough day.

5. You tend to avoid dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. Hu­mans wouldn’t have sur­vived for thou­sands of years if they didn’t have the in­stinct to avoid threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions.

But if you’re never go­ing home to see your dys­func­tional fam­ily or can’t sum­mon the courage to go to that daunt­ing job in­ter­view, then you’re only giving your­self tem­po­rary re­lief.

A ther­a­pist could help you to be more ob­jec­tive about the peo­ple you loathe. Inch by inch, you may find your­self re­build­ing the bridges you burnt and tak­ing brave leaps into new ter­ri­tory.

6. You care too much about what other peo­ple think. Ap­proval and recog­ni­tion are ba­sic hu­man needs. But when you live your life for the praise of oth­ers, you might find your­self mak­ing com­pro­mises that are not true to your­self.

Peo­ple who turn into chameleons to fit in with the group are of­ten the un­hap­pi­est of peo­ple in life. Men­tally healthy peo­ple make de­ci­sions from the in­side out. They don’t put their be­liefs and goals up for a vote.

There are a thou­sand good ex­cuses for you not to see a ther­a­pist. You might have a horrible fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion or an in­sane sched­ule that won’t seem to budge.

But just for a sec­ond, take the time to think about all the things you pri­ori­tise over your men­tal health.

Is catch­ing up on your favourite se­ries or go­ing on your third happy hour of the week re­ally mak­ing you feel like the best ver­sion of your­self?

So take a chance on ther­apy, and see what it can do for you. De­bra shares sto­ries of peo­ple who ‘came back’ to hope af­ter at­tempt­ing sui­cide!

You can ask your doc­tor for a rec­om­men­da­tion, or google for a list of lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als. Many univer­sity clin­ics or non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions also of­fer free or af­ford­able coun­selling.

Who knows, maybe you’ll find a trick or two for how to be a lit­tle kinder to your­self. Or maybe you’ll find that you have the answers al­ready, and you just needed some­one to hear you say them out loud.

Psy­chol­o­gists are among the most needed peo­ple to have around in my opin­ion. It is quite un­for­tu­nate that there are cul­tural stereo­typ­i­cal no­tions that say psy­chol­o­gists are only for other races that are not Black Africans.

It is for this rea­son that black peo­ple dom­i­nate the sta­tis­tics of peo­ple who go to un­scrupu­lous places to try and get ex­pla­na­tions of what hap­pens in our lives in­stead of go­ing to pro­fes­sion­als to get help.

There is noth­ing wrong with go­ing to see a psy­chol­o­gist. In fact, there is every­thing wrong with trust­ing un­pro­fes­sional peo­ple with your life and your fu­ture.

Many are times when peo­ple go through trau­matic events like divorce, death, job loss or de­pres­sion and it has re­ally shaken them to the core.

There are a lot of is­sues that af­fect a per­son’s men­tal state. Any­one’s men­tal health can be com­pro­mised es­pe­cially when a coun­try is eco­nom­i­cally un­sta­ble.

It is in­evitable that there are men­tal im­pli­ca­tions. While ex­pe­ri­ence from the el­derly would help, it would be even bet­ter to get pro­fes­sional ad­vice and as­sis­tance.

If you are on med­i­cal aid you would be glad to know that you can see a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and your med­i­cal aid pays for it.

So in­stead of blam­ing any­thing and every­thing for the bad things hap­pen­ing in your life, go on, make that ap­point­ment. It could change your life!

Tsun­gai Chek­erwa-Ma­chokoto can be reached on tsungi­ma­chokoto@gmail.com

Clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy also rep­re­sents the sin­gle largest sub­field of psy­chol­o­gists. While all clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gists are in­ter­ested in men­tal health, there are ac­tu­ally a wide va­ri­ety of sub-spe­cial­ties within this field. Some of these spe­cialty ar­eas in­clude child men­tal health, adult men­tal health, learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, emo­tional dis­tur­bances, sub­stance abuse, ge­ri­atrics, and health psy­chol­ogy

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