Day 23: What is your opinion on therapy? (It can be any type, some examples are: group therapy, talk therapy, social skills training, exposure therapy, ERP, DBT, CBT, ACT, marital counseling, and many more)
It’s an extremely interesting question, isn’t it?
And one which I think is very much worth asking. Especially after yesterday’s question which looked at treatment via medication.
So I think I will start this post – and thus my answer to today’s challenge question – with a quote…
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.
It’s a quote by the author Ralph G Nichols and I think that, for me personally, this quote focuses on essential aspects within therapy – listening and understanding.
Now I qualify that remark by admitting that, when it comes to therapy in respect of my mental illnesses, I think the only therapies that I have personally experienced, have been CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and group therapy.
That is not to say that I wouldn’t consider other therapies were they on offer. So let’s look at…
The provision of therapy…
And here a certain amount of cynicism on my part comes into play. Because I have to admit that my personal belief is that the mental health services here in Ireland (where I now live) are so over-stretched that, in the main, mental health care provision here appears, in my experience, to be more about medication and damage limitation, than it is about actual well-being and therapy.
And yes I know that this sounds harsh. But let’s be honest and even realistic here. Providing therapy is far more ‘time’ and ‘resource’ demanding than simply providing medication.
So, when it comes to the treatment of mental illnesses (or poor mental health), my concern is that whilst the far more available and less time and resource demanding provision of medication predominantly treats the symptoms (and thus limits potential damage as a result of those symptoms) it does not necessarily treat the condition or illness itself.
The Process of Therapy…
I personally believe – and I am convinced from my own personal experiences – that my ability to cope with my mental health is directly linked to my ability to understand and to process what is happening to me both mentally and physically as a result of my mental health.
And isn’t that the purpose of therapy and more specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
By allowing us to understand what has or is happening to us it allows us to look at – and to objectively reconsider (and often to consider for the first time) – some of the thought patterns and process chains that are going in. And having done so it can afford us with…
a) the chance to re-evaluate (and in some cases to set right) those thought patterns and/or process chains,
b) to consider alternative and more healthy or more helpful thought patterns and/or process chains.
c) Resultant behaviors and reactions.
And this therapy, I personally found to be both extremely helpful and extremely useful. And additionally I am convinced that it helped towards my general ability to cope with and to manage my mental illnesses.
My weird and wonderful mind…
Again I can only speak for me personally here. But I do generally experience a certain level of mental health which affords me the ability to ‘generally‘ function fairly well and so to process and thus deal with most things.
That is not to say that I experience the same level of good mental health which most people (3 in 4 – if the ‘1 person in 4 experiences poor mental health’ statistic is correct. Which I believe it is ) enjoy, because I don’t.
But I can – with effort – generally deal with most things until my mental health declines. Something which it often does.
When this happens, there is, for me – it seems (and I am sure I am not alone in this) – another world. A world where my mind functions just enough to be able to register the fact that things have, once again, gone terribly wrong with my mind. And yet not enough to be able to process how or why.
It is a world where color and clarity drains and where grays and blurring wander both freely and unchecked. A world – often a stopping off point – which lies somewhere between my world of the colors of understanding, and my world of the deepest, darkest blacks of total confusion.
It is a world to which, as I said, my mind often drags me. Sometimes doing so instantly or by throwing me on a speeding train of hurtling thoughts. Or sometimes, it seems, by dragging me there slowly via some sort of mental ‘alternative bus service’.
The Benefits of Therapy on My Weird and Wonderful Mind…
So whilst I openly recognize that CBT can have little effect on that third world of mine – the world of deepest, darkest blacks of confusion. I do (and indeed did) see how it had some effect on my middle world where grays and blurring wander both freely and unchecked. And in fact one of the ways in which it had and has an effect is in the checking of those freely wandering greys.
But actually the areas where CBT has the greatest and most beneficial effects is in my ‘usual’ world and indeed in how often my mind drags me into those ‘other’ worlds.
By objectively looking at – and re-evaluating – the links and inter-plays between my; thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, I have, in some ways, been able to gain a greater control on – and thus to achieve better management of – my mental health.
What you get out depends largely on what you put in…
It’s a statement which is true of some many things, isn’t it? And in respect of CBT I think it is especially true. And where CBT has a benefit over the other therapy which I have experienced is that it was done in a more controlled, one-on-one, and focused setting.
Things which were not present in the ‘Group Therapy’ which I underwent in respect of my mental illnesses.
Additionally group dynamics, of course, also come into play. And it takes a very experienced and very skilled facilitator to ensure that this type of therapy is of benefit to all the participants.
Likewise, whilst it is true that – generally speaking – the members of such therapy all usually share a common need. The levels of those needs – and indeed the personalities, communication skills and social skills – of those members within the group always impacts the level of benefit this type of therapy can be to each individual member.
And I think that this is an important factor to deliberate on when considering entering into group therapy.
Because if ‘what you get out depends largely on what you put in‘, then the presence of those ‘others’ and what they put in or allow you to put in – will have a direct bearing of what you get out of it.
So those are my opinions, for what they are worth, on the two therapies that I have personally undertaken and indeed on therapy in general. As I hope you can see, I am – generally speaking – very much in favor of therapy. But I do believe that we need to give very real and very objective thought to it. And I also believe that it is something to which – if we do commit to it – we need to commit to fully.
Therapy can – in my opinion and experience – have a very real benefit for those who suffer mental illness(es) or poor mental health. And I will go even further…
I am convinced that some mental health is circumstance or event linked. And that they are some folk who have received a diagnosis of (for example) ‘depression’ from their doctor and who are very wrongly being treated purely with medication. Some folk who could – with the right; kind of, level of, or application of, therapy – enjoy a far greater level of mental health or even ‘normal’ (although I dislike that word) mental health.
And (before my comment box gets flooded with complaints and objections) I am not of course – in having made the above statement – applying it to everyone who suffers, like me, from depression or poor mental health or mental illness(es).
And by way of a peace offering to anyone who is offended by my above statement I leave you with a simple quote from A. A Milne and a snippet of conversation between pooh and piglet. One which I freely apply to my own mind…
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”