It has been a long and exceptionally busy winter and spring. I’ve been pleased to play my part as the pandemic has messed with people’s mental health. Unfortunately, my poor blog has languished in a sorry state of neglect.
With the return of the sun, and the incremental reduction of lockdown orders, the frantic pace is easing. Writing this still took me two weeks, scrounging ten or twenty minutes here and there. Like the old bike pictured above, I’ve rolled the dusty thing out into the light, and worked up a sweat kick starting it back to life.
Winning literary awards will not be happening here. This post is a bit of a mishmash. Not pretty; just a kick start.
Back to basics. The first thing I put on my website years ago was an illustration of the three general areas counselling and psychotherapy help with. Here’s a few thoughts on each.
I’m a thinker, and my default has always been to focus on thoughts. I’m hardly alone in this. Therapy has been dominated for the past few decades by CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) In practice, CBT is often just CT. The B tends to get neglected, and it becomes all about cognitions (thoughts).
That’s not really a good thing. I think it’s safe to say that in the First World, we think too much, and do too little. We are not a species of floating heads, hovering around and chatting about what we think. Functionally, we often operate that way. However, there are reasons our heads are attached to bodies, and focusing only on thoughts misses a great deal of our total experience.
Changing behaviour is typically the main goal of therapy. Ironically, most of us don’t like to change our behaviour. This prevents my job from getting boring.
While we resist changing our own behaviour, we’re usually quite happy to think and talk about how other people should change theirs.
“You need to go for counselling,” seems to have become a common phrase, as far as I can tell. This phrase is a euphemism. Much like parents telling their children, “You need to listen.” Really, they mean, “Do what I told you to do.” Or more bluntly, “Obey me.” In today’s society that sounds a bit harsh, so we use code-words.
“You need to go for counselling” is the same deal. It really means, “You need to change your behaviour.” Or more bluntly, “I think your behaviour stinks. Change it.” Again, that sounds a bit harsh.
So instead, people are told to visit me. Presumably so that I can tell the person their behaviour stinks, and they need to change it. Strangely, very few check with me ahead of time to see if I’m actually prepared to do that.
Let’s not forget the therapist favourite: feelings. We do love to ask people how they feel about stuff. I try to remember (with varying success) that there are a couple of problems with over-focus on feelings:
a) lots of people have great difficulty identifying and naming their emotions;
b) unlike therapists, normal people often view feelings with suspicion and are not dying to talk about their own.
Fun fact, (also fairly irrelevant, but I did say this post is a mishmash) “feelings” is an umbrella term which includes emotions as well as physical sensations.
So if a therapist asks you how you’re feeling, if you don’t want to talk about fear or sadness, you could elect to describe the gas pains rumbling in your belly.
Putting It All Together
Here’s the bottom line, in my opinion. We talk about thoughts, feelings and behaviour as if they are separate. They aren’t. Even CBT therapists admit this.
So if your therapist is not dealing with all three (including me… heck, especially if it’s me), ask your therapist why not. Feel free to say that I suggested doing so.