Saturday, 14 June 2014

Why and when of therapy: T2 Article dated 15th June 2014.

Q.Could you please tell me when do I need to go to a psychotherapist? How can a psychotherapist or counsellor help me solve my problem? 

This is one of the most common questions we face from people considering therapy. So let's try and explore the why, how and when.
There are many schools of psychotherapy and counselling, and every psychotherapist develops his/ her own approach. Many modern psychotherapy schools have stopped seeing therapy as fixing an 'abnormality'. The one seeking therapy is now called a 'client', not a 'patient'. And the client is not looked upon as someone with a 'disease'. Most therapeutic approaches are now seen as cohesive joint ventures between client and therapist where the therapist helps the client navigate through their own mind and reach clarity on issues. In the process, the client develops the skills to have a happier and more functional life.
Most therapists today do not directly advice what the client 'should do'. They encourage clients to explore their thoughts, rationality, behaviour and actions and empower them to decide and change for themselves.
Broadly speaking, anyone can go to a counsellor or therapist. Here are some examples and areas when one might feel the need to seek help:  
  • When one identifies a problem  
  • When problem is identified by others ( psychiatrists, parents, schools, partners)  
  • When there is no problem apparently and yet " something is missing"  
We do share our problems with a relative or a friend, which is very helpful, but sometimes people who are close to us cannot be neutral and unbiased, which is necessary to have a fresh perspective on a problem. Consider the following conversation: Friend 1: I am fed up with my husband. He does not listen to me.
When he is home he is glued to the news channel. He doesn't even care.
It's as if I don't matter to him. He is like a stone, I feel no emotional connect. Every day we end up fighting.
Friend 2: Don't take this lying down.
Don't let him take you for granted. I have seen this in my life, all men are like this. Handle this with care.
Friend 3: I completely sympathise with you. I have seen my aunt weeping all her life, my uncle would be busy and she would be so lonely.
After this conversation, Friend 1 may feel good that she has a few people ' on her side' who ' understand' her. But what actually happened is that her fear of being alone got reinforced. From Friend 2, she also got a justification for the fight that occurs every day between her and her husband. It is unlikely that Friend 1 may have any long- term benefits from such conversations.
Now let's look at an interaction between a therapist and a client.
( There are endless possibilities and this is strictly hypothetical.) Client: I am fed up with my husband.
He does not listen to me. When he is home he is glued to the news channel.
He doesn't even care. It's as if I do not matter to him. He is like a stone, I feel no emotional connect. Every day we end up fighting.
Therapist: What happens after the fighting? C: We do not talk for a few days and we go back to the same situation.
T: And by same situation what I understand is that you again start feeling that you do not matter? And he does not listen to you? C: Yes.
T: So when he comes back every day and sits in front of the TV, what do you exactly feel? C: I feel I am not important. The whole day I wait for him and he comes back and turns on the TV. T: Does he know that you feel this way? C: Is it not obvious? What is there to tell him? And I do tell him when we fight.
T: Yes, may be it is obvious to you but what if it's not obvious to him? C: Maybe I should try telling him how I feel. Actually it starts with irritation and my anger starts building up. I try to control it and after a while I burst into fighting and it becomes a scene.
Maybe I can try and communicate more openly.
Now this may not be a solution, but at least the client is ready to do something different other than following a tried- and- failed strategy. And it is expected that over few sessions she would find her way. Following are a few examples when one can go for counselling/ psychotherapy:  
Dealing with a crisis. It could be interpersonal ( such as abandonment, rejection, changing dynamics of relationships), personal ( such as discovery of a serious disease) or any change in the environment  
General dissatisfaction with life  Feeling stuck in the same pattern of interpersonal relationships or conditions  
Haunted by past trauma,
Mental stress
Skill development, such as confidence, concentration, focus, goal- setting and trusting others.
Various psychiatric disorder along with conventional treatment  Anxiety, fears and phobia 

A psychotherapist will help you build the skills to deal with the situation and become empowered.
Several corporate houses and sports authorities today use psychotherapeutic techniques to coach, mentor and bring out the best in their employees and trainees.
It would be best if each one of us could be our own therapist. One of the goals of therapy is to encourage clients to be their own therapists so that they are in a position to look at things with a new perspective and find more harmonious and functional solutions.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at  dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com

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