counselling and mental health

A therapist in therapy

We have all had times when the world becomes a little much for us. Mine was in my 20s when a severe bout of depression hit me. Back in those days it was called a “nervous breakdown”. Luckily that term is not used as much anymore. A “major depressive episode” would have been for more appropriate. “Episode” suggests it will be fleeting and temporary rather than something that is physically broken. A course of antidepressants and lithium followed and ultimately a 6-month course of psychotherapy. Although painful at the time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. By that point I was a teacher with a Psychology degree and a postgraduate qualification in Counselling. The irony did not pass me by. But what I learnt from it was invaluable. I was lucky that I ended up with a top quality therapist who helped me find my way through it.

What did I learn from it?

  1. We all have times when we struggle to cope with what life throws at us. Regardless of our education and expertise.
  2. Although I did end up flushing the drugs down the toilet, they did help stabilise my mood in the first few months. Once I felt more in control, I weaned myself off them under the guidance of my psychiatrist who had prescribed them in the first place.
  3. There is nothing wrong with walking away from a therapist. I realised after 2 sessions with my one that he was not for me. I walked in for my 3rd session and took control by saying that I would not be coming back. We then spent the hour talking about my decision and why it was the right one for me. He did not challenge me but used it as a way of showing me that I was taking back control.
  4. I then took my time finding my next therapist. This was before the days of google so I had to speak to people and ask. That in itself was therapeutic. I had to be open and honest with my GP and psychiatrist and with friends. I had to ask for recommendations from those who had had similar experiences.
  5. I had to wait a few months for a slot to become available. When it did, I had a frank discussion with my employer (who had been sympathetic right from the beginning) and I was given time off each week in order to get the right help. I have always been grateful for that.
  6. I had missed about 3 months of school and when I returned the pupils wanted to know where I had been. I decided to be honest with them. That in itself was therapy for me. I like to think that it was important for them too.
  7. But most importantly, I wish that I had recognised the signs earlier. I had not realised that my work life balance was totally out of kilter. I should have sourced good counselling first and avoided the medication. But I do understand the role the meds played once I had to admit something was not right.

The final result was that 20 years later I went back to the books and started training as a Human Givens therapist. My initial training had been in Rogerian person-centred counselling. My experience of therapy had been more down the CBT route. But my teaching style had definitely been, without knowing it, in line with Human Givens methodology. When I heard about the Human Givens, it rang so true that I felt I had to study it with the idea of eventually becoming a therapist. The solution focused ideology seemed so logical. The idea that it is short term therapy seemed desirable and practical. My 6 month stint in therapy cost me a fortune. Aiming to get the client back out there functioning at optimal level as quickly as possible seemed to be in the client’s interest.

Over the last few years, the longest I have seen a client for is 6 sessions over a 5-month period. There have been some clients who I have seen only once or twice. But regardless of how many times or over how long I have seen a client, focusing on their wellbeing and mental health instantly has been the key. Finding solutions quickly has been vital. Adolescents and children seem to thrive on this methodology. We all like a problem to solve and potential solutions that make themselves known quickly. I have found it so successful with anxiety, stress, depression and even severe PTSD.

I wish I had had access to this school of thought back in my 20s. It would have made a painful period much easier. If I had been aware of it, the episode might never have happened. But having the episode has taught me so much. I would not wish it on anyone, but for those of us who do experience something like it, when we come out the other side it is always worth looking back and finding the positive in it.? Don’t dwell on it; but say “thank you”.

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