Bringing Mindfulness Into Therapy: The Three-Pronged Approach

Mindfulness has been heralded as one of the most powerful tools available to us in the struggle to achieve internal balance; described as being a state of “active, open attention to the present”, mindfulness is the process of observing one’s own thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. This objective system of emotional assessment can be useful for patients and therapists alike, in all of the following ways:

Mindfulness can create an emotional refuge for the therapist
When one is by nature (and by profession) a helper of others, a problem solver, it is quite easy to forget one’s self. People—therapists included—can lose sight of the fact that therapists are human, too, with complex needs and emotions of their own. They are also people who undertake, on a daily basis, difficult and emotionally draining work.

Mindfulness is therefore of particular use to therapists, as it requires them to continually bring attention to their experience in the present moment. Regret, ruminations, worries, and future projections, all fall by the wayside as one focuses on the sounds and sensations around them: the intake of breath, the feeling of sitting in a chair, and so on—becoming entirely immersed in the world of the present.

This brings with it manifold benefits; as our attention aligns fully with the present, we become much more active listeners, and much less preoccupied with nagging anxieties, allowing us to project a calmer, more reassuring demeanor. Plus, research demonstrates that for therapists, practicing mindfulness results in lower perceived job stress and a lower risk of burnout. Therapists, like all people who engage in mindfulness, experience an increase in self-acceptance, self-compassion, and an improved sense of well-being. Continue reading →

The Emphasis on Diagnosis in Mental Health

Prior to the turn of the 20th century mental health disorders weren’t viewed as something that belongs to the medical domain. Then came the work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and other notable psychiatrists. This triggered what some call the modern era of mental health. As a result of this paradigm shift, mental health conditions came to be viewed as a part of the spectrum of medical conditions.

With this view of mental health conditions came the application of the standardized medical model which includes:

  1. Observation: The collecting of pertinent information regarding the bio/psycho/social aspects of the patient.
  2. Assessment: A review of observations, including interviews and testing results in a collection of data.
  3. Diagnosis: Based upon the data collected a systematic process the most appropriate diagnosis is made.
  4. Treatment: Usually driven by diagnosis, treatment for the condition is introduced.

As treatment begins, typically one of the most common questions asked by a client is, “What do I have Doc?” For many the answer comes quickly and often easily. Others can present as a moving target, making it difficult to establish a diagnosis.

On a more cautionary note, it must also be acknowledged that there are mental health professionals who prefer not to communicate the diagnosis to clients. For some it is viewed as labeling the client and depersonalizing them to being a symptom rather than a person. They feel that applying standardized medical model of doctor-patient relationship to mental health conditions is detrimental for therapeutic effects. That is why mental health patients most often called “clients”. Whether you agree or not the diagnostics remain a critical part of treatment, whether it’s communicated to clients or not. Continue reading →

Understanding The Benefits of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has often not gotten the respect it deserves, but this method of healing mental health disorders proved to be very effective owing to the way it takes in the full scope of the human experience and encourages the authentic change in the way client relates to the world and people around him.

Psychotherapists work not only on their patients’symptoms, but on their characters, understanding that character coalesces from both our genetic temperaments and the experiences of our formative years. Psychotherapists understand that when those formative experiences are negative (involving things like abuse and deprivation), our internal environments and our predictions for the future become similarly negative and flawed, leading to the development of mental illness.

Psychotherapy effectively analyzes the mental “play”that the patient has (involving people as “characters”, imagined scenarios, plots, etc.) finding where it is problematic and why, and encouraging the patient to mourn the original pain that caused these problems. Once this pain has been mourned, the patient can dismantle the problematic play and write a new, more positive one in its place—something which medication alone cannot ever accomplish for the patient.

Too many mental health professionals treat mental illness as simply a medical problem, not taking into account that it is, like all human suffering, also a human problem. This is an inherently narrow and incomplete way of looking at psychiatric symptoms; no human suffering can be properly understood without also examining the human condition and the human experience, including everything from relationship struggles, to parental abuse, to questioning the meaning of life, to toxic coping mechanisms, and much more.

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Psychotherapy: An Overview

If one really thinks about it, the 21st century is riddled with all kinds of psychological problems. You hear of depression, suicides, cutting, substance abuse, and the like, running rampant in the world. Every individual has faced some kind of complication more than once in his life, be it troubles at home, in the workplace, or within any other site of social interaction. Sometimes such issues are intensified so much that one cannot help but feel as though the light at the end of the tunnel is but a mere fallacy. You feel lonely, betrayed, and above all, develop a cynical perspective of life. There seems to be no hope left.

The belief that you are the only one with insurmountable burdens is not true. You aren’t alone!

Various statistics can give a broader understanding of the prevalence of such troubled individuals. The National Institute of Mental Health, for example, has stated that more than a quarter of the adults living in America suffer from mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, just to name a few. Other than these, a variety of common, everyday life issues, like unemployment, peer pressure, death of a loved one, relationship break ups, and perhaps something as superficial as appearance and weight may acquire a level that could be crippling to the very person’s well-being. This wide array of difficulties may have varying time scales. Some could be short term hindrances whereas others could be occurring for a long time.

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Why Psychotherapy?

Millions of Americans have benefited from consulting a psychologist and going through therapy. It has helped them overcome depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. However, in spite of the positive results provided by psychotherapy, many people still find it uncomfortable to consult a therapist or in some cases, to continue and sustain the therapy.

The most important question revolves around the fact as to why one should consider consulting a therapist. To understand this, one must first understand what the therapy is all about. Therapy is a partnership and a professional relationship between an individual and the therapist, who aims at dissolving the client’s distress. The therapist is usually a trained individual who is licensed to help people. He is trained to understand the client’s feelings and help them in altering their behavior in a positive direction. Facts provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration show that about one-thirds of the adults in the United States suffer from substance abuse related problems from a very early age, and, consequently, face emotional distress.  Almost 25 percent of the population suffers from anxiety and depression at one point or another.

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How Effective is Psychotherapy?

According to the American Psychological Association, ‘Psychotherapy’ includes any of a group of therapies used to treat psychological disorders, focusing on changing faulty behaviors, perceptions, thoughts, and emotions that may be associated with specific disorders. People sometimes question the necessity of consulting a psychotherapist at a point when they can easily talk to their friends or family members about it. This query can be simply satiated by the fact that the therapists are trained professionals who handle situations in novel ways unknown to common people. Rather, untrained individuals can unknowingly cause more damage when trying to provide help.

“Psychotherapy Research” journal quotes a number of studies that have been successful in proving the effectiveness of the therapies. They have indicated that a successful therapy brings about positive changes in people’s lives. This, in turn, facilitates the patient to overcome his distress. The studies indicate that 75% of the patients undergoing psychotherapy show a positive signs of improvement. Some researchers also refer to the fact that an average person who undergoes treatment is in a better state of mind than 80% of those who do not undergo psychotherapy at all. Yet, it is very difficult to evaluate effectiveness of psychotherapy due to variety of mental disorders and individual conditions of patients.

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