I am writing this article as a reflection on a situation that happened to me recently… I will get to it eventually, but first…
In the last few years, the topic of mental health in Ireland has developed. People, especially the younger generation speaks more freely about mental health awareness. However, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health. Many of us speak out loud that there should not be a stigma around mental health, that mental health matters or mental health is as important as your physical health… it all sounds great, but something is missing… something more important than those words… I am asking where is the authenticity of those statements?
The reality and reasons…
You can see those statements all over social media but when comes to reality, how many people are willing to admit that they are seeing a therapist? How many people would say that there was a time in their life where they were going to a therapist? How many people are feeling proud that they are seeing a therapist?
Not many… for a variety of reasons… some may be afraid of judgment, some because of a high range of workplace, some might be too shy, some might not trust others, others might be afraid of not being understood, or afraid that people will jump to conclusions too quickly, some will not want the family to know, some people might believe that this is not other people’s business… whatever the reason is, it is valid and important…
I am not willing to question the reason why people are not wanting to share that they have a therapist. But I want to ask, how many of you are aware that your therapist either had a therapist once in their life or some therapist had and still have their own personal therapy?
I bet not many of you are aware of it! Firstly, because you are not in a mental health profession and you don’t need to know how it works exactly. Secondly, because your therapist never told you about it. Ethically speaking your therapist is not obligated to tell you that s/he had to attend at least 50-100 hours of therapy before they got the full qualification. But this is the requirement within the accreditation body.
The therapist’s role
I have a strong belief that anybody who enters the therapy room should be feeling equal to their therapist. A therapist isn’t a better person than you are, a therapist is not someone who knows your life better than you, a therapist is not a person who should be giving you advice on how to live your life, because that already takes your power away, by making you believe that you cannot do something.
Your therapist is an expert on mental health but is not an expert on your life. Your therapist can suggest you things, or help you see things from a different angle, and give you the support you need so you can make the changes you either want or need to make. Because therapy is about change… a change that you are going to make. Not your therapist. Your therapist should encourage you to believe in that process.
As many of you know, I recently opened Horizon Mental Health Clinic in Limerick City. I was and I am still looking for therapists to join my team at Horizon. However, a few weeks ago I was talking to a very qualified therapist. The whole conversation was pleasant, but that therapist is not in my team at Horizon.
On one thing I had totally different point of view… I believe that being a therapist is a constant work on the self. Therapists should never stop working on themselves. Transference and countertransference are impossible to obey in therapy. Those are happening all the time. Yes, a therapist can talk about it in the Supervision, but sometimes that is not enough.
On top of that, I would hate to see a therapist taking an authoritative role in the therapy. I would not accept the imbalance, that this attitude would create. A therapist is a person who helps people find themselves and their freedom.
A therapist who is making you feel inadequate, not listened to or small… should never be your therapist.
Remember you have a choice who is your therapist, don’t be afraid to ask your therapist about their qualification, experience and therapeutic approach. Remember you are going to therapy for yourself. It needs to work for you. You don’t owe anything to your therapist. If something isn’t working, if you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, allow yourself to tell him or her that or walk away.
There are many different therapists, with different approaches, but not all of them are going to be the right therapist for you. There are many therapists that are actually not good at their job, there are many therapists that I would not agree with, I would find it difficult to accept their attitude or approach. I don’t want to offend anyone here, that is not my intention, I just honestly express my own view.
People are needing support with mental health. Everybody does, at least one time in our life we need some support. It does not matter what job you have, status, family, money… we all have our physical and emotional health. We have physical and mental health, whether you admit it or not.
As I wrote in my previous article on mental health stigma, people need to be more aware of their rights when comes to therapy, but it is not up to people who seek therapy to change that stigma around mental health! Oh no! The responsibility does not lie on them! The responsibility to change the stigma about mental health is actually right in the middle of the mental health services. Mental health professionals are responsible to change the stigma about mental health, not people!
The change needs to be done internally, not looking for external events or people to change the system. That belief is just ignorance. And this is going to be my next article. In my next article, I will exactly explain what I mean by that last statement.
To be continued…
With love always,