I've noticed that the recent tipping of the beautiful Christchurch weather into rain, wind, and grey skies has had an effect on my mood. I find myself feeling slightly more serious, a bit more withdrawn, and a little bit somber. (You don't have to worry about me though - I'm not getting depressed, and as a therapist, I'd know!)
We all know weather affects our mood, but interestingly, I rarely meet people who are angry at the weather. We don't tend to look up at the sky and shake our fists in anger at it, even when the weather really has ruined our day or our plans. I think we don't get angry at the weather because we don't personalise it. There's just no point getting angry and geared up to fight the weather, because it really is hard to convince ourselves that the rain is coming down out of a sense of spite and malice or intent to personally hurt us. It's just laughable. This makes bad weather generally a nuisance, but nothing more than that, because we don't add an extra layer of suffering through getting angry and getting into conflict with the weather.
What if we could similarly avoid unnecessary suffering in our relationships? Actually, it is possible. By talking through in therapy our rationale for our anger, we can familiarize ourselves with it, and then often let it go. For instance, if I get angry at my partner, and realise that a belief that reinforces that is that my partner takes me for granted and exploits me, then in therapy I can really examine that. Are there other possible explanations for his or her behaviour, explanations that may move us towards compassion rather than anger? Or, on the other hand, maybe my explanation that my partner exploits me is actually correct, but, will I be better served by examining my own complicit patterns of naivete?
Through therapy we can develop the capacity for emotional balance, in which we may be affected by the storms of our life, but do not become pulled into fighting ourselves and others unnecessarily.
Having recently been practicing counselling and psychotherapy in Australia, I've noticed that here in New Zealand we are lagging behind in awareness and use of online therapy. I have no evidence to back this up, but I presume that Australians are taking to online therapy because of the difficulties accessing a therapist due to the immense distances and spread out population, once you get outside of the major cities.
Therapists use various video platforms to work with clients, including popular ones such as skype. My experience has been that after a self conscious first five minutes, and bar the occasional irritating lag or need to repeat a sentence, both therapists and clients quickly forget that they are not in the same room together, and that online therapy really functions very similarly to meeting in person.
But, you may ask (I certainly did)... does it work as well as meeting in person? Actually, what research I've seen actually says that it works better. This article summarises the findings briefly. Intuitively, I'm not so sure about this, and want to inject a note of caution. The type of therapy studied, cognitive behaviour therapy, is fairly brief therapy that tackles the symptoms but not the causes of the issues. I'm not so sure that deeper therapeutic work would translate so well to working online.
Still, I think that online therapy is a great addition for people who live in remote areas, those who want to access a specialist therapist who may practice far away, or those who are impeded by shyness or disability from doing therapy in person. At Lucid Psychotherapy we do offer online counselling, so contact us if you're interested.
What would it be like to have an uninvited guest come to stay... indefinitely. This guest isn't just with you at home, they come with you for walks, to work, when socialising with friends, in fact, everywhere you go, this guest tags along. Not only does the guest come and observe, creating a certain amount of awkwardness in you and self-consciousness, but the guest keeps speaking up with opinions and judgements. In fact, the guest keeps up a running monologue during your entire day, only to be drowned out occasionally by television or other stimulation that is loud enough to drown out that incessant voice.
Sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? Well, welcome to your life, or your own mind, to be more precise. Those who have practiced a little bit of mindfulness will probably recognise the above description, because it is such a common experience to begin some sort of mindfulness practice and feel quite shocked at just how much our internal monologues just won't shut up.
Whilst mindfulness practice at first highlights our inner commentary, persisting with practice will help bring relief. We cannot permanently evict our uninvited guest, as much as we might like to, but we can slow down the commentary, learn not to buy into everything it says, and generally have a more spacious and compassionate experience in how we talk to ourselves.
Integrating mindfulness into the therapy and counselling process can be very empowering for clients and therapists, particularly because sometimes what is required isn't analysing, understanding, or changing something in our lives. Sometimes it's just being aware or our lives and ourselves, and accepting what we see. Mindfulness is a tool for doing just that.
In addition to our Wednesday morning clinic at Doctors of Cashel (7 Cashel St), Lucid Psychotherapy is happy to announce that our therapists have started another clinic, all day Monday at 296 Barbadoes St (Urban Eden Psychotherapy Practice.) We even have some evening appointments available at this location on Mondays. We're happy to be able to keep growing, and keep offering innovative, effective psychotherapy to the people of Christchurch.
This is the last in a series of posts on the relational approach to psychotherapy and counselling for common mental health issues. This post covers anxiety issues.
Like other mental health issues, there are different approaches to dealing with anxiety. The medical approach has it's advantages, but as anyone who has become hooked on sedating or anxiety reducing medication can tell you, it is not without its risks. Another approach, that of mindfulness based treatment for anxiety issues, can be very effective. By learning to control our attention through mindfulness, we can empower ourselves to regulate our physiological anxiety responses, and to deal more effectively with anxious thoughts. Neither of these approaches, however, deals with the relational context of our anxiety.
Our experience of panic, generalised, or specific anxieties is often triggered by relationship with others. In particular, we may be anxious of conflict with others, being vulnerable with others, around displaying certain emotions, or around intimacy in general. With the guidance of a psychotherapist or counsellor, we may be able to approach whatever our personal forbidden territory is, that anxiety keeps us away from. Usually when we approach this territory, we discover that it is not what we thought it is, and we can begin to get more familiar and comfortable with the anxiety provoking situation in our relationships.
In particular, as a therapist, I would watch for moments when a client re-enacts an anxiety driven pattern with me, their therapist. For instance, a person who goes to an old pattern of care-taking in relationships, when feeling anxious, will probably do that with me, their therapist, sooner or later. Working with these moments when the issue is "live" between therapist and client can be some of the most potent opportunities for healing and transformation.
Please let me know what you think about this, and stay tuned for further posts on other topics.