Radical change in our mental health system is indeed needed for the wellbeing of our citizens. Read the full Irish Times article here-
People often come to therapy when they are completely overwhelmed and are now aware that they are not functioning as they used to.
The most common statements I hear in the first session is "I feel like I have lost myself" - "I am totally fed up and sick of myself" and "I just sooooo want to change how I am, I am not living the life I want". Things have usually built up considerably...
Psychotherapy can act a "mental vitamin boost" and emotional "tidying up". It is the one place that you can come in, express yourself with freedom, dropping the "mask" at the door and engage in being real without any fear of being judged or criticised.
Therapy can help prevent repetition of past mistakes, cycles and patterns by exploring and addressing the root causes and helping an individual cultivate awareness. It can give someone a brand new perspective on life and help them develop resilience, learning new ways of seeing, perceiving and being.
What are the main signs that can help identify if therapy may be a good option to explore?
Wanting to change and being motivated to take action to make it happen.
Wanting more from life.
Feeling intense emotions that you can't seem to control and keep a lid on.
Trying to ignore an issue in life and it won't go away. You find yourself constantly thinking about it.
Feeling like you are just not "yourself" anymore.
You feel disconnected from yourself and others.
Not sleeping and feeling exhausted without a medical reason or rationale.
Feeling like you are stuck and that no matter what you do you cannot seem to move yourself forward in life.
Recurring bodily symptoms that bother you and yet the Doctor has given you the "all clear".
Feeling constantly stressed out.
Feeling like everything is a struggle and that it is hard to manage and cope on a day to day basis.
Having difficulty relating to others.
Worrying about what other people think about you.
Feeling like you are drowning in "drama".
Feeling heavy, like you are carrying so many problems on your shoulders.
Having difficulty relating to yourself and mentally beating yourself up.
When you have lost someone or something and are having a difficult time processing it.
You have experienced something traumatic. When a trauma has been experienced the earlier you talk to someone the easier it is to work through and cope in a healthy way creating strategies to evolve beyond it.
Finding yourself going out of your way to avoid certain situations and thus limiting the scope of your life.
Feeling helpless and powerless.
You feel no joy from things in life that previously gave you joy.
Feeling like there is something missing from your life.
You can't manage to do things you normally would derive pleasure from on a daily basis.
This list is by no means exhaustive but represents some of the more common factors that appear for individuals.
Psychotherapy is a very powerful tool but you have to want to use it.
If you have never experienced therapy before this short outline explains the frame (boundary) of the alliance (the relationship between therapist and client).
The framework is important as it creates safety and a "knowing what to expect" and it creates a comfortable safe space for therapeutic work to occur.
The framework clarifies the professional relationship created and is the foundation of our agreement to work together.
The therapy session has to feel safe, private, comfortable, quiet, confidential and containing for clients in order for "the work" to take place.
The first step taken is the phone call. It can be very hard to pick up the phone and schedule a session (with any therapist). It takes courage and implies you - the individual - is motivated to seek help and to change. It also conveys a commitment to yourself. As difficult as it can be to pick up the phone and call, once this action is taken it can gift a huge sense of relief. It is a huge milestone that signals a readiness to take responsibility for the direction you now chose to take in life.
We agree a date and time on the phone. That is all. It is a short conversation whereby minimal information is given and yet it is a BIG step and ACTION towards desired change.
My personal approach to the therapeutic relationship is egalitarian and collaborative.
When an individual decides to come to therapy - after our first initial session - if we decide to work together we then agree a day and time that will be the"therapeutic hour" in which we will work in the alliance, processing and working through the issues and problems that prompted them to take action call and come to see me.
On rare occasions it may be appropriate for there to be more than one session per week.
We begin on time and end on time and contact outside of our weekly scheduled weekly hour together is not permitted. The session time is adhered to weekly and if someone needs to cancel I request a weeks notice - the individual tells me in their session that they will not be present for the next session. This is about respect. Missed sessions without any explanation or cancellation incur the full charge of the fee. If therapy sessions are missed habitually - the reasons will be discussed at length in the hopes of reaching resolution, however if the behaviour cannot be resolved termination may follow as an individual may not be ready to engage in therapy and the door is left open to reengage in the future.
If I am will be away on holiday or for professional reasons I will give advance notice of the planned absence.
The therapeutic alliance is created on mutual trust and respect. Consistency and regularity in attendance is key and commitment essential in order for therapy to be successful.
Participation in the therapeutic process is entirely voluntary. These guidelines ensure a good framework and are conducive to ethical practice.
As the treatment progresses and nears completion, we have a final session to review and give time for reflection, closure and "good-byes".
Therapy is ultimately about assisting the individual to cultivate more awareness of the Self; not only focusing on problem / unhealthy life pattern identification but also educating, and empowering. Psycho-education can be hugely empowering and can aid insight and awareness. Developing an awareness of strengths and inner resources is also hugely important.
Therapy takes courage, commitment and a lot of hard work. Lasting change takes effort and time. If you want to change, it will happen. The only requirements necessary are the desire to change, a commitment to change and time.
"People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates" - Thomas Szasz
Confidentiality is preserved and maintained at all times and cannot be broken except in the following cases -
If someone is going to hurt themselves and be violent towards self or other. If someone experiences psychosis, needs hospitalisation and medical intervention. In cases of abuse of a child or vulnerable person.
Annie O'Brien M.Sc. MIACP MIHA has a Masters Degree in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy from Turning Point Institute and Dublin City University. This course is one of the leading training courses in Ireland and is recognised by the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP), the Irish Association of Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy (IAHIP) and the European Association for Integrative Psychotherapy (EAIP).