“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” —William James
With the advent of the new year, it’s important to talk about awareness regarding mental health. Our generation has begun to seek important help from therapists for various issues that we face with the high stress world that we find ourselves to be living in. It’s logical that our probability of developing or triggering a predisposed genetic mental illness increases manifold. Can going for therapy help you develop the necessary skills to deal with all the stressors of daily life?
Many find themselves skeptical towards the process, many look down upon it. The stigma of asking for professional help is extremely problematic. Moreover, we are taught to ignore our feelings (which are seen as ‘feminine’) and that is a part of the toxic masculinity’s agenda. Another impediment is that people have been told to keep up with a fast-paced life, rather than slow down and reflect. People are also hesitant because they feel it will legitimise the tag of ‘being mentally unwell’, and a fear of not being accepted in society.
But perhaps in the new year you might overcome these notions, and are considering seeking therapy. It’s great to be taking that important first step.
When I inquired about the modality of the therapists some of my friends are seeing, almost everyone is clueless. You as a client have the right to know the ‘school’ your therapist follows. This will also give you a better idea of whether the therapist would be someone you would be comfortable going to. You might end up with an unethical misogynist. I have met a therapist who did not report a case of child sexual abuse because the child’s life would be ‘ruined’. This same therapist denied the existence of social power structures like patriarchy and male privilege. Oh, and he would show pictures of his clients to others, breaching confidentiality!
The Client Agreement Form must be provided by your therapist. This document has all the information about them, including their educational and experiential background, modality (I’ll get to that in a bit), fee, office policies, and more. Usually accompanying the client agreement form, Informed Consent is permission granted by the client in full knowledge of the possible consequences, and possible risks, and benefits. If the client is an adult and in a place to give consent, it is provided by the client themselves. For an underage person, the family or a guardian is the only one who can provide consent.
Goal-setting is a major aspect of psychotherapy, and you, as a client, have the right to know and decide with the therapist what the goals of therapy are, and what the treatment plan is. The therapist should describe the therapeutic process of how they work with clients as per your satisfaction.
A lot clients don’t know that they can review all the work that the therapist has done with them. You can ask the therapist to show the records that they keep of you. You can also ask for summaries, or for the entire records themselves.
I have seen that many psychologists tend to rely on tests to make a diagnosis. Often a test is applied after seeing the client twice, which is not enough time to make rapport. Developing a healthy therapeutic alliance with your client and then (if needed) testing them is ethical practice. Testing without forming adequate rapport might lead to a lot of issues. For example, the client may provide ‘socially acceptable’ answers (thanks to the stigma around mental health). Another outcome could be that the client may not turn up if they feel the therapy is too impersonal.
There is a lot of money in testing and a lot of psychologists might ask a client to go through a battery of tests for absolutely no reason. The intake session usually provides the therapist with most of the information they need about a client, and the consequent sessions will reveal the rest of the information needed for the therapist to formulate their session plans and help the client help themselves.
Your therapist and you as a client have equal power in the therapeutic relationship.
A client may come to therapy thinking “This person will fix me if I do everything that they ask me to do”. Often, a therapist may give the client assignments or homework. But if the client has the aforementioned mindset, they might take on homework that they are not able to do and end up either doing it just before the session or turning up in the session without doing the homework. This mindset can backfire. Instead, saying ‘no’ and working out an alternative is a more productive approach.
A lot of clients might see a therapist even if their modality does not work for them. In fact, when it doesn’t work, they might just end up not seeing the therapist anymore. This can lead to many issues and can end up harming the client rather than helping them achieve better mental health than they came in with. At this point the client has the right to put up grievances and ask to be referred to another therapist. Please remember that you have volunteered to come for therapy and you can take back consent as and when you want.
More than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally, and close there are 8,00,000 successful suicide attempts every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29. Bipolar Disorder affects about 60 million, and Schizophrenia affects about 23 million people worldwide. Mental health issues are on a rise due to high stress environment, lack of trained professionals, and stigma. Psychotherapists can make early intervention in schools and the familial settings, by providing coping mechanisms and changing public perspectives about those who living with mental health issues.
The world that we find ourselves in is one of the issues why the present generation suffers from mental health issues. Also lack of resilience, motivation, and effective coping skills being passed down generation to generation has contributed to the same. Environmental stressors such as the increase in pollution is also one of the reasons. Yes, a decrease in physical health has a direct correlation with decrease in mental well-being. In the end, we are all the products of the environment were brought up in.
I can understand that taking the first step is the hardest, but that’s half the battle won. Once you are dedicated to getting better, you can claim control over your own life. So think of these nine points when you begin your mental health care journey in the new year.