In my work, I note people frequently vacillate between trust and lack of trust as a general concern. However, I feel, in the area of mental health, people are often way too trusting. I will even go as far as to say that I think some of the issues surrounding poor emotional and mental health outcomes is directly related to, ‘way-too-much-trust’.
Perhaps one tiny example is the word, ‘therapy’.
If you have read my book you may have noticed that nowhere in it, aside from the word ‘psychotherapy’, do I use the words ‘therapy’ or ‘therapist’, on its own, to explain any form of treatment. There is an overt, and sound rationale around my doing this.
I believe the words ‘therapy’ and ‘therapist’, used on their own, have been vital contributors to a world of confusion and blurred boundaries around, and by, the various mental health professions. This inaccuracy, or perhaps, more, lack of attention to vital detail, has allowed the professions themselves to remain unclear about the services they offer. In not owning and delineating our own roles for, and to, the public we have allowed an obscure distortion to the anticipated work a client (or patient) might receive.
Imagine if each professional name carried with it a clear and definable service. I wonder then if people might be able to make clearer, better choices about what they require in terms of treatment.
If I want the services of an accountant, an architect, a dentist, I know exactly what I am getting. I am not getting what could be potentially 4 – 5 or 6 differently trained professionals, who all work in the same area. In the emotional and mental health profession that is exactly what could, and does happen. However, it is important to note that all professions in this field have very specific training, philosophies, ethos and most importantly, skills.
All too frequently, I am left to ponder the harm, impairment, and destruction occurring to those trusting people who use the services of the emotional and mental health professionals. As a result, even current research is indicating a failure of this group to provide good outcomes.
One of the most significant things I struggle with is the question; ‘if we, as the professionals, were clearer and more overt about our exact training, education and skills, could the public be making better decisions for themselves about what they require for treatment?’.
Someone has been struggling on and off with depression for many years. Perhaps they have tried some form of self-help, reading and or group. Perhaps also later medication was trialed (either not liking the side-effects or not giving the change envisaged). Maybe on that journey of exploration to received help, they end up in various versions of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Imagine the sense of hopelessness and helplessness if after all of that input and professional help there was still no resolution to the symptoms.
Then one day that person reads or is told about a form of treatment that does not try to ‘fix’ the presenting issues but attempts to understand why those issues – thoughts feelings and behaviors – got there in the first place.
Eighty percent of people I work with have come because they have wanted to know why they feel the way they do … oh yes, they want it ‘fixed’, but they also understand, from the early stages of our work, that the ‘fixing’ only comes from the understanding, or awareness about what is driving the symptoms.
In this framework, psychotherapy, we work on ‘understanding’ what happened in their lives, on the continuum called life. We do this, usually, for years. I add, ‘usually for years’ because if one can get a fast resolution with self-help, medication, CBT or similar, one is not going to up-turn every dark rock in their lives to see why life has been so complex and difficult.
Therefore, it is not incumbent on all 4 – 5 or even 6 professions working in the field of emotional and mental health to clearly state what their training is and what their skill base is … because on its own the word ‘therapy’ and ‘therapist’ is an illusionary, meaningless title to the public looking to alleviate life-threatening, serious emotional and mental health concerns.
It is interesting to note that the word ‘therapy’ is from the Greek therapeuein, which means to serve, to wait on, to cure or to nurse. Hence, the word is used in many professions and many roles. For example, physiotherapy, beauty therapy, hypnotherapy, gene therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, abortive therapy … the list goes on. Using this connotation we could refer to a doctor, a nurse or even a podiatrist as a therapist.
Psycho is also Greek, from the word psyche, meaning several things; however, in this context, it relates to the mind or mental process. As a result, what we have in the word ‘psychotherapist’ is to service the mind or mental process.
Shall we work together to get the professions in mental health to clearly state their education, training, skill set and work practices? To read more find my book, either paperback or ebook, Where I outline in layman’s terms what psychotherapy is and what it is not.