‘You teach best what you most need to learn’


I have been listening to Tara Brach’s latest podcast as part of my bedtime ritual every night. Sometimes I fall asleep and miss a bit then start at the bit I missed the next night. Then on repeat. This recent one on fear one helped me to consolidate the relationship between mindfulness and the simple naming the fear sensations and thoughts and letting them go, and the digging I’m doing with therapy clients to explore the cause behind their distress and blocks. I’m discovering that both have their place.

My son had recently sent me a message questioning mindfulness only as a method for dealing with stress producing thoughts. He thought it may lead to bypassing important understanding of the causes of the distorted beliefs and thoughts and suppression of feelings resulting. I agree that it’s not quite enough, especially for distressed clients with depression and anxiety. Im wondering if mindfulness alone and not making conscious important realisations of the childhood or early life experiences people have which lead to distress, can actually cause some damage.

I’ve been on a journey these last couple of years to find a way of combining this digging and analyses of past causes of current pain, as well as using some mindfulness techniques to help with dealing with habitual recurring thoughts that still occur even after clients have an understanding that they aren’t based on evidence. Fearful thoughts mostly. There is often a lightbulb moment for clients where they see that it’s their adaptation to unhealthy early environments that led to their depression and anxiety. And there’s trauma too, another subject with a different approach.

So in this podcast Tara talks about the usefulness of naming the sensation and the feelings and thoughts. I do this in therapy towards the end. I ask people to give their distressing thoughts a slightly lighthearted name so that they can recognise, name and let go. One chose the name ‘Judge Judy’ for her inner critic, another chose ‘Scary Bob’ for his recurring fear thought. It worked a great and gave them the distance that allowed them to change their relationship with their thoughts, more freedom to choose rather than just believe thoughts as true, often using the feelings experienced as a result as ‘evidence’ that the thought must be true.

Though first they had to understand the origins behind the position they had arrived at. The ways they had to adapt to early life events, often contorting themselves out of shape to feel safe, get attention and love.

The depression and anxiety seems to relate to the sitting uneasily with this adapted self which they really know isn’t them, isn’t authentically who they really are. So we go over how this occurs, that it’s a natural response of a child and that they are not to ‘blame’.

My therapy style is a work in progress. Many breakthroughs and some clients that I feel out of my depth with. I was given a very suicidal gangster on 5 different psychiatric drugs with a psychosis diagnosis that I saw twice and had to bow out. I could not see a way forward, his cognitive faculties were not present enough he was so drugged up. I found this upsetting not being able to help or see a way forward. I passed him back to the agency and asked for someone more experienced to take him.

I’m struggling with the influence of the psychiatric profession on people. A 20 year old girl I was making huge leaps and bounds with in only 2 sessions came in yesterday feeling very suicidal after being put on antidepressants. she made an emergency appointment with her GP and he told her it was a normal side effect for young people and gave her Valium and told her it would only last 6-8 weeks. Oh my god. I so had to keep my mouth shut. I’m not allowed to comment, not being medically qualified though I’m pretty sure it would have been best to try therapy first without being put on both at the same time. What do I know though…..

Meantime I’m feeling a lot of anxiety recently as I treat those with anxiety. This is peculiar and I’m teaching what I most need to learn, and it’s largely working. another client I was saying bye to yesterday thanked me profusely for his new understanding of himself and the tools he’d learned to cope with his anxiety and depression. Tools I use daily too. Maybe that helps, not feeling separate from clients.

11 Comments

  1. it is odd to me , i assume due to algorithms i have several counselors on my list on here.But it has been very interesting reading their experiences from the other side. I think often , outside of any profession, we get some strange idea that professionals( and i hear this even as pediatric Nurse) are somewhat super human and never express true feelings publicly . So it is really cool to find out other wise. As far as the topic here, my experience with anti depressants has been absolutely horrible. I had been prescribed one after another and could not tolerate any of them. They were all SSRI’s and messed with my chemistry in intense ways. Only one made me feel suicidal, but the others gave me the opposite affect of what was intended.I could not sleep, and had such and anxiety that i struggled between needing to be around people out of fear i would die, and not wanting to talk to anyone or be touched either. Very tough to describe accurately. Ultimately it was decided i was predisposed to serotonin syndrome. the only thing that has helped me is a PRN for 0.5 Lorazepam when i really need it.It’s like a small bandage on a large wound but at least doesn’t make me feel worse. Being in perimenopause has just made things skyrocket and i often wonder what will happen to women with chronic issues already when they hit this stage of life. It’s scary as hell.

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    1. So sorry you’ve had to go though all that with antidepressants. We just trust our ‘experts’ not realising how little they know. One has to dig quite thoroughly on google to find accurate information and critics of the chemical imbalance approach. The public are being misled imho. We all want a quick fix and so many have hope invested in the pills. I’m just seeing problems and disappointment with my clients, side effects, addiction to them, horrible withdrawals, and they muddy the picture when trying to provide don’t know what’s ‘them’ and what’s the drugs.

      We got to get to the root causes of how we controlled our natural way of being to fit into our families and environments, and then slowly undo those painful contortions. We are lie flowers bending to the source of attention and light….and we bend ourselves out of shape often doing this very natural response. Unbending, That’s not an easy journey, well it hasn’t been for me. Been at it forever it seems and still here I sit, with a lot of self awareness gained but in anxiety at the moment. Just moving into all the into new territory on the journey of self discovery towards fulfilling our potential can be ungrounding and unnerving. I envy religious people sometimes, with the anchor they have. It’s hard work! Did you ever try and get going with a good therapist?

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      1. I’ve been in 7 out of therapy but none since my 30’s. i developed a huge mistrust. I did try again about a year ago but some of the digging around left me worse off than before. I barely trust anyone in the health field and i am a nurse, says a lot. But mainly i believe the root cause is the insurance industry rather than the individuals… Also, no insurance i have had for years covers therapy so its kind of not an option.Out of pocket is way too much:(

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      2. Yes, it’s a bit of a lottery out there with psychotherapists. They are unregulated legally too unlike over in the US. Here we don’t have insurance to pay for it so people have either to wait on a year long waiting list for free NHS therapy or pay themselves, which is anything from £40 an hour upwards….So there’s a lot of competition. I wonder if that leads to better quality, no idea.

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      3. idk..i hear a LOT of complaints and issues from many with MH problems here having to wait over a year as well. Sometimes this abruptly prevents them from getting their regular meds, sending them to the ER, etc. Not sure if its better or worse thant they are “legally” regulated here. Part of me feels that it isn’t because it just delays treatment and limits what can be done once treatment does start depending on insurance. For instance- any therapists on a list that accept clients on a graded pay scale are packed so full they have only 15 minute slots available and don’t take the time to really assess- just prescribe meds ver & over.If insurance doesn’t cover the better meds, they get pushed back into the system to wait again or given low quality treatments. Even for medical issues…for instance if you don’t have the good insurance here and yu have a kidney stone removed- you get advil, not pain meds..its a very rigged system

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      4. 15 mins for therapy! With general medical doctors there’s no waiting list and 10 min appointments and they just prescribe meds, which don’t work. Our ER departments are packed out with long waiting times, at least 4 hours and increasingly those with mental health crisis are going there though they can’t really help. Free therapy on the NHS is normally just 6x one hour sessions. And often it’s different therapists so people have to tell the story from the start over and over. Private therapists and counsellors here are not allowed to prescribe drugs. Just psychiatrists and medical doctors. Thank goodness or even more people would be on them. It’s nearly 1 in 5 people in my country who are on antidepressants. What is going on I wonder, so many in distress. Maybe it’s always been like this and people only now have ‘permission’ and a vocabulary to talk about it. The optimist in me likes to think of it as a big waking up process going on, no more suppressing and pretending.

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      5. I’ve always gone for private therapy even if I couldn’t really afford it. A sense of half desperation, half that I owe it to myself. Plus I want to be able to ‘interview’ a prospective psychotherapist to see if we are a good match. Not just be assigned one by someone else. I don’t know what the answer is. Mental Health services are being cut here. And at the same time everyone is talking more and more about mental health. There’s more emphasis on prevention now, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are getting a lot of publicity, teachers are being trained up to recognise the signs etc. I’m really excited that we are finally getting the cause and effect of childhood abuse and the damage it causes to peoples lives.

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      6. Nearly 2 years on placement at a Crisis Centre while I complete the 2 year Post Graduate Diploma, and there was a one year Counselling Skills Certificate before that which i had to do to get onto the course. Meanwhile running a totally unrelated business to pay for all this. Leading a double life!

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      7. wow..that’s a lot.I remember when i completed my first nursing degree. It was an accelerated program so 8a-5p 5 days a week with interning on saturdays and studying till midnight almost every day. After i got that thought “i will NEVER go thru it again” i worked for 2 years and then decided to go back for my RN…another 3 years but a self directed program so not as intense on the daily.. once i even considered going for a doctorate , i tested out of the MCATs’s and was ready but then decided it wasn’t what i wanted and the time & money i would owe for years wasn’t worth it ..so, nursing it is..

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