The decision to seek professional assistance from a psychotherapist is often daunting. Even today, with the perpetuating misconception of mental illness, therapy and/or counselling are still regarded by many as only necessary for ‘crazy people’, referring to individuals who exhibit overt psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and severe delusions. The idea of expressing your innermost thoughts and feelings to a ‘stranger’ is somewhat unsettling for some. Others purport to “know exactly what’s wrong with themselves” and hence point out the seeming futility of the experience. However, despite the expected trepidation, there are some instances in which psychotherapeutic intervention by a professional is critical to the mental well-being of an individual.
In deliberating the type of assistance required, it is imperative to understand what psychotherapy entails. Although classified as a ‘talk technique’, verbal communication is merely one aspect of effective sychotherapy.
Psychotherapy involves the use of specific, evidence-based psychological techniques to improve relationships and social functioning. It requires identifying negative emotions and destructive behaviours, examining the genesis of these conditions, and employing appropriate methods to correct such. Apprehension is expected during the initial phase of psychotherapeutic interventions as the process commences similarly to the start of any relationship. Yes, relationship. The success of any therapeutic intervention hinges largely on the relationship established between the client and the therapist. Of grave importance is an atmosphere of trust, acceptance and non-judgement. Furthermore, many academics and intellectuals err in their belief that it is sufficient enough to know and/or comprehend their own mental challenges. However, it should be noted that knowledge of one’s flaws does not necessarily equate to self-correction of
said flaws. Consider the fact that a surgeon, despite his ability to assess his condition and prognosis, cannot
perform the operation to remove the tumour in his brain himself.
As previously mentioned, knowing when it has become necessary to consult a professional can be difficult. The following is a checklist to assist individuals in making the decision to seek professional help. It should be noted that this instrument is not a standardised assessment tool and is only meant to aid persons in determining whether or not the challenges facing them could be resolved by a competent clinician Furthermore, these symptoms are in no way the only situations requiring psychological intervention. There exists a myriad of maladaptive behavioural patterns suggestive of poor mental functioning that requires assistance from a psychotherapist. Once these behaviours have become severe enough to affect family life, work and interpersonal relationships, it is advised that some discussion be held with a professional.
Complete the following by indicating the frequency with which you may have experienced these symptoms: often, sometimes or not at all.
I feel sad or ‘down in the dumps’ for no particular reason.
I hear voices that tell me what I should do.
I feel so anxious or ‘on-edge’ that it is hard for me to function.
I have a lot of trouble concentrating sufficiently to get any work done.
I feel strong urges that make me act in ways I know I shouldn’t.
I alienate other people when I really don’t want to.
I feel frightened by things that I know shouldn’t be so frightening.
I seem to get sick more often than most of my friends.
I can’t seem to remember certain periods of my life very well.
I feel so good that I almost feel superhuman.
I worry that people around me might be planning to hurt me.
I smell strange scents that no one else seems to be able to smell.
If life does not seem very satisfying and you answered “often” to any of the items listed in the checklist, you may want to consider speaking with a certified therapist. Note though, that some of the symptoms may require intervention from a psychologist even if you mark the item as “sometimes”. For example, smelling strange scents and hearing voices and sounds that other people may not hear, warrant intervention from a professional, even with minor experiences of this nature. Additionally, crippling anxiety that stymies productivity and everyday functioning, compelling urges and strong impulses, loss of memory for certain periods of your life and worry regarding the ill intentions of others can all be addressed with the assistance of a psychotherapist and/or psychologist. Of critical importance is the feedback gleaned from persons within your immediate circles. Often, individuals are not conscious of dramatic changes in their behaviour or specific maladaptive behavioural patterns and it is up to family members, friends and co-workers to highlight these problem behaviours. If the people around you are notifying you of your actions or changes in such a way which may require attention, chances are your behaviour has now become so severe that it is affecting your relationships and/or daily life. Contact a professional. Help is available.
Ms. Ginelle Nelson is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist /Managing Director, PsyDA Consultancy Ltd. PsyDA (pronounced ‘Cider’) Consultancy provides psychological services including individual and family psychotherapy, psychological evaluations and assessments, counselling and forensic consultations. Contact 727-1490 for weekend appointments.