How do you view tattoos? Are you okay with them? Does it matter to you what the tattoo is or means? For many people, “body art” is either the object of much criticism or the object of a strong personal association with a belief or person. A parent posed a challenging question to me a few years ago while I trained at a semi-prominent clinic: “Why is the Clinical Director sporting a tattoo in clear sight and she knows that I have trouble trusting doctors in the first place?” I found myself not only floored, but a tad upset by the social stigma that swept into the clinic and across multiple clinicians. What I had failed to realize is that although I saw the situation from various perspectives, clients often felt threatened or defensive after noticing the tattoo(s). But….can you blame them?
Did you know that July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month? If not, you’re not alone. Sadly this month is often overlooked by the majority of Americans. It is a time when summer has bloomed, fireworks have entered the scene, and multiple summer parties and cook-outs are in full swing. It comes at a time of the year when so many people are outdoors, enjoying the summer time weather and penetrating sun. This lack of awareness, however, not only affects minorities struggling with mental health problems, but our society at large.
Think back to an age at which you told the most lies or “fibs?” Were you 4, 5, 8, or 10? Why did you tell the lie? Were you trying to get something in return, manipulate a situation in your favor, or avoid hurting someone’s feelings? If so, you are like the majority of us who curtail the truth in order to make things less stressful or negative for us. Curtailing the truth happens a lot, even in the lives of adults.
Therapy (or psychotherapy as some call it) is a very complex endeavor because it involves emotions, the mind, personalities, belief systems, and interpersonal communication that can either make or break therapy. It is important that we are all aware of the issues that we can potentially encounter in therapy.
The job of a therapist seems to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I’m not just saying this because I am a therapist myself. But I say this because human beings are complex, and often require years if not decades of study to be fully understood. Even more, the most difficult job aside from being a therapist is being a family member to someone who has personality traits that seem “unchangeable.”
Has anyone ever told you to “stop thinking negative?” What about “you are so pessimistic, can’t you ever be positive?” Another great one is “look on the Brightside!” If you’re like me you hate hearing these things. This “positive philosophy” actually started with cognitive psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, who believed that humans engage in a series of thought processes that leads to depression and a host of other negative outcomes such as poor health.
Did you know that psychotherapy and counselling has its roots in philosophy? Existential and phenomenological thinking processes have greatly informed multiple theories on how to “treat” psychiatric illness. Because of multiple disagreements between science and philosophy and the need for the field of psychiatry to prove itself as a science, many aspects of psychotherapy have become a type of “pseudo-science” that misses the mark every time.
Did you hate school when you were growing up? Did you like certain subjects and not others? What would have made school easier for you? Candy? Cookies for every assignment completed? A truly caring person who honestly gave you feedback whether good or bad? For most people, especially young people with severe mental health concerns or learning disabilities, require a special type of educational experience and we (teachers, mental health professionals, parents, family, etc.) must figure that out.
Have you ever taken a questionnaire in a mental health clinic or hospital? What about while you were in school (grade or college)? Were you suspicious of what the questionnaire was for, why you had to take it, and what could be learned about you once you take it? If so, you are not alone. Millions of people are suspicious about questionnaires, especially those in mental health settings. Most people are shy, while others are reluctant to give truthful information. In fact, many mental health settings have incorporated the use of questionnaires in psychiatric evaluations as a way to gather more information about a potential patient.
The topic of mental illness has infiltrated our society at increased rates. Our society was never as conversant of mental illness as we have become today. The frequent conversations were sadly not due to increased knowledge about mental illness, but the shocking numbers of cases involving violence or tragedy.