Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2012 Nancy Virden
Good counsel. The qualifying word is “good”. No end to free yet costly counsel, expensive yet cheap therapy, affordable yet misguided advice is in sight.
It is important to compare therapists as evidenced in multiple stories I have heard and my own. There are so many stories in fact, it is scary to think how recklessly we can abandon our instincts when faced with this decision.
Let me share just a few of those outcomes.
Outcome #1 – A personal experience
In 2004, grief over the loss of my mother and both in-laws in a short span of time, clearing up two estates, an already overloaded lifestyle of volunteerism, and strained family relationships fueled a major depressive episode.
When I finally acknowledged that counseling would be a good idea, the name of a church-affiliated woman came to my attention.
During my second session with her, as I explained working with children and their families, she leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “You know God cannot use you because you are fat.”
Looking back, I see how wrong she was; God will use any willing person to help others.
However, because I was depressed, her words sucked any remaining sense of purpose out of me. Within a few months I was hospitalized for the first time, having rejected help until near the emotional point of no return.
Outcome #2 – Enrique
Marriage had surprised Enrique. He had entered it believing his wife would meet his every need. After a few years, he decided to seek counseling for himself and tackle his incorrect way of handling relationships.
His therapist listened to his story… and listened…and listened. Weeks, months went by and no counsel was forthcoming. Enrique thought, “If I were capable of figuring this out myself, I could talk for free at home.”
Four full years passed before he decided to give up on this counselor. He found another man who gave structured guidance, offered reading material, and asked good questions.
Enrique is now receiving the help he needs, but at a loss of four years as his marriage struggled and bills piled.
Outcome # 3 – Helen
Helen’s husband suffered from a trying mental illness. There were lengths of time when he was so depressed he would not get off the couch, leaving his wife to care for the children, home, and financial issues. Other periods were filled with aggressive and abusive behavior. He called her names, wrecked the house, and the children watched helplessly as he threw away their personal possessions.
Helen was able to drag him to marriage counseling in exasperation. She listened politely as her at-that-moment charming spouse described their relationship. He was beguiling, witty, and easily laid blame for their troubles on her. She felt confused, angry at his misrepresentation, and when asked for her point of view, she blurted, “He sabotages our family!”
The misinformed therapist did not comprehend the bigger picture. Apparently he missed the signs of abuse. He said to her, “You need to stop being so controlling.”
No more did she try to reach out for help.
Happier outcomes exist!
Some simple criteria I have learned to consider are personality, theoretical approach, specific experience, and professional license.
It is wise to interview therapists. Ask about their approach. Take control over your health by finding out whose demeanor will fit your needs. Because I tend to think literally, I will receive more help from a counselor who does not hint. Homework and clear instructions work well with my personality.
No one would ask an oncologist to tackle eye surgery. When we have serious mental illnesses, it is best to seek specialists in our area of need. For example, talking to an addictions counselor may not be so helpful if one has schizophrenia.
State licensing requires experience to earn it, and shows that a counselor has more than good intentions. Yes, there are talented people in the field who do not have a license, but how would you know? License is no guarantee either. It remains a good idea to interview therapists.
Unfortunately, as thoughtful and talented as are clergy, medical personnel, school teachers, and others whose jobs place them in guidance positions, they do not usually have any or much training in this regard. The skills needed to manage specific disorders require more than a theological, medical, or education degree.
You deserve to find the kind of help that works for you. Go ahead and ask for help when you need it. I had to try and try again before finding the well-trained, licensed, and experienced people whose personalities met my needs. It was worth it.
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
-Pictures from Kozzi.com