Mental Health: Let it RIP or Perhaps Not!

With the many weird and wonderful experiences that are part and parcel of life, you can’t help but ponder stuff. In my case it’s also professional practice.

Quite often I support and encourage clients to take quite an ‘assertive’ approach to mental health and dealing to the challenges to acknowledge and then take control. That is definitely one way that has proven highly effective for all the clients where we take this approach. But there are ‘horses for courses’ that need to be picked wisely for the best outcome. I still see a time and a place for this style but now I’m pondering quite the opposite.

What if sometimes, for some people, fighting mental health head on is in fact giving it more power than less. You make it front and centre, the be all and end all. The worst thing is you can’t see or hear it, so you are in fact swinging blindly.

I am surrounded by surfers and surf beaches, which is perhaps why approaching stuff like a rip tide, may in fact be a good way to go. For those that don’t know what a rip tide is then perhaps google it. In short (or this will make no sense at all) this one is for kids, which is bang on my level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ76XfBVKq0 .  In a wonderful world the tide and waves beautifully all lap towards dry land and return surfers and swimmers to terra firma. A rip tide is a sneaky little beggar that bucks the flow and creates an invisible channel that takes you out to the big blue sea. This takes those not familiar to a rip by surprise. Instinct is to swim like your life depends on it -because it does, I suppose- towards land. As you’d expect a swimmer is no match for the immense awesomeness of the sea. This is what got me thinking. Sometimes by investing all attention and effort into fighting the rip tide (mental health) you are in a battle where there is only ever going to be one winner. The swimmer eventually tires and then is in real bother. For the sake of happy endings and a hop, skip and a jump. Hasselhoff or The Rock pluck you out of the sea and holds you in a safe embrace.

The alternative and the best way to deal with a rip is to stop and as soon as possible take stock and acknowledge that you are in the shite, well rip tide. This being a metaphor for mental health. At each point you keep raising your arm high in the air calling for help. Help being family, friends and better still a trained professional. In the meantime, simply breathe and know that the calmer you are, the clearer you think and in the meantime tap into your coping toolkit and resilience to ‘calm your farm’. If you take it easy and either float out to the back you will eventually come right, you could end up in some pretty dark blue water, which is a tad unsettling, especially if you too were traumatised by jaws and then topped it up with an unhealthy dose of In the Deep. So, this is where tapping into your tool kit comes in. As, you swim across and parallel to the beach you eventually get out of the rip tide and back into the waves that are taking you on a fast track back to dry land. This being a place of relative calm, balance and positive wellbeing.

Finding a good counsellor is all about finding the right fit for you and a style that will work. As a counsellor it can only be a positive to be able to change gears and styles to best meet the needs of the person or people that sit in front of you. So, I’m still pondering when to ‘deal to it’ and when to take stock and swim across and out of a rip tide. Better still I will keep looking at refining the skills and resilience that would enable and empower my clients, friend, family and of course myself to find the right way at the right time.

You’ll have a better sex life if…

You’ll have a better sex life if… Taking the guesswork out of it

Now this came up in a recent conversation and is never too far away when talking about relationships. There are a few practice methods or modalities that practitioners use, not that you would be able to hear or see any real difference between them. I have always been fascinated by all and pick what connects with me and utilise with clients when I think the fit is right. Anyway, then there is cold, hard research that can join so many dots and even better challenge ‘old’ thinking towards ‘new’ ways, based on fact rather than assumption. John Gottman is a legend in that he didn’t settle for guesswork and that he really has done his homework (along with his team). He trawled through 1000’s of research papers and articles. He also observed relationships in real time as they played out in an apartment and they are just for starters. I certainly use elements of The Gottman Method having been though the training, but I find it a tad prescriptive as a one stop shop therapeutic process. I am however hoping to challenge my own view by continuing to learn more about this method, as anything so backed up by fact and best practice can’t be dismissed too quickly.

So, in summary (from The Normal Bar Study):

Fact: Couples who have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are doing the same set of things.

  1. They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  2. They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  3. They give surprise romantic gifts
  4. They know what turns their partners on and off erotically
  5. They are physically affectionate, even in public
  6. They keep playing and having fun together
  7. They cuddle
  8. They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  9. They stay good friends
  10. They can talk comfortably about their sex life
  11. They have weekly dates
  12. They take romantic breaks
  13. They are mindful about turning toward

Fact: Couples have a bad sex life everywhere on the planet.

Not local but… The Sloan Center at UCLA studied 30 dual-career heterosexual couples in Los Angeles. These couples had young children. The researchers were like anthropologists – observing, tape-recording, and interviewing these couples. They discovered that most of these young couples:

  1. Spend very little time together during a typical week
  2. Become job-centered (him) and child-centered (her)
  3. Talk mostly about their huge to-do lists
  4. Seem to make everything else a priority other than their relationship
  5. Drift apart and lead parallel lives
  6. Are unintentional about turning toward one another

The Gottman Institute certainly doesn’t leave you flapping in a place of , “now what?”. Check their resources out for either professionals and/or couples. https://www.gottman.com/couples/


Communication: Disconnect the Lips and Engage the Ears!

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

Connecting through Disconnection

Adolescent mental health, depression, suicide, risk taking behaviour, positive change and importance of connectedness.

Prevalence of mental health problems continues to be a challenge, often beyond the capacity to keep up, especially for most school counsellors. What if, rather than a mental health epidemic we are in the thick of a cultural crisis for adolescents. The challenge being, as adults and professionals, many are blindingly fast to formulate an assessment and diagnosis. Folk aren’t so open to  closing the text books and inquiring further into the why’s as it looks and sounds on the ground.

For each of us, the incredible uniqueness brings a collage of opinions and philosophies on the how’s, when’s and what’s of just about anything. The moment a penny dropped for me was after speaking to a male teenage client of mine. As part of my thesis I conducted a interview reflecting on a programme I had created targeting the reduction of adolescent depression. The quantitative data made for comfort reading as it affirmed, with bells and whistles, the efficacy of the programme I had developed.The qualitative side of things presented a real headache to start off with, and the participants clearly didn’t get the memo. What I had was three different, tried and tested measures for depression symptomatology showing clear improvements pre and post intervention. The participants I had in front of me mirrored through both sight and sound the positive changes the data suggested. It was the absolute commitment to being depressed that rang confusingly loud and clear. No better example was that offered by the client I mentioned. Without skipping a beat he reflected that he ‘did better than he wanted to’. Thank heavens it was a multi tasking head space day, as this statement has stayed with me ever since.

Psychiatrist

After five years and thousands of adolescent clients later my observations and experiences have continued to build around this topic, as both a an issue around barriers to engaging, but primarily around how to both identify risk and support positive change and increase resiliency to prevent escalating challenges in the first place.

Apart from societies eagerness to have a label and the discussion around increased diagnosis vs increase actual growth, I believe we are in the middle of a cultural shift where adolescents are connecting through disconnection. This is nothing new if you consider drugs, alcohol and gangs etc. but technology and social media is new (ish) and it’s impact-or exploration of- is a work in progress.

social-media-technology-teenagers

This topic is too huge to discuss fully within a couple of hundred words and a funky picture. One example of what this looks like is when I reflect on the substantial increase in students that confidently march into my office, outlining with immense energy their newly diagnosed Depression, Anxiety and ADHD, and then ordering the first of six CBT interventions, before looking at me expectantly and my return look of surprise.

We are now seeing social groups developing from the common grounding of having an emotional difficulty, so connecting through disconnection. Social media offers extensive input into what this may look and sound like, and all too often to excess.

When adolescents are embarking on the confusing journey that is identity formation, I feel it is really important to support and introduce as many positive connections as possible, otherwise they will find connections elsewhere, and in this technological age, that tends not to end so well.

This observation refers to an emerging adolescent culture, and certainly not a universal broad brush of all adolescents that visit a Counsellor, Psychologist or Psychotherapist. What it perhaps highlights is the real need for caution in terms of knee jerk diagnosis, to ensure professionals don’t create the very problem we strive to overcome.