Click on the link above for this wise, heartful post by an anonymous blogger who identifies as Dr Goat. This expresses much of how we make sense of human distress at this service. There is (for example) no evidence to support the still widely-touted theory that depression is a disorder of the brain caused by a chemical imbalance – despite extensive and very well-funded research over decades looking for proof. And other psychiatric ‘disorders’ are similarly subjective constructs, lacking an evidence base. The call for ‘parity’ with physical illness is well-intentioned, but fundamentally misconceived and unhelpful in how it is often expressed – making no meaningful distinction between a broken leg and emotional pain/pain in the psyche:-
‘When we describe mental distress in terms of medical pathology (e.g. saying that someone ‘has depression’ rather than that they are depressed, or implying that they’ve ‘broken their mental health’ like we’d say they’ve broken their leg), we are ignoring the social causes and influences, and trying to ‘fix’ individuals with medical solutions to much broader problems. We view the distress as the problem in itself rather than a symptom, which in most cases oversimplifies the tip of a very complex iceberg. We are also suggesting that the distress is only valid if it has a diagnosis or label attached to it, and can be ‘treated’ with medication.’
We see around 150 people each week at this service, many refugees from ‘mental health’ provision (and indeed other therapists). 100% of the time – and whatever ‘diagnosis’ they have slung around their necks – people turn out to have ample basis in their past experience for how they feel, perceive and relate to themselves/others/situations, however destructive or outside social norms.
In this context, therapy is often about a shared enquiry into adverse childhood events and current socio-economic and relational context, and that is where healing lies. We do not use the labelling, pathologising language/concepts of the disease and disorder model of mental illness. Instead we offer a safe space, presence, relationship, empathy, warmth, acceptance and congruence – real human relationship. In that context, time and again we see the freeing up of people’s own innate abilities to symbolize and integrate their experience, heal and grow. Where we are met with loving presence, we become more able to meet ourselves in the same spirit.
Thank you, Dr Goat, and to Terri Tivey on Facebook for showing us this.
Go well, Chester Bennington.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling in Exeter since 1994