Helping Ourselves by Helping Doctors and Therapists Help us

Discussion in 'Strategies for Success' started by JmpMster, Jun 23, 2014.

  1. JmpMster

    JmpMster Have a question? Message Me Staff Member Forum Owner ADMIN

    Why do people go to a counselor or therapist? Presumably, your reason for going to a counselor/therapist is in hopes things will get better for you and you will find some ways to deal with the issues you have that are causing you pain. The only help a therapist can give is in assisting you with ways to deal with things that have or are causing you pain- they cannot actually fix any situational things at all, and they cannot make you happy or make you feel better. Their only purpose is to help you with your reactions to things because pain and sadness come from within - they are our reaction to the things around us.

    While it is very fair to say if some “thing” did not happen then I would not feel like this, it is not at all the same that this thing “caused” the pain. That pain is the reaction we had to the situation. It may well be a very justifiable and reasonable reaction but blaming a person or a situation for the pain we feel long after the fact is misdirecting our efforts and energy we need to feel better now. That is ultimately what a therapist does, adjusts our energy towards dealing with the reaction instead of focusing on the situation.

    Many people look to therapy like a doctor’s appointment for an illness where they "cure" something and that is not the way therapy works. Rather than curing things, they assist in healing or simply feeling or reacting better. This is a seemingly small distinction, but it is huge in the way an appointment is approached and on the perceived benefits (or lack thereof) to be achieved.

    Going into the appointment with the understanding the only thing they going to be able to help change is the way you feel about or react to things is very important because many people simply do not want to change the way they feel. It almost comes across as being told you are wrong to feel the way you do about things since all of the focus is on changing that. In some people this sets up the impossible task if the person receiving therapy does not want to change the way they feel because they do not think they are wrong feel that way while at the same time they do not want to feel that way anymore.

    Aside from understanding how therapy works to make you ultimately feel better or happier, is the need to be relatively honest when talking to them. Both omissions and exaggerations make it impossible for any health care provider to be effective at their job. I see it all the time on here- where people say they do not tell the provider about their strong suicidal thoughts but then they complain the medication or therapy has not made them stop. They cannot possibly help somebody deal anything they do not know is happening.

    Consider it like a regular medical doctor - If you go in complaining of a sore arm after a fall they can examine, x-ray, wrap, splint, and offer a pain reliever based on their finding of a broken arm. But is in addition to the sore arm, you have a headache and nausea and a sore leg but did not tell them any of those things it is obvious they cannot treat the broken leg and concussion you also had. Since you still feel like crap a week later and still have the headache nausea and can't walk and in fact you feel worse because everything else is getting worse, did the Doctor do a bad job treating you or did you do a bad job of telling them the symptoms?

    Exaggerations cause just as many problems- if you go in with a headache and when the doctor asks if your throat is sore and if you are vomiting and have other symptoms there is a tendency to want to say yes to a lot of them because we want the biggest best medicine there is to feel better faster and because out headache is so bad we want to make sure we get the strongest possible medicine.

    Unfortunately, by adding on to the list of symptoms in trying to get the most help possible, the Doctor decides instead of needing a strong pain reliever for the headache that you probably have a staph infection or bacterial based illness so they prescribe a light pain reliever that does not really help the headache much and a strong second pill to fight a non-existent bacterial infection so the headache is not better and now we have an upset stomach and increased sensitivity to sunlight, and diarrhea to go along with the headache from the extra pill instead of just a decent pain reliever. One again, the treatment was not effective and in fact made things worse because of our own actions and decisions that led to un-needed medication along with associated side effects.

    Be honest and fair with your mental health care givers to give them the best opportunity to help you and then when you need to make an adjustment to the treatment you can be sure they are adjusting the right thing. Also, if you decide to see a different practitioner you will know it is based on the lack of effectiveness of the previous treatment and not on misinformation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2014
  2. Butterfly

    Butterfly Sim Addict Staff Alumni SF Author SF Supporter

    I do agree to some degree. But mental health isn't like physical illness, it's much harder and complex to express because you have so many additional things cracking off when you go to an appointment. I'm not so bad now as I have been seeking treatment for a while, but when I first started seeing my psychiatrist I was terrified of being thrown in hospital and the impact that would have on my life e.g I would not be able to complete uni and letting my parents down etc. That fear was so great that I did downplay a lot of my symptoms and I wasn't as honest as I could have been. There was also great anxiety because I was afraid of what would happen, afraid of the unknown, afraid of what the psychiatrist would think and for all of the reasons listed above also. It's not always just as simple as just being honest because in reality it is a scary prospect because many people feel uncomfortable having to bare all for the reasons I have already mentioned and more. I think it would be helpful if healthcare providers provided you with support in how to prepare for a psychiatric appointment so it feels less daunting and so that you can be well prepared, even if it's just a letter sent in the post of what to expect and a list of things to do before an appointment.

    But I do agree with you in that if you are not honest you cannot be accurately treated. It took me over 3 years to get the right help and support I needed. Some of the pain and heartache I have been through over the years may or may not have been avoided if I had just been completely honest at that first psych appointment. I'll never know, because my psychiatrist is poor anyway (she hasn't listened to me even when I have been completely honest) but after much persistence I have now found the right meds and finding therapy useful. With therapy, you only get out of it what you put in. Some people go into therapy expecting that it will cure you but it doesn't. It gives you the tools and equipment to deal with certain situations that life throws at you so you can deal with it in a helpful manner that isn't going to impact on your mental health.
  3. JmpMster

    JmpMster Have a question? Message Me Staff Member Forum Owner ADMIN

    Actually , that is the precise point of the post - there is the temptation to lie , exaggerate and withhold because of all those things you listed and more. But to get the most potential benefit from your care it is as simple as being honest - but being honest isn't easy and I was not implying it would or should be easy for most people. None of that changes the fact that honesty will yield better results towards getting better and more appropriate treatment, One of the things I could not stand about your system in the UK is the lack of ability to go somewhere else if you are stuck with a lousy care provider assigned to your zip code, but really until you have been honest with a provider it is hard to determine if they are worth a damn.

    Kind supportive and compassionate are certainly great traits for a provider to have, particularly in a mental health field, but when it comes to medications and diagnosis I would take a very competent but an ass over really nice and pleasant but less competent at pharmacology and diagnostics every day of the week. For therapy and counseling the lack of any type of emotional trust may make it impossible for most to make any progress at all so manner may be more important than certifications in those areas (my opinions only in this).
  4. Twocky61

    Twocky61 Banned Member

    I totally agree with you Ben as my support worker Lyndsey (mentioned elsewhere here on SF) is compassionate and caring and obviously is not a pharmacologist. So like you say Ben "when it comes to medications and diagnosis I would take a very competent but an ass over really nice and pleasant but less competent at pharmacology and diagnostics every day of the week."

    Whereas as you say "For therapy and counseling the lack of any type of emotional trust may make it impossible for most to make any progress at all so manner may be more important than certifications in those areas"
  5. K8E

    K8E Well-Known Member

    It was only when I was completely honest with my Dr that I started to get the help I need. After a week or so of the 'hospital at home' programme I told one of the team how afraid I was of being admitted to hospital. He told me that hospital is the last place that they want people in my area and it is last resort and short term. Fortunately the region I love in have a really good system in place. I have been surprised by how helpful it is and I know how lucky I am. But none of it would have happened if I hadn't been so exhausted that I couldn't hide my feelings, thoughts and plans. Something in me obviously wanted help and I'm glad that I got it.
  6. randomguy9

    randomguy9 Put's the "Pro" in Profanity

    A lot of good points in the thread.

    Therapists are well trained, and know many ways the brain can get messed up... but they can't do much with people who aren't honest with them. Both ends can cause problems... saying no because you are scared of the consequence, or saying yes because you want to please the person in front of you.
  7. texaskitty

    texaskitty SF Cat Lady Staff Member Safety & Support SF Supporter

    I agree with Ben's original post. My caveat is even if you are completely honest, it still may take a long time to get well. I have been with the same therapist for like 10 years (I've lost count). She is the best fit for me there could be. Yet it has taken years to get to a place of relative stability and I still go off the edge sometimes. I wonder in light of the past, if I, in the beginning especially didn't communicate to her well, but I was doing the best I could. I still see her once a month for a check-in. She seems to think I am doing better than I think I am, but that may be my self talk showing up.

    It is true therapy and meds don't cure us. Both are helpful and indeed necessary in a lot of cases, I know it has been in mine but what I do and how I think effects me most of all. Thanks for the thoughtful post Ben.
    AlexiMarie7 likes this.