Thursday, 7 November 2013

How I see myself as a therapist

Society for Psychology & Healing

MA in Psychotherapy & Healing Practice/
PG Dip. Analytical Psychology & Healing Practice
Validated by Middlesex University.

Group 18:
April 2013 – March 2015

Student: Stephen Ross

Title: Assignment #3 How I see myself as a therapist

Word Count: 1615
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This assignment is intended as a personal reflection to include:

-           How you see yourself developing as a therapist, including thoughts
about your theoretical/spiritual ethos in terms of client-work.

-           Some thoughts on how you wish to develop client work over the next
            two years. 

 ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..

I have been struggling for some time with this assignment for several reasons, the most obvious being that I am not presently a therapist. To see myself as a therapist seems to be at odds with the reality of the situation and somewhat presumptuous. That is to say, I don’t see myself as a therapist because I am not in fact a therapist.

However, that being said I am training to be a therapist and there was a process that lead me to be on this course. Some of that process did involve me seeing myself as a therapist with my own practice and therapy rooms. The trouble is that my main motivations for undertaking this course were not because I wanted to be a therapist but because I wanted to protect and educate myself as the result of a particularly unfortunate series of encounters with the psychiatric industry.

That process of engagement with psychiatry included threats to my liberty and autonomy and quite considerable pressure to take pharmaceuticals that I knew to be unsuitable for me. It ultimately resulted in causing significant damage and pain for me personally. Initially for my social standing, by way of the respect of my peers diminishing but I was eventually made homeless and became quite unwell. I lost confidence in myself and my ability to Be successfully as well as my faith in people generally. The irony of the situation was that I had engaged with psychiatry as a whole and happy person experiencing a period of enlightenment and curious to understand myself more fully but came out the other end both mentally and emotionally disturbed. Psychiatry caused me to become mentally unwell.

It appears to me that society is still not completely comfortable with the field of mental health and dis-ease and is somewhat wary of psychiatry. In my experience people tend to hold the profession at arm’s length concealing their relationship to it, for good reason as I was to discover. Rather than expanding and enabling the mind, body and spirit to seek its holistic potential, as do many therapies without recourse to pharmaceuticals; psychiatry seems intent on closing down the potential of the individual and restraining it. Be under no illusions the field of psychiatry, whilst purporting to be caring, is a judgemental and punitive rather than reparatory enterprise. To support this assertion I submit that, in our present society, a judge may choose to sentence a defendant found guilty of a serious crime to incarceration in a prison or to ‘psychiatric care’. Those are the options make of it what you will. 

So, my primary motivation in undertaking this course was to prepare me should I ever have to ‘do battle’ with the world of psychiatry again. It may sound rather melodramatic but for me it is as much a case of ‘know thine enemy’ as it is ‘know thy self’.

At this stage I should like to make it clear that I hold a very firm distinction between the field of psychiatry and that of psychotherapy. While both deal with the psychology of human beings, their approaches to healing disturbances of a psychical and mental nature are very different. One group take time to hear the disturbance giving adequate space and sufficient attention for it to work itself out, being focused on the individual in need. The other group, it seems from my own experience, would rather supress the perceived disturbance chemically, being primarily focused on keeping up societal appearances. This is often accomplished by locking the perceived problem away and drugging vulnerable and unsuspecting victims both for the benefit of those people closest to the individual and the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry.

Having given some background and insight into where I am coming from, I would now like to describe that time when I did actually see myself as a therapist. It was not long before the events described above and prior to my becoming unwell. I was experiencing a very joyous period of my life and was being highly productive. My life had become so much easier and there was a lightness to everything both internally and externally. For the first time since I was a youth I had rekindled my relationship with myself spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally. I was once again appreciating myself and I loved everyone and everything around me and for this I was extremely grateful. I often refer to this period as my enlightenment because that is the word that best describes my experience of it. For the first time in several years I felt really happy and as a result I was engaging with life. I was actively involved with several projects, some quite ambitious. I had started to write creatively both poetry and prose and was being engaged to perform my work at music and arts festivals and literary events.

As a creative artist and performer I was in contact with and meeting lots of other similarly creative people. Some of whom were well known and highly successful. Some of whom who had been well known but were so no longer and some of whom were connected in some way to those successful individuals but who had never managed to break though. All of these people, it seemed to me, were talented in some way and had significant ability and potential. Some were joyful and happy, others were not. The difference it seemed was a belief in themselves and certain amount of faith in the people around them.

Those people with both the belief in themselves and faith in those around them were experiencing life positively regardless of how successful others perceived them to be. Conversely, it seemed to me, those people lacking in confidence and/or who were uncertain about the motivations of those around them were having a negative life experience. This usually related to a lack of perceived success in their lives. It occurred to me that I might be able to help facilitate closing that gap by helping people to let go of their fears and come back to themselves, to regain their confidence and faith. It also occurred to me that there was a real need for this sort of work. I was meeting quite a lot of unfulfilled and miserable people who appeared to be struggling. Conversely I felt I had some potential solutions for people to try.

So that was one way in which I saw myself as a therapist. Helping talented individuals get back into their groove. It was however not the only way I saw myself as a potential therapist. During my search to understand the enlightened state of consciousness I was experiencing I sought to engage with anyone who had an experience of or view on mental and psychical anomalies. One person I was introduced to was a schizophrenic man we will call Ryan. Ryan was a quite predominant advocate for mental health and social acceptance having appeared on television to argue the case for successfully integrating people with his condition into society in a productive way. After spending time with Ryan I started to see a potential for him to relieve his suffering and designed an experiential programme to test my theories.

My theory revolves around the assertion that the enlightenment experience I was having was in a sense caused by the very same mechanism that had produced Ryan’s schizophrenic experience. Whereas mine was a loving and joyous experience, his was a fearful and hellish experience. It seems to me that there is some sort of energetic maturation process at play that opens us to a sort of spiritual emergence. For those people who were sufficiently supported as children and had a predominantly positive life experience to the point of awakening, the spiritual emergence may be akin to enlightenment, or they may not notice it at all. For those people who had a predominantly negative life experience and maybe did not receive the tools and support with which to deal with those traumatic events the spiritual emergence becomes a terrifying emergency. This is especially true if it is unbidden and unexpected, which may be the case for some recreational drug users.

I believe people who were, for whatever reason, unable to deal with their specific trauma at the time the trauma occurred often bury the experience in their unconscious for processing later when they may be better placed to deal with it. However, sometimes the trauma never gets dealt with or there is so much trauma that the person is unable to process all of it and so portions of it remain in the unconscious. The process of awakening spiritually involves peeling back layers of what was once unconscious. This process of awakening can be facilitated or accelerated using many spiritual practices and also by using psychoactive drugs. For those of us with unresolved issues sitting just under the surface when the awakening begins those traumatic remnants and entities can begin to manifest into perceived reality as monsters and demons or voices in the head telling the person to harm someone, for example.

During my period of enlightenment it seemed like I was being guided towards a potential solution to help people overcome schizophrenia. It felt like extremely important work and something that if I could help people to correct for themselves would be of massive benefit. This is also how, for a time, I saw myself as a therapist or rather a theoretical researcher who was attempting to explore a theory that came from my own personal portion of the collective unconscious. I became somewhat derailed when I took Ryan’s advice to enquire of psychiatrists about my experience of enlightenment…

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