Monday, 25 January 2016

I Think You'll Find It's More Complicated Than That

This is another guest post by Dorothy Donald.

The old CBT-vs-psychotherapy argument will, I suspect, never die. Particularly not while people think that when you go to see someone about your depression, you will either get one kind of therapy or the other. That you can either talk about how your thoughts operate day-to-day right now, or the events of your childhood.

Would you rather learn some new mental habits, or understand yourself? Do you want your therapy to be practical, or empathic? Formula-driven or intuitive? Quick and surface-level, or slow slow slow… and life-changing? Do you want it to work, or feel good? Do you want to be fixed, or cared about? Do you want your therapist to be your coach, or your friend?

Funnily enough, most of the therapists I’ve worked with  [*] have drawn on a veritable pick’n’mix of approaches. (It’s almost as if the dichotomous view of therapy is bullshit or something.)

Neil is a CBT counsellor. We ‘do’ CBT. CBT is what I wanted.

And there we were, on Friday, talking about my mother (we are not going there today) and shame (no no no). He invited me to take a moment to be with my emotions and describe how they felt in my body (it felt as if my throat had developed a will of its own and was closing itself up in a bid to choke me to death, in case you’re wondering). In short, it was not flow-chart thoughts-by-numbers control-your-mental-bad-habits training that ignores underlying causes in favour of thinking happy thoughts. This was about making peace with the past events that had been motivating me to do damaging things to myself for years. It was difficult. I cried buckets. I was exhausted afterwards. I have a new perspective on something that happened a long time ago. And, yes, I feel better.

Which I guess is a long way of saying: If you want to avoid talking about your mother, seeking out a CBT practitioner instead of a psychoanalyst is a lousy strategy.

[*] I can’t remember how many there have been over the years. Maybe eight or ten? This is a topic for another post. Maybe next week.

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