Unconventional Therapy is Better Therapy
Updated: Dec 11, 2022
The mental health system is broken and ineffective
I'm known for being unconventional in my approach to therapy. I've been in the business of helping humans for so long that I have been able to get a firm grasp on mental health, mental illness and treating it. In the process, I've honestly become a little disenchanted with the mental health industry in general. I know a lot of people have been disappointed with the results they've gotten or haven't gotten out of therapy and I think it's important to ask ourselves why. Why isn't therapy more effective? I know a lot of people have fallen into the trap of believing that they can't be helped or their personal condition can't be helped. I know there are more than enough people who have been lead to believe that their depression, their trauma or whatever brand of mental illness they see themselves carrying around is best chalked up to the idea that there's something wrong specifically with them and worse, that they are going to be stuck with it until they die.
Personally, I believe that that the mental health industry has adopted some incorrect ideas about people, psychology and mental health. I know that sounds strange, almost contradictory but as I've learned over the years, no institution is free from the limitations of human ego and human bias. I don't believe that any institution is immune to power structures or hierarchies. It's also because of this that the mental health industry has become rigid and stuck in it's ways.
Personally, I don't agree with the notion that depression and/or anxiety is the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. There's no real science that supports this. The "depression gene" has never been found or identified. When they find it they'll also probably find leprechauns and unicorns. The idea that depression is caused by a flawed or defective brain inside of a flawed or defective human is likely one that's been pushed by pharmaceutical companies that are more than happy to have millions of people taking their drugs for the rest of their lives. There's no conclusive science behind the flawed brain narrative but they're more than happy to provide the cure. I personally hate it. It's an ugly thing to tell people and an ugly way to approach mental health.
A lot of mental health professionals also believe that mental illness can't be overcome, that people can't heal and that mental illness is just something that has to be managed. Again, I totally disagree but that matter of overcoming mental illness and putting it in the rearview is another matter and topic entirely. The mental health industry has fallen under the medical umbrella for most of it's tenure and like the medical industry, it mostly focuses on managing symptoms while staying out of the business of actual healing or finding the right changes to make so that good mental health becomes a part of everyday life. The conventional way of approaching mental illness is leaving people stuck and hopeless.
People can get better. We just have to look outside of the box and work outside of the box. Way outside of the box. I've seen many people get better. Many. Most of the time it's happened because they've stretched themselves outside of the box and looked at unconventional means to get unconventional results. It's usually happened because they went to great lengths to make a lot of changes and in so doing, they took control of their lives. It's incredibly empowering for them which I believe should be the ultimate goal in therapy; individual empowerment.
I've encountered many people who pursued conventional treatment and got conventional results. The truth is we're plagued by things like depression and anxiety. It's become so commonplace that we've begun treating it like it's normal, as though it's the way things ought to be and I entirely disagree. It's not how things should be. Unfortunately, the mental health system isn't doing much to help the overall problem. I've been in this industry for a long time and I've become acutely aware of it's faults, flaws and shortcomings. Some of the issues include an overburdened system, poor compensation and therapist burnout. It's unfortunate that people are desperate to find help or at least find some kind of direction but the mental health system fails to give it to them.
I went into private practice to avoid these woes. I've experienced intense therapist burnout. It was extremely taxing. The industry places expectations onto us that are driven by profits and we often get pushed beyond our personal limits. I'm fortunate that I have been able to manage my burnout because I want to love what I do and for the most part, I do. Because I've been able to work through my burnout, I'm able to provide a more quality experience for my clients because I know if they have a quality experience, I'm going to love what I do a lot more and if I love what I do, clients will continue to get a quality experience. It's a self-perpetuating system.
I've been described as unconventional many times. I've worked with some clients on and off for several years. They come and go as they need it and they tell me that they come to me because they get a positive, unconventional approach. But unconventional how?
I don't treat people like they're broken, flawed or defective. A lot of people are disappointed with their therapy experience because the clinician spends the time trying to push people into boxes that they don't fit in or push limiting labels onto them, always returning to a life plan that hasn't worked or produced the desired results. People blame themselves for their problems, they don't need a therapist that tells them to "do better" or "work harder" that's honestly not what people need. It's not the solution. The solution is to help people see beyond those limits and engage them in activities and exercises that create and promote positive change, even in tiny increments. When people see that things can change and they are in charge of their experience, the sky becomes the limit.
I'm direct and honest. My clients come to me because they know I'm going to tell them what I really think, always tell them what they need to hear but always delivering it with the most kindness and compassion that I can. I believe that honesty, without compassion, is cruelty. People need a shift in perspective because it can motivate drastic change. I realize there are many people in todays culture that fight to protect the delicate story that they've built around themselves and they work very hard to keep in tact. They resist change, even if they're miserable and I'm just not a good fir for those people.
My approach is more personal and relationship based. I genuinely get more out of my work when I look for the good in people and rest those good things as my focal point. I'm known for providing a more personal and caring approach. I've gone to therapy and have been taken aback at how cold and detached a therapist can be. I'm genuine and it's my desire and goal to bring a greater sense of caring and kindness to the world. I base a lot of my approaches on the work of Carl Rogers who was considered one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century. He essentially reinvented the approach to therapy and counseling but shifting from a Freudian style therapy into a more person centered approach, one that I've had a lot of persona success with.
I don't focus on the problems. I focus on the solutions. There is a time to process trauma and grief but it has limited usefulness. I've learned that there is a fine line between processing and moving through something and ruminating on it. I've also learned that labels and diagnosis' have limited usefulness as well. I've found that if people are given a diagnosis like depression, they take it with them. They adopt it. It can too easily become their identity. As a result, they see limitations and only limitations. I'm experienced enough to know when these things serve and when they don't. I don't allow the session to fall into a pattern of repeating mistakes and issues. My goal is to help you create change and move beyond those perceived limitations. When you leave your sessions it's my goal and my desire for you to leave with a plan. Option B. Do this, not that. And so what's important is that I want people to understand that if they want their life to change, they have to change starting with making small daily changes.
The days of complacency and coasting along are dead. We've lost that luxury. But the process of change is a beautiful journey or at the very least an extraordinarily rewarding one.