Shapes and Sizes

Return visitors might recall that I’m currently rocking “quirks and frailties” language for discussing psychiatric conditions and other mental health issues. After all, we all have “quirks and frailties” – they’re just more pronounced in some of us!

I’m upgrading laptops at the moment, and came across this photo taken in Frankston, Victoria, a couple of years ago:

2012-07-07 13.01.36

The varied forms of these trees got me thinking about how different we humans all are. In fact, New Scientist informed me in 2012 that there were 11 things which are uniquely our own: our DNA, fingerprints, face, gait, ears, eyes, voice, scent, heartbeat, brain waves and microbiome! Surprisingly, even identical twins’ DNA is only 100% the same at the time of conception; from then on, their genomes diverge, and the older they get, the less identical they are (don’t ask me, I’m just a curious reader).

So, we’re all unique, and we all have a set of quirks and frailties willed to us by our nature, strengthened or weakened by our nurture, and ultimately expressed in our environment.

To me, this is one reason I love psychotherapy so much: it’s so deeply personal. Medication hasn’t yet reached the stage where drugs can be manufactured to match my genes, and the briefer therapies – CBT, DBT and the like – teach valuable skills, even essential skills, but don’t necessarily deal with those individual and underlying patterns which keep recurring in my life. They teach me to live with them more comfortably, but are not necessarily transformational.

I see my “talking therapy” as an essential part of my wellness regime. It might not be trendy; research is less prolific, because the number of variables makes designing research programs problematic; but, to me, long-term psychotherapy is part of my healthy moving forward.

What’s your opinion of psychotherapy? Have you tried it, and have you found it useful?

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Shapes and Sizes

  1. Psychodynamic therapy is what’s been most helpful to me out of everything I’ve tried. See, I’ve spent my life thinking that who I am and what I experience are unacceptable and unsurvivable. I spent most of my life trying to get away from myself. CBT and DBT can be useful, but they’re limited. They limit who I can be and what I can say in that setting. In a way, that reinforces the message that not all of me deserves to exist, which ultimately isn’t helpful. I need a space where I can be all of me, and that’s what psychotherapy has provided me,at least when I’ve had a good therapist.

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  2. Jay

    Amen to that! It boggles the mind that some people in the profession view mental illnesses and their “hosts” as uniform and identical. Obviously, we do need to narrow down symptoms in order to diagnose and assist. But from what I’ve read about the DSM-5, there is little space for the unique ways in which quirks and frailties present in an individual. Never mind that this so-called psychiatric bible pathologises even normal human behaviour by stripping symptoms of its context.

    I agree with you on psychodynamic psychotherapy… It truly seems to be the best way to really dig beneath the surface for long-term changes AND assist with troubling short-term symptoms. The only condition is that there needs to be a very competent individual driving the process. And I guess for me, that’s what makes this therapy so heartwarming and touching… Our healing lies in this relationship with the other (and perhaps medication where necessary to facilitate the process). It’s kind of a big thumbs-up to our humanity.

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    • Yes, I’d say so 🙂 The medication is necessary to deal with the chemical / biological component, but as I always say, you can’t medicate away life events!

      Always lovely to hear from you, Jay. Stay well.

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  3. I was going to respond with my experience in therapy but then realized that this discussion is more subtle than I thought. I didn’t realize that there were so many different kinds of “talk therapy”. How would you describe the difference between CBT and psychodynamic psychotherapy, for example? I’d google it but your explanation would be more interesting to read. 🙂 Maybe a topic for a future post – all the different kinds?

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    • I think you’d need a veritable series of posts to cover the different talking therapies! Thankfully, the difference between CBT and psychodynamic psychotherapy is one I can expound upon with ease 🙂

      CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy – works from a very specific model: that events trigger thoughts which in turn lead to emotions and behaviours. The idea with CBT is that a patient can be trained first to observe, then to modify their thoughts, which in turn modifies the way they feel about things and consequent behaviours. Here’s a simple example: you say “hi” to a friend on the street, and they walk past without responding (trigger). You might think, “What have I done wrong? They hate me!” and then feel sad, or you might think “I don’t know why they didn’t respond; they may not have seen me, for example” and have neutral feelings.

      A course of CBT therapy is generally fixed or short- to medium-term in length and can follow a pre-set schedule.

      In my opinion, CBT offers an essential range of skills for healthy living, but ignores an important fact, that emotions – which we may or may not be aware of – can give rise to thoughts. In other words, because CBT focuses on conscious processes, it doesn’t take into account unconscious processes, which I think also play a part in the way we feel, think and act.

      Psychodynamic psychotherapy arises from a different model. As with most analytic psychotherapies, it assumes that processes go in in our minds which we are not aware of, but can become aware of or transform during therapeutic relationships over a long period. The “psychodynamic” part refers to the flavour of this therapy, which suggests that the unconscious conflicts within the psyche of the patient will manifest themselves in the patient-therapist relationship and can be worked on there. That’s very much a one sentence summary, but I hope it gives you an idea!

      So as you can see, the two therapies differ in:
      – underlying models
      – goals
      – duration
      – focus during sessions
      – desired outcomes.

      I actually use CBT skills with my therapist in psychodynamic therapy sessions, so it’s not that I think CBT is bad, I just don’t think it’s sufficient to treat all of my “quirks and frailties”.

      Hope that helps!

      XX

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      • Fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to summarize. I knew that there were slight variations in talk therapies, but had no idea that there could be such fundamental differences. I guess my therapy now is CBT-based. It works for me for now – but I like the idea that there can be other options to try down the road.

        Does it mean I’m jaded if I assume that the success of a mental health approach is always only temporary, and I need to have backup plans lined up? 🙂

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      • Ha ha! No, I don’t think it means you’re jaded 🙂 Personally, I intend on staying in some form of therapy for the rest of the life, even once I’m “well”. Like Socrates, I believe that only the examined life is worth living. However, different therapies for different stages of life, for sure.

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  4. Currently still in DBT. I like it, and it’s given me a lot of useful tools.

    Thinking I need something different for my one-on-one therapist though. Getting quoted skills to handle situations gets old fast.

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