Counselling

With this spate of emotional depression I have been getting recently, and no visible way of getting out of it very soon, I have once or twice considered counselling to help myself get out of my bad feelings. Up to now I still haven’t done it mainly because I think my emotions have stabilised and if nothing else happens within the next few days to upset me (though that is a big if there), I should be able to get on with normal life.

Being a Psychology student, I have been suggested to try counselling myself. That is of course impossible, just as how a doctor rarely treats his own sickness. However, I may be able to apply some of the strategies to psychotherapy that I learned on myself, and if I share it to you guys, maybe you guys can use these strategies on me successfully.

There are many approaches to psychotherapies. Different psychiatrists use different methods. They can sometimes be contrasting, even. There are 4 main approaches that I know of.

1. Psychodynamic

Perhaps the reason for my down feelings can be ascribed to the unconscious mind and early childhood experiences. They always say that children’s experiences shape their future, whether they consciously want it or not. My childhood was not very normal, and it is possible that negative feelings festered within my unconscious, even though I seem perfectly ordinary on the outside. Psychodynamic therapies will help me identify these early childhood forgotten experiences and then allow me to come face-to-face with my insecurities.

How do they explore memories that are suppressed deep inside me? They use techniques such as free association (for instance, saying the first word that comes to mind when you hear a certain word), catharsis, interpretation (like the Rorschach ink blot test) and dream analysis. They sound like great fun ways to explore the sub-conscious.

2. Humanistic

Humanistic therapies are, well, the most human kind. They believe in self-healing and self-fulfilment, that only we are capable of rescuing ourselves, but we can only do so with encouragement and a positive attitude. They attempt to foster a positive attitude in us by letting us talk about ourselves and listening with unconditional positive regard, empathy and sincerity. Basically, these psychiatrists will listen actively and pay careful attention to our thoughts and feelings and in this atmosphere of warmth we may step out of our troubles.

3. Behaviour

Sometimes people just behave badly, and it is fruitless to indirectly explore the patients’ selves and insights. Sometimes what you want to do is simply curb their behaviour, and this method directly addresses that through behavioural conditioning. If for example, in my depressed state of mind, all I want to do is stay at home and lie in bed and this has affected the functioning of my daily life, psychiatrists may pair my action of lying in bed with an aversive stimulus — for example, by giving me an electric shock if I stay in bed for more than twelve hours per day. Gradually, I will learn to unconsciously associate lying in bed with an electric shock, and become less inclined to lie in bed all day.

This therapy is particularly effective against people who have extreme reactions towards specific things, for example phobias or examination anxiety, or addictions on the other end of the spectrum.

4. Cognitive

This approach believes that our thoughts and attitudes are the main causes of our feelings. Psychiatrists argue and reason with their patients to show them that their beliefs are irrational and these negative thoughts are unwarranted and harmful. I may benefit very well from this treatment too, but I must expect the counselling session to be a pretty engaging discussion, because cognitive therapists are asked to be persuasive in order to get their points across.

Most psychotherapists in modern days use a mixture of these approaches, or different ones to suit different needs. It is sometimes interesting to see the same problem being treated in wholly different ways. I wonder which of these would be the most effective for me.

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