Helping Each Other
A lot of times we freak when someone else freaks and feed into a process where we absolve ourselves of responsibility and encourage the person who is freaking to give himself or herself up to 'the authorities', be they straight or hip. But you don't need a degree to care for someone and help them through their troubles.
Remember, often people are afraid to talk about their feelings because they feel you will reject them, because they will feel silly or because they don't want to burden you with their problems. If, by your general day to day manner, you communicate that this is not the sort of person you are, then people will loosen up about saying what's hassling them. If someone is freaking and you're talking with them, keep an eye on yourself so you don't invalidate them. If you think badly of them for talking with you, then you're not going to be much help.
Don't be in a hurry to give advice. Listen first: try to understand what's happening, what the person is feeling. Get into the person's frame of reference . As you listen, try to be accepting; don't start by laying your trip on them. If they feel something, they have a reason for feeling it; respect their integrity. If you're calm and listening you can start responding to them, which will help clarify the situation.
Don't be ashamed of being ignorant or feeling helpless. The other person probably feels the same way. Therapy is a human act, not some mysterious mumbo -jumbo : ask questions if you're ignorant; admit if you feel helpless. Don't pretend to know what you don't. Let the other person tell you in their own way what's wrong. Don't make them follow your rules.
Try to talk in as quiet a place as possible; if you can see them again, let them know that, and do it. Don't get hung up on the rhetoric of 'we should all be able to take care of one another'. Sometimes we simply can't. Then it's good to know what your other options are.
A word about depressions… Life in this oppressive society is filled with insults, painful experiences and real losses. Not only is our self-esteem smashed time and again. We also have to endure separations from people close to us friends who leave, who die, who are killed, who go to jail, etc. There's a natural healing-over after such a loss, but it takes time. Don't expect people not to feel these human feelings. Help them integrate their experience and feelings into themselves.
Often, DEpression is a cover for OPpression. If there's no 'real' loss going on, look for the oppression that's making the other person feel like shit. Help them understand that it's not 'in their heads' but in the real world that such oppression exists. Help them get in touch with others who share their oppression. Agree with them that they're not bad or crazy. Help them get angry if they deserve to get angry.'
SEEING A PSYCHIATRIST
There are enough good reasons to make you think twice before you decide to run the risk of seeing a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. But if you are already seeing one or decide that you just have to see someone, the following suggestions might help redress the imbalance of power between you and the almighty doctor.
The therapist is not infallible. He or she is a human being who can lay very heavy trips on people often with the best of intentions and without realising it. You are talking with him about fundamental problems of living—you have the right to know who he is, what his attitudes are, and what he plans to do. Perhaps if you ask some of the questions listed here and keep an eye out for the following clues, you are less likely to get ripped off.
These ideas aren't easy to put into practice. You Maybe very upset, depressed, confused when you visit your therapist. But the following ideas could be used in a number of ways, e.g. when you've settled yourself and feel more comfortable after a few meetings, ask the questions then; if you are a friend or relative accompanying someone going to a therapist, perhaps your friend might want you to help in asking questions—although that's up to your friend. A lot of people see therapists more than once so it's never too late to check out your therapist.
Ask your therapist what he plans to do. What is it he has in mind when he sees you? What are his goals? You might ask your therapist what his orientation is, and then check what he says with trends or methods you know about. It's highly likely you will be receiving drugs from your therapist. Have you been told about effects and side-effects of the drug you are taking? Do you know what the drug is?
Trust your experience. Often a therapist will get a set picture of you and subtly force you to change your idea of yourself (usually in a negative fashion) or to reconstruct your own experience. He may do this by just failing to respond or pay attention when you say. ‘but I just don’t feel that way’. He or she may simply tell you 'you feel that way because you have a hang-up (you are I'm mat re , you hate your father, etc.)' or simply judge your experience as 'wrong' that your feeling indicates you are 'immature', not making good progress, need extra sessions etc. Be aware of these pressures, point out to him what he is doing (he will often deny it) and evaluate your own experience yourself. Sometimes he may be 'right' but often he isn't. Ask your therapist why he's avoiding your question and say that you want answers, not bullshit.
As a general precaution and helpful resource, you yourself might tape record your own sessions. Play them back to yourself. Check out what happens in therapy and tell your therapist what you've found. It's your session and not just his, so why shouldn't you tape it?
Often judgments are passed off as 'medical assessments'. What you believe in is your own business and your therapist's beliefs are also his business. But often therapists are so convinced of their moral rectitude and you of their authority, that the therapist gives your brain a bit of washing, e.g. 'If you keep on sleeping around, what can you expect', 'Wives should go along with their husbands "Dropping out indicates emotional immaturity'. A favourite trick is to imply, 'Your life style or beliefs are not wrong, but just slightly mentally unhealthy.' This can be very hard to deal with , even when you recognise it. You may discuss it with your therapist, and both of you may feel happy about it, but nothing really changes. You may have to leave because you find insufficient common ground in your belief systems.
You could ask the psychologist for a copy of his scoring manual for the tests you've done. Suggest to your psychologist or doctor that you'd like to read the reports he's made about you to see whether you agree on his interpretation.
One of the therapists' favourite tricks is to put the onus on you. You have to answer all the questions, you have to talk (explain yourself), he just listens, he judges and that's legitimate; you judge and that indicates transference. If you notice this is happening, tell your therapist—'look, you have been doing this… this… and this… You probably aren't even aware you've been doing it'. Don't let him slide out of it by implying that you must be sick or slightly out of tune for noticing such things.
This article was first published in Alternative
Pink Pages No. 2