While working on a presentation for the in8 Cards mini conference which Bindi and I are holding this weekend in Bath, I have been reflecting on the whole question of what individuals and small organisations like ours can actually do practically to improve emotional and mental health in our society.
What should I call myself?
When I first qualified as a psychotherapist at the Human Givens College (back then it was known as Mindfields College), I was proud of my new career and keen to put my newly acquired skills into practice. Over the past ten years I have come to understand that the words “psychotherapist” and “therapist” have an incredibly wide range of interpretations amongst the population at large. When some people learn that I work as a psychotherapist, they assume that I spend much of my time guiding clients through painful experiences and issues, with them and perhaps even me, often in tears. And that the duration of these sessions with my clients will span many months or even years. The reality is so different that, I now only use the word “psychotherapist” rarely since I know from experience that people are likely to form a very inaccurate picture of what I do from that particular label. Few will anticipate that my role is primarily as an educator.
But that’s the business that in8 is really in: the business of psycho-education. Although still not widely recognised, there is a great deal of practical knowledge about well-being which has yet to filter through into the psychology textbooks, college courses and GP practices. For example: how many GP’s would claim to have an practical, working understanding of the illness which we cause “depression”? Yet there is now a clear and simple model which gives such understanding, that when applied can help people recognise why they are depressed, and can help guide them quickly back to a life that works. The problem is that this model was first described only in recent years and has yet to become widely known. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we really are pioneers…
Does “help” need to be any kind of therapy?
A lot of people who suffer from anxiety and the effects of stress and poor emotional health have no interest whatsoever in “therapy” or “psychotherapy”. This is often because of the associated connotations and perhaps an assumption that “merely talking about stuff” has very little chance of improving their situation. Offering opinions, teaching clients about how their brains work, giving tips and techniques to improve cognition and reduce stress or tasks to be completed – these things may not be expected of a therapist. Sometimes clients arrive expecting to spend an hour offloading a whole lifetime of disappointment and frustration. We do not currently have a suitable name for someone who works to promote well-being but who is not necessarily a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist. Our medical system is much more geared towards diagnosing and treating illness rather than promoting practical steps towards improving well-being.
So what can we really do to help?
Returning to the original question, the problem is to find a way to effectively get the message out there that there really are practical and meaningful answers to questions like: “What makes people happy?” “What causes depression” “How can you reliably improve any relationship?” “How can you reliably reduce stress in the workplace?” “How can you guarantee to improve motivation within a team?” It is easy to become sceptical about the possibility of answering these questions due to the massive proliferation of negativity and sometimes ignorance with which we are bombarded on a daily basis.
The need for a distribution network
One of our recent answers to this problem is the creation of the in8 Cards well-being resource pack. But on its own it is not enough. What needs to happen next is the growth of an effective distribution network – a network of people who share both the intention and the knowledge of how to implement some simple concepts that underpin the well-being of all human beings.
I am really looking forward to spending time with a group of these unique pioneers this coming weekend!