An exercise in listening to your mind
My son is of Chinese, Scottish, Welsh, English and Romanian descent. My son is also of dual heritage and nationality. My son knows he is of dual nationality and, in many ways, he also considers himself as a trio of nationalities including a third one, Greek, because that is where we have spent most of our summer holidays with family for the past decades. Our blood and in-law family live in Greece.
My son and I are of global citizenship at all levels: family and blood relations. Such factors have not helped him much when he discovered himself in secondary school. Coupled with different genetic outcomes and environmental interventions when my son was a few days old, my son’s psychological, physiological and emotional make-up is one of difference.
My son does not think of himself as different, except through association with me – I stand out as different to him. That difference was not visible to him until secondary school, and only when others pointed out such differences to him. The truth is that I am indeed different and, in many ways, I am extremely different in some less visible ways.
I told my son that I am a feminist and, when I’d explained to him that a feminist is not to be associated with radical, he seemed to be a little more settled in his understanding as to what 'feminist' means.
My son asked me the other day, “Mum, what is your favourite game?”
We both answered that question almost instantaneously. My son answered “Sudoku” and my answer was “Rubik’s Cube.” We were both in agreement to both answers being a good answer and close to the reality of what, indeed, I do consider my favourite game. And that got me thinking.
It is so very clear what I meant when I plastered all over my personal website “listen to your mind” as a formula. What it says is that, before anyone will make contact with a health specialist/clinician, they could really take a few moments and listen to their mind.
Quite recently, I came across a clinical opinion on what clinical depression (despondent internalised feelings) may look like to a psychiatrist. The article was published in a main UK newspaper and that really surprised me – not by its choice of publishing, but by its content.
A trained clinician who is potentially employed in the role of prescribing pharmacological treatment for various mental health conditions was indicating how clearly easy it is to hold such status and, seemingly, be deceived by people who they are treating. That felt somehow out of place. It is not a position that one could possibly envisage as real or for anyone to ever encounter such places of practice.
But, effectively, that article and my son’s question only reinforced what I already know about clinical practice in a mental health setting. The gravest responsibility is to ensure that the client/patient is safe enough with a clinician in a room to be themselves, coupled with a strong commitment and willingness on their part to heal.
If such conditions are not met, then the only pathway for a clinician is to terminate the relationship. As cynical and or strict as such a statement may feel at first read, it is also the only truth in a mental health practice environment. And, yes, of course, I am aware of how far one can go with the Mental Health Care Act, but I am also aware of how far one can go with the Human Rights Act.
This article is about an exercise of indicating to a prospective client that they are really in charge of listening to their mind.
The importance of listening to your mind
How many times I have started an assessment session and, in response to the question, “What do you see as the most difficult aspect of your life at this moment in time?”, the answer is “I don’t know!” Or to the question, “Is there a reason why you might feel this way?” they answer with “I don’t know!”
What about thinking about if there is something specific and recent that had affected your functional day-to-day life?
Has there been a significant life event, such as the loss of a family member, change in work patterns, relationships issues, transitions/developmental stages or identity such as birth, motherhood, parenthood, etc? More often than not, all such changes (even if acutely experienced) and lived experiences are not at the forefront of our mind when we are thinking and or feeling a certain way.
I have provided psychotherapeutic services in psychological services and community centres for which its simple existence was that of outreach within the community. I saw severe cases of mental ill-health and long-lasting conditions for periods longer than a decade in some cases. And, even in such instances, the priority of my clinical practice was client’s choice and thinking.
The client’s own insight is paramount to any psychological intervention in alleviating suffering and or strengthening/developing existing self-management of severe mental health conditions.
I have provided psychotherapeutic and psychological interventions to less vulnerable adult individuals/clients and, again, ensuring that clients are really listening to their mind is vital whenever such interventions are agreed upon and worked in partnership with clients.
I do now remember several meetings that I had with other clinical professionals – not trained in mental health – and considered various propositions as to 'what next' was played out. I certainly would never consider writing an article about patients that are deceiving their clinician because that tells it all, the afterthought of incompetence.
A condition is not deceiving and, ultimately, the only expert in the room is the client/patient. A clinician may disagree or have many opinions and that is accepted, too. More importantly, is about the therapeutic relationship and that is why I consider myself very fortunate to have the training and possibility to practice a profession where time is also of the essence in understanding a specific case/condition.
That is not to say that ultimately time is a necessary condition in occasions where a clinician meets a client willing to explore what is difficult for them. Not wanting to explore is also telling. But, more importantly, the client is never deliberately detached from what it’s in their mind and that is why “listening to your mind” is a good practice exercise before you make that call for help.
How to listen to your mind
Some of the main questions that your call for help will ask you next:
- What is it that you are experiencing?
- What can you identify as possible causes for such a lived experience?
- Could it be that you have recently lost your job, a loved one and or struggle with specific aspects of your life?