During this lockdown Doctors have been prescribing antidepressants too readily as the BBC last week reported saying that the number of people accessing talking therapy has fallen. Here in Wales, it has fallen considerably. At the same the government in Norway are giving more people power over their lives by being open to medication – free treatment.
So, what is going wrong? Where are people being passed over and rather than given the option for human contact being fed pills? Arguably the lockdown has placed a tremendous pressure on the health service, but Doctors have still been talking to people on the phone. In fact this is where a lot of the prescribing has been taking place. It seems as though there is an element of prescribing drugs out of fear and ignorance, out of a lack of faith in the human to human connection.
Psychotherapy and Counselling offer a therapeutic relationship that helps not only resolve traumatic experiences and disturbances in relationships and relational patterns but also helps with the decision’s that shapes a person’s life.
Janiya (pseudonym) a middle aged woman came for help when she was at the point of breakdown after being put on anti-depressants by the Doctor. In the middle of last year, Janiya became so anxious and troubled, finding having to stay at home really hard and as a lone woman the isolation and lack of human contact sent her into a downward spiral. Having lost her Mother at the end of 2019 she threw herself into her work, which supported her to manage day to day life but didn’t in fact sustain her in the rest of her life. When she began feeling terribly low she contacted the Doctor who offered her a course of anti-depressants for depression. She was not invited to consider talking to someone about her situation. During this global pandemic face to face therapies have stopped but they are being offered online via video conference, telephone or email.
Janiya believed that she would begin to feel better, she had faith in Doctors, these influential people who say ‘try these pills and you should start to feel better’! A couple of weeks passed and Janiya was not feeling livelier, in fact she called me in tears not knowing if I was going to be able to support her. I listened to Janina through her tears and desperation and she right now began settling in her-self. That acknowledgement and recognition of her situation which went unnoticed by the Dr in his anxiety to do something for her was what allowed her to begin to explore not only the source of her suffering but the source of what would encourage her to regain her health.
Janiya was fortunate in that she followed her impulse to reach out and find help. I know from experience, and this most recent news has confirmed, that some thousands of people would not/have not reached out and would have either started to experience some relief from the anti-depressants and accepted that ‘this is the way to mental health’! Or just simply decided there is no real help out there and began a steady decline into hopelessness, deeper isolation and merely trying to survive each day.
As we worked together, Janiya began to speak about her life before her mother died and started to make sense of some early traumatic experiences that unbeknownst to her seem to be the reasons why she was not feeling reassured in relationships. A lot of mental health pathologies can be traced to early life experiences and later life ones too. We are from families with histories that effect our epigenetic structures as does the culture we are born into and living in and so there are a lot of factors to consider when looking at how can we help someone.
When people call the Dr in distress, full of anxiety and physical hyperactivity as seen in ADHD it is an attachment cry, according to Dr Gabor Mate and people who are upset and struggling need engagement with another trustworthy person. Talking therapy provides this by offering a therapeutic relationship that is the healing force. Based on attachment theory of self and other, the client learns to value themselves in relation to another in a new way.
I am not saying that antidepressants don’t help to temper out of control emotions what I am mentioning is that offering people a chance to speak to a trained therapist is where the human connection can be forged. And it is from the human connection, the attachment to a safe other that the goodness of life flows. It is not satisfactory for pills to take precedent over the relationship which is what Norway realises.
We are still working together today and Janiya is not taking the anti-depressants rather she is understanding her experiences and making sense of her feelings and emotions, sharing her loss and finding her strength. In fact she is finding the golden nugget within this desperate isolating pandemic and moulding it around towards life. The therapeutic relationship is where you can not only find refuge and heal childhood traumas but where you can together with the presence of your therapist who is completely with you psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually and energetically too, begin to heal. It turns out that the human connection that can form in the therapy process is the most significant thing that enables what the therapist offers to be effective (Bertolino and O’Hanlon, 2001). The therapist’s affective commitment and affective responses to and with the person she is working with are fundamental to co-regulation which is fundamental to healing attachment cries.
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