HEALTHYSELF Counselling in Surbiton & Kingston, Surrey

NICE guidelines on Depression

Interesting to see that NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has fully endorsed counselling as an effective treatment for depression in its revised draft guideline, published for consultation in July. And about time too! Having worked with various people over the years who find themselves in this oppressive condition - I've often been struck just how much counselling can really help getting them back on their feet and a put a spring back in their step. A marked contrast to how they appeared at their first session. I heard only this morning on the radio a leading sportsman talk of his battle with depression and how he managed to tackle it by talking about it. Good for him - I just hope plenty of other men and women who might be similarly affected were listening.

Unblocking the system

Some time ago I read a fascinating article in the press about a massive 'fatberg' clogging up the sewer system in east London. Had it not been discovered and dealt with - it threatened to cause chaos in the streets by discharging live sewage onto the pavements.
The  cause of the problem it seems, was  people putting too much material into the disposal system that it was never designed to handle e.g. nappies, wet wipes, cooking oil etc. Apparently this had been building up for many years – without anyone being aware of the scale of the problem. The good news however was that Thames Water engineers were able to unblock the mess and ultimately convert it into useful bio-diesel, much to the relief of all concerned.
Perhaps there's something of a parallel here with what happens in therapy. People often come in ‘clogged up’ perhaps due to unhealthy habits or negative experiences - maybe long forgotten. They frequently feel like they can’t move forward, or find themselves stuck in some sort of cycle.  By providing a safe, confidential space and working closely together, therapy can help in unblocking the system and freeing the individual to find new habits and new perceptions, able to move forward.  While there are no guaranteed results, I'm often struck that irrespective of 'the mess' that people might experience in themselves, there is invariably something useful or valuable to emerge from the therapy encounter.

Internal Family Systems approach

Last year I undertook training in Internal Family Systems.  This is a truly fascinating and powerful approach to therapy. It is a synthesis of two, if not three, therapeutic paradigms. Firstly that of Family Therapy, which views the family as a dynamic system made up of various parts. When the parts are in harmony - all is well, but when one or more parts are not then problems can, and do, arise. Secondly – that the mind is not a simple unified entity but is in fact, plural. This is the idea that we each contain many different subpersonalities. If you find this a bit odd, consider whether you’ve ever found yourself wondering something like  ‘what got into me in that situation?’ ‘Why did I do /say that?’ or having to admit -  ‘I just couldn’t help myself…!’.  Other therapeutic disciplines might refer to ‘ego states’ or ‘schema’ of ‘archetypes’ – i.e. multiplicity of the mind is not a new idea.  Internal Family Systems founder Dr. Richard Schwartz recognised that the individual brings to therapy their own 'family' of internal psychological parts. Each of these parts has a role to play in keeping the individual's system balanced. When we find ourselves caught up in harmful patterns of behaviours e.g. anxiety, depression, drugs, eating, sex – there’s a part that’s likely taken on an extreme role.  There is also a third vital aspect to the IFS model – which is that it recognises that we each have a core essence, or ‘Self’, which is not a part – but is our core– that makes us most fully ourselves, as individuals – and is in effect a spiritual element which would be readily understood by many cultures and traditions throughout history.  ‘People have described Self as feeling centred- a state of calm, well being and lightheartedness “ (Pastor and Guvain -IFS manual). Likewise “The Self cannot be damaged and knows how to heal…” (Schwartz and Sweezy ‘Internal Faily Systems Therapy’ 2019).

I’m delighted to have done the training and over the last year have found time and again that we each comprise a system of dynamically related 'parts', some of which can be carrying significant burdens from the past, but likewise, we each have all the internal resources we need to bring healing to our own systems. (April.2024).


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