Your Mind is a Scammer & Other Interesting Perspectives

As most of you know, I’m working on both an MA & a PhD in Social Work. This quarter, I took a class on cognitive-behavioural therapy with children, teens, & families. I also took a class on behavioural therapy, in general.* I’ve found both classes to be a welcome challenge to my existing orientation and I think I made a good choice in taking them, despite what I say in the footnote. Besides that, I do think it’s important for social workers & therapists of all kinds to have multiple tools at their disposal, even if only for the sake of recognizing when our clients need services that should be provided by someone else better equipped to deliver them.

My CBT instructor assigned a chapter from Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson’s book on Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), which is a behavioural therapy that focuses on helping clients accept their experiences and committing to deal with them through mindfulness-based strategies. I wrestled with this reading for a couple days because it made me really check some of my own beliefs about how the mind works, my relationship to my thoughts, and my views on the importance of words. I haven’t changed my mind about anything I believe, but I’ve definitely added another perspective to consider as situations arise.

First, this happened:


— one name, 2 words (@AmandaMichelle) June 1, 2013

And then I read this:  Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 15.13.10 Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 15.13.21That chunk was preceded by a similar vignette on how words don’t really carry the power that people ascribe to them. All this inspired me to include in my weekly reflection, a mini-rant about how there are a ton of people around the world who survive on the belief that words have power. Many of us put things out into the Universe, hoping our words are in alignment with the Universal energy & will manifest what we ask.^ In other words, buying into our thoughts/words is tantamount to moving life forward. The Universe doesn’t want to honor something we don’t honor ourselves! So to tell people with this belief system that they need to detach from their words and thoughts would very likely turn their entire belief system on its head! Is that what we really want to do?

But when I read this, I almost did a praise dance again:

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Now, I’m usually pretty good at holding conflicting information & carrying on with no problem (I am a Gemini, after all). But now? Now I’m just confused. I think I’ve been trending toward confusion all quarter, especially as my behavioural therapy prof worked his 10 weeks of magic that finally made me be receptive to behavioural therapy. Even as I have become more open, there are still some things that just don’t vibe with me. And I think that’s okay. Part of being a social worker is about having diverse toolbox so that you can focus on what works for your ‘clients’ (I hate that word). But another part is knowing when your client needs something that you can’t or don’t want to offer.

Holmes told us that the average psychotherapy client drops out after just two sessions! I did a little digging on my own and found out that dropout rates vary widely, so I’m not quite sure what to do with either piece of information.** But he does talk about how many clients want therapists to validate the very behaviour that inspire people to seek therapy in the first place. When that doesn’t happen, people bolt because they aren’t ready or willing to face those things. So if that’s the case, aren’t we responsible for helping our clients get to the point where they can face what bothers them?  And then I was reminded: ACT focuses on the *form* of thoughts and words, not the content. So, in the case of people who use their words & thoughts as a way of communicating with a higher power, I think it’s safe to say that buying into one’s thoughts or words does serve a positive function, so it’s okay. Right?

Of course, this the kind of stuff that happens when I start ranting before I’ve finished reading a piece:

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TOTALLY forgot about reading mention of that 25 pages prior…

At any rate, there’s a LOT more in this chapter than what I got caught up on, but I felt the need to stop & acknowledge the fact that I keep going back & forth with these techniques. Quite honestly, I’m glad I have not chosen to be a psychotherapist. I find the tools provide interesting perspectives to draw from, but I’m more concerned with changing the systems that make life difficult for people in the first place. It’s good to know about the techniques that are being used, but of course it all leads me back to mulling over how social work got so caught up in psychotherapy that it has essentially abandoned social justice altogether.

*I’m actually a systems-oriented cognitivist (who has typically seen a bit of value in behaviourism, but generally opposed it). However I took these classes because [insert rant about class offerings & my need to finish instead of waiting around & hoping for stuff].
^Replace ‘Universe’ with whatever higher power/energy/etc. fits your belief system.
**I do know that I left my university’s counseling services after two sessions, but that was because I learned we have a ridiculous rate of hospitalization & medication. Actually, I left after one session, if you don’t count the intake meeting. I think I knew then that I would not be continuing. I mean, who really tells a brand new client with no formal Dx that she should go on meds 15 minutes into the appointment? And then tries to dangle a carrot by saying the client gets more free therapy sessions than the customary 11 if they go on meds? Somebody remind me to write a post about that experience.
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