Society needs a therapist.

Why is it that those indicating the importance of understanding the underlying issues of the recent riots are vilified as apologists? Certainly the culprits of wanton vandalism, theft and murder need to be punished but unless there is an understanding of why it all happened the possibility of it being repeated remains. The cost, not to mention the devastating effect the criminal action, albeit by a very small minority has had on individuals’ lives, is enormous. Livelihoods and properties have been destroyed. Worst of all lives have been lost. The simplistic answer is to lock up all the rioters and throw away the key. Yet the prisons have the greatest number of people ‘residing at her Majesty’s pleasure’ than ever before – more than 85,000 in the UK at a cost of £40,000 per prisoner per year!

Punishment itself is no deterrent. Some say ‘prison works’ but does it? Certainly not if once incarcerated little or nothing is done to rehabilitate the inmates. If the United States were to execute one person on death row each and every day the gruesome task would take ten years to complete, yet crime figures remain high. Merely punishing people does not solve the problem. The criminals themselves may not fully understand their true motives for doing their crime, so they are likely to repeat it. It is not in society’s interest to allow the status quo to continue. Investment is needed in the provision of appropriate facilities and education to meet the needs of those who, at the moment, are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to help them. To do that, understanding is needed as to why such events happen.

Think of this on a personal level. We, ourselves, may be repeating an action or behaviour which isn’t in our own best interest. We will continue to do so until we have a realisation about how damaging it is to continue. In which case we may turn to someone with the expertise to help us come to the understanding we need and assist us to resolve the issue.

Like us society needs to realise there are aspects of its behaviour which are not in its own best interest.

To really be or not to really be.

Judging by the number of training courses for counsellors and the number of counsellors there now are, it would seem that more and more people are turning to counselling to resolve disturbing issues. The Government has also accepted that ‘talking therapies’ can be effective and advises doctors to encourage patients to engage with a therapist. However, the downside of the Government’s policy is that it appears to favour only one of the many theoretical approaches to counselling above all others, i.e. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is proscribed by the Government as it believes it to be the ‘most effective’ since it considers that a) improvements are possible in the short term and b) the process is measurable. In some instances, that may be possible, but generally the counselling process is unpredictable. Often the ‘presenting problem’ is not the underlying issue causing emotional disturbance and possible physical symptoms.

Counselling is not an easy process. Reflecting on past experiences and conditioning which may be the cause of current feelings can be painful. It can become very difficult when we are faced with challenges we may have been avoiding all of our life. When we enter into counselling we may not realise it at first but we are putting ourself into a challenging position. We are caused to reflect on our thought processes and our way of being, those aspects of our self with which we have become so comfortable. We become protective of them as we consider them to be the ‘real me’. To move on we may need to change them but it is often extremely difficult to do so. We fear the future without our ‘comfort zone’ as without it there is unexplored and consequently scary new territory to confront.

There is one solution to obviate this, we could try out the ‘new me’ and if we don’t like it we could choose to go back. However, in the experience of my own journey and that which I have experienced with clients we don’t do this. The rewards of making even relatively small changes are generally highly significant and we feel so different and so much better. A burden is lifted from our shoulders. Another benefit of making such changes is that new challenges appear less frightening. Having experienced the benefits and rewards of making change we are encouraged to do more. Life becomes more exciting as we discover new aspects of our self. The value is exponential. We have a greater sense of our ability to control our life and consequently can choose to stop the process. We are in control and are not merely ‘going with the flow’ without a paddle. We can ‘go with the flow’ but we have a greater sense of the direction in which we would like to go. We become aware that we have choice.

Are you looking in the right place?

I don’t know the origin of the original but I came across this copy in ‘Madman – The Strange Adventures of a Psychology Intern.’ by John Suler, Ph D.,

“A man was walking down a dark alley when he saw a stranger searching for something under a street lamp. When he asked the stranger what he was doing, he replied that he had lost his keys. ‘Where do you think you dropped them?’ the man asked. The stranger pointed towards the dark alley. ‘If you lost them over there,’ the puzzled man answered, ‘why are you looking for them over here?’ The stranger looked up, ‘Because this is where the light is.’”