The Depression Dog

When others seem to be enjoying life, the black dog stands in the way for a lot of people. If you’re wondering WTF I’m talking about, watch the video. And if you recognize any of this, maybe it’s time to think about taking some steps to look after yourself.

The “Depression Dog” video is from the World Health Organization and well defines the experience of depression.

Depression — This is Really What It’s Like

I have written about depression on this blog. It is my familiar experience like a noisy and nosey relative, and the recurring onslaught of many of my client friends.

In my practice I hand out questionnaires, teaching outlines and recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy books. I listen as deeply as I can as well.

But sometimes I discover something that just says it all while making blog everything else redundant and does so without all the clever and self-important diagnostics that psychologists seem to need. I love this blog and I hope you do too. Congratulations to Allie Brosh for making it through and leading others in her wake.

A Client Question: “Who don’t you counsel?”

Mostly I ask questions to my clients. But I receive lots of questions as well. Here is one: “Are there some people you don’t counsel because you don’t think you will be successful?”

That’s a good question and with some people I am less capable than others.

I think that I work best with couples and families, though I do see lots of individuals. As a therapist I watch 3 factors – I call them 3M: motivation, match and method.

Motivation is what the client(s) bring to the sessions. Some come to change. Others come for support to stay the same (this is by far the minority). My job is to assess motivation and this is the best indicator of therapy success.

Match is the connection between the therapist and the client. This has a lot to do with shared values and hopes. Mostly I experience empathy for my clients and this is a huge factor in success.

Method is about the particular strategy. Marriage counselling skills are not very helpful with someone experiencing a major depression or recovering from rape trauma. Where I don’t know the method, I ask for training or supervision. Or I may well refer.

So there are some people I don’t counsel because I won’t be the best for them. It is based on the 3Ms. And if I say “not now” to the request, I work to find a best referral for the person asking for help.

Do This in Remembrance – Emotions and Change

Anyone in therapy knows that remembering provokes change. It causes emotional upheaval and it provokes the necessity of some sort of decision.

Sometimes I ask my client friends, who remember few memories of childhood, to bring in pictures, report cards, childhood drawings, stuffed animals they have saved, anything left over and stored from their childhood. I ask them how they feel about these primitive objects knowing they open some primitive memories and feelings. And their remembering opens up long laid-aside emotions. Sometimes sadness, or joy, or grief, or resentment – emotions bubble up from the emotional underground.

I ask couples to bring in wedding pictures, books they treasured over the years, a favourite sweater from years past, and the action of this stirs up feelings and causes memories to revisit and, sometimes, rekindles embers of forgotten affection.

We store emotions and memories in recesses long forgotten. And it is these emotions and memories that cause us to change. We can’t control the long-layered emotions from our unconscious, but we can decide what we will do with them once we visit with them again.

This is one aspect of wisdom I think – to decide to do something good with painful memories. Perhaps a memory of failing in school or being scorned in athletics or feeling ashamed for simply being. It takes courage to live with hard memories. I admire people who make the decision to do well when they remember.

It seems to me that the “this” in “do this in remembrance” is to decide to do something worthwhile with memories.