Tag Archives: therapist

Why doctors should not be the first to meet patients with mental issues

Mental health problems often have their root cause in stress, trauma, abuse, addiction, and such. When we do not take care of unpleasant or challenging parts of life we eventually become ill. Sometimes it takes on physical expressions such as pain, but often it takes on mental expressions such as anxiety or depression. The only way I know of to actually recover from such states is to work with one’s personal development, to solve one’s life issues.

Efexor by mikael altemark on Flickr
Efexor by mikael altemark on Flickr

The problem with antidepressants is that they tend to put a lid on the symptoms without addressing the cause. I suppose the Swedish healthcare system hopes that a therapist will take over from there, but that contact often seems to be poor or non-existent. Therefore we today find ourselves in the situation that we are casually mass medicating the people with antidepressants without proper therapeutic backing, which means that many are getting medical help to put a lid on things, but are not getting the therapeutic support they need to actually solve the underlying problem. For many the antidepressants effectively lower the willingness to work with themselves, which sabotages their recovery. In addition there are all the terrible side effects reported, covering pretty much everything from apathy and obliterated sexual drive to suicide attempts.

I am not saying that such drugs have no raison d’être. They can be very helpful, especially in emergency situations. But before taking such drastic measures as to expose someone to medications with potentially lethal side effects, there are many other things you might try first.

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Self help

There is a great lack of awareness about how one can help oneself and others suffering from mental illness. Our educational system is so obsessed with measurable subject knowledge that it has very much neglected the truly important life lessons. Life skills should be a major school subject and include such things as how to take care of oneself, how to heal and evolve. A knowledgeable population can do far more for its recovery and well-being than the healthcare system can ever hope to do.

Lifestyle changes

In time depressed people program themselves to feel bad. It is often manifested in how they eat, dress, what the listen to, what routines they have, and more. Many find themselves in bad relationships, they are unhappy with their job or just generally miserable. Life coaches, nutritionists or Ayurveda doctors could be helpful to break negative patterns and focus on good goals.

Movement

Mental illness is reflected in the body. In the beginning only in the energy system, but over time it will become more physical. Movement is generally good because it gets the body’s energy flowing. Two traditions that are particularly good at working with our body and energy flow are yoga and chi gong. Dancing is also a great therapeutic tool.

Body therapy

Many feel alienated from their bodies and need much more body contact than they get, or allow themselves to receive. There are plenty of body therapies that may be helpful, such as medical massage, tactile massage, tantric massage, healing and courses in body awareness.

Meditation

While in a meditative state we release tensions and stress while also finding inner silence. In that silence it is often easy to find answers to why one feels bad and what needs to be done about it. In order to work therapeutically with meditation it is important to be prepared to take care of the stuff that it turns up. There are many more related practices in the alternative field, such as regressions, dancing, drum journeys and nature contact.

Talking

It is good to have a wise person to talk to when needed. Someone who can listen, reflect, challenge, inspire and help us find the answers ourselves. There are many people trying to do just that under such titles as psychologist, therapist, counselor, life coach, priest, witch and shaman. Other titles are less formal, such as a best friend or mother. It may be a tough journey to get out of a depression and it is good to have the support of someone.

Traditional medicine
Bushy Park 10-08-12 - 15 by Garry Knight on Flickr
Bushy Park 10-08-12 – 15 by Garry Knight on Flickr

There is much in nature that can be helpful in curing depression. St John’s Wort is for example an excellent way of naturally raising the serotonin levels. 2-3 cups of St John’s Wort tea for a few weeks makes a noticeable difference. The old Indian health system Ayurveda is also particularly interesting, because it works with food as medicine. The underlying idea is that disease is an imbalance in our body, which can be balanced with the right food. When it comes to the link between health and food, which have a strong correlation, your average Ayurveda doctor generally knows significantly more than both Western doctors and nutritionists.

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It is worrisome that doctors are the first to meet these patients. Doctors are specialized in medicine and therefore see medical solutions to the problems they encounter in humans. A therapist could, for example, meet a patient and see a person who needs to work with her bad self-confidence and make a plan for how to do so. A doctor on the other hand will listen to the patient’s symptoms and then turn to their library of drugs to find one that matches the symptoms.

In a way one can of course say that doctors are just doing their job. They are experts in medicine. When I look at it from the outside, I see a profession which lacks self-awareness. When it comes to really solving problems such as depression the doctor is a novice. If you want to help other people it is incredibly important to understand ones tools and their limitations. A person who has a broken leg should for example not be treated with healing and a change of diet. That person needs an emergency room doctor. A person who will treat a fracture with healing alone is probably somewhat of a charlatan, but is probably mostly clueless to their own limitations.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen by Mark on Flickr
Stop, Collaborate and Listen by Mark on Flickr

In my eyes a doctor who will medicate someone with antidepressants without further thought falls into the same category of dangerously ignorant people who should be called quacks. Medicines such as antidepressants are in no way a reasonable first response to someone feeling bad. Antidepressants are a disproportionate response, and when one adds that the medication lacks a proper therapeutic connection to the tools that the patient wants to work with, it shows a profound ignorance on the doctor’s side.

To summarize what I have written – it is currently the wrong profession that has the first contact with the patient, which often sabotages recovery. Antidepressants are the wrong tool to use, it is regularly used way too early and the connection to other therapy is at best patchy.

If we actually want to have a healthier population, this is a system error that needs to be addressed.

Photo: Electronic Shaman by Surian Soosay on Flickr

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Hallucinogens to heal emotional instability

Hello Daniel,

I’m a 25 year old student of anthropology, sociology and psychology. School is working out well, I take relatively good care of my health and keep the house relatively clean. I am also one of the broken souls that never feels really good. I suspect that I suffer from some emotional disturbance, because I have high peaks where I think I’m better than everyone else, and then I fall into a black hole where I find it very difficult to function normally. Right now I’m in one of those holes, and have been for approximately 4 months (with some bright days/hours). I have previously used antidepressant tablets on a daily basis to stabilize my mood and make life easier, but I stopped because it felt as if I lost a part of myself. And I wasn’t actually rid of my anxiety. I was just somewhat better at dealing with it when it arrived and my panic attacks were less turbulent. Now things are so bad that I am strongly considering going back to them. I have suicidal thoughts and isolate myself completely without external reasons. I absolutely don’t want to die, but I feel weak by the mere thought of life just continuing like this.

I have seen some documentaries and read a lot about how hallucinogens affect our brains and that there is reason to believe that it changes the way we think about the world in the same way as religious experiences might change people’s lives. I have tried it myself a few times, though in recreational context, and last year when I tried truffles I got an incredibly wonderful feeling of my actual place in the world which persisted for several weeks. Then after a while the negative thoughts came back again and with them doubts that these drugs actually help – maybe they just take me farther away from “reality”.

Now I have thought again, and you confirmed what I thought of. Maybe I’ll try to actually medicate myself and give it more than just once. Just the thought that perhaps it can help me stay of the antidepressants makes the world feel a little brighter. Do you think it can help with emotional instability, in the same way as it helps against depression? And if so, which kind of dose would be best?

Thanks in advance!

Sincerely
Ann

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Hi Ann,

thank you for an interesting email that raises many thoughts. As you can probably understand, I would have to have a private session with you to be able to give you specific personal advice, but I can discuss some of the issues you raise in a broad sense.

Since you mention suicide, I would like to start off by saying a few words on the subject. I had a friend who chose to commit suicide and several years later I managed to get in touch with him in spirit. He said that there are lives when one needs to experience suicide, but pointed out that it isn’t a choice like any else. If one ends one’s life without having finished one’s life lessons/challenges, you will need to do it all over again in the next life. To kill oneself to avoid a challenge is thus counterproductive, because you will need to redo the whole thing and will suffer in the same way for yet another life. With that in mind, I would like to say like my friend – dare to live.

With that said, let’s move on to your main question of whether hallucinogens can be good tools for working with your mood, and if so, how.

Hallucinogens are excellent tools for aiding in healing depression, emotional instability and such conditions. I have myself healed from severe depression with LSD and have seen many others do the same with mushrooms, San Pedro, Ayahuasca, and even Cannabis. I would however not recommend Cannabis initially, because it is the only one of the plants and substances that I have listed that I perceive has an actual addictive potential, and at the same time it is not as potent as the other plants/substances.

There are plenty of stories of miraculous healing with these plants and substances, but I want to discourage you from approaching them as some kind of quick fix. Sure, you might fix your emotional instability with a single trip, but it is much more likely that you need to put a lot of work into healing yourself. The plant or substance in that context is only a tool. You will need to do the work to heal yourself, so be prepared for that.

What to do first?

Without knowing much about your specific problems I would probably first advise you to clean out your life. Your mood originates from somewhere; possibly from old wounds and relationships. If there is too much other clutter, you will need to spend a lot of time cleaning it all out of the way, instead of diving into the core of things. Therefore, you should get rid of as much clutter as possible in advance, in your everyday life.

First off – promise yourself to recover and to do whatever you need to do so. Then examine your life and remove everything that is not favorable to you. They might include things, relationships, ways of seeing reality, and more. Remove anything that does not benefit you. There are certain things that you should really get rid of completely, because they disrupt your energy structure: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, drugs (here I do not count hallucinogens) and sex where you do not respect yourself. The first two are particularly important, as they clog the body’s energy structure and are in their very essence self-destructive.

Once you’ve done that, I would consider that you are ready to begin working with hallucinogens for healing.

How do I work with hallucinogens?

Once again I feel I should point out that you would need to book a private session with me for proper counseling. The answers I can give you here are general.

There are two questions that I think would be good for you to ask yourself initially:
1. Do I need a shaman/therapist/guide?
2. What plant or substance should I work with?

Based on what you have written, I think it would be wise for you to work with a shaman/therapist who not only knows hallucinogens, but who also understand the kind of mental states that you are struggling with. Someone like me could help with such things as:
● To help you prepare for your trip/trips
● To maintain a safe and secure place for you to meet and work with yourself
● During the trip to do things like clearing away blockages, parasitic energies, conveying messages from spirit helpers or channeling healing energy
● During and after the trip to be your mirror and discussion partner
● After the trip to help you structure your continued work and help you maintain your focus

Some people can do all this themselves, because they have an innate ability to work with their own development, but I feel that far from all can do so. Many instead risk going wrong, getting trapped, or even being frightened by the experience and taking several steps backwards. If you feel with you that you cannot do this by yourself, I would advise you to work with someone who can support you. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a shaman or therapist, but could also be a friend who has the knowledge and the abilities that I have described.

Plant/substance and dose

It is impossible for me to say in advance what kind of dose you should have. I always double check what dose a client should have before a session. Usually I do so with tarot cards, but I also use my common sense. I generally prefer high doses, because it will lower your defenses and allow to quickly go in depth with the actual problem. But what is an average dose for one person can be a high dose of another, so you need to determine the dose on an individual basis.

Which plant or substance is most appropriate in your case is in the same way hard for me to speculate. That is also something I would check in advance. Usually I find that it is clear which plant, substance and even who you should work with, because they tend to appear when you are ready. If you need LSD, LSD will come knocking at your door and if you are meant to work with a specific shaman/therapist, your attention will be directed to them.

Set reasonable expectations

Hallucinogens are surrounded by an almost magical aura. I have seen many miraculous events on hallucinogens, but to expect a miracle is not reasonable. If you are supposed to have a miracle, it will come to you, but it’s much more likely that you need to work devotedly to recover. Get ready to do so.

It is reasonable to expect that you will devote considerable attention to this for at least a year and during that time you might need to take several trips. Periodically you may even have to trip quite often. But tripping is not the thing. The trip shakes things up and loosens things, but it is between trips, in your sober state, that you will need to work actively to translate the insights that you got into your normal life.

For example, if you come to realize that you are making yourself ill through the relationships you have, with what you eat or how you behave, you will need to sort those things out. Although it can happen, it is not a reasonable expectation that the hallucinogens will collect all that is bothering you and remove it. You will need to do that work.

Photo: Bang-bang by Yuliya Libkina on Flickr

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A better tomorrow with drugs

Today’s repressive drug laws are at a dead end. The war on drugs harms society and citizens in a multitude of ways, of which I listed some in yesterdays blog post. Ironically it also prevents effective treatments for such things as addiction. But where can we go from here? Let’s imagine that all substances are legal. How can we organize the community to limit the damage and help addicts?

Legalizing all drugs would of course not mean that you could buy them next to the sweets at your local supermarket. And everything doesn’t just fall into place because they come under government control. There would probably need to be a combination of solutions, some of which already exist and others that don’t. Here are some possible parts to such a system.

State control.

hug me by jo marshall on Flickr
hug me by jo marshall on Flickr

In the current situation the entire drug trade is a black economy that is largely controlled by criminal organizations. If all substances were legalized they would become part of the regular economy, where it becomes possible to set up rules for manufacturing and quality control products. The substances would be provided with a table of content, just like any other commodity. The goods may additionally be provided with other labels, such as organic and fair trade.

Those working in the trade would have the same rights as other workers, would have the support of existing labor laws, would have the right to organize themselves into unions and would become tax payers.

Sales could take place within established models, such as the state control (pharmacies/tobacco sales) or as a state monopoly (in Sweden all alcohol is sold by the state run Systembolaget). Age limits could be imposed on substances and they could also be differentiated, so that one would have to be older to purchase some of the more potent compounds.

Taxing substances.

When drugs come under government control it is possible to steer people away from more harmful substances by levying heavier taxes on them. It’s would be easy to see which substances are economically costly for society and adjust the taxes accordingly.

Possibility to withdraw the right to use certain substances.

People should be able to lose their right to use certain substances if they commit crimes or harm themselves or others when they use them. I think it is strange that those who repeatedly get into fights drunk, drive intoxicated or get wasted on the verge of dying, still have the right to buy as much liquor as they can pay for.

When one shows that they aren’t able to handle a certain substance, it should be possible to revoke that person’s right to do so, in the same manner that one can lose ones driving license or license to practice medicine.

The possibility to exclude oneself from certain substances.

40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr
40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr

Many people are very aware of which substances they should not take. For example I know many who say they have no problem drinking beer, but go berserk if they drink hard liquor. It’s the same with all substances. What is pure bliss for one, can be hell for another. What one is able to take a couple of times a year without developing a craving for, another becomes addicted to after just a few doses.

But then again, many people know perfectly well what substances are dangerous for them. It could be made easy for them to take responsibility with the choice to voluntarily waive the right to use certain substances. They could also be able to set limits for themselves, by specifying how much of a substance they may purchase during a certain time period.

Many addicts will arrive at the point where they want to break free from their habit. During a certain period the window of change is open. The problem is often that they relapse because the substance will continue to be available to them. If they can exclude themselves from the right to buy certain substances, such as if an alcoholic does not allow him/herself to buy liquor, it would effectively help in the recovery process.

Licenses to handle certain substances.

With some particularly heavy drugs such as heroin, it would be possible to introduce a license allowing an educated person to handle the substance. For most substances it would probably be enough with basic education in school and a little everyday common sense, but with substances that carry serious consequences, it is important to be sure that those who use them have proper knowledge about risks and safety. The education for such a license may contain things like responsible management, how to use in a safe manner to prevent spread of infection, and how to deal with accidental overdoses. Such a license may be revoked if the person is irresponsible and for example sells substances to other people or uses them in an unsafe manner.

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In addition to the distribution itself – what can we do to get control of the situation regarding different substances?

Universal education in dealing with drugs and addiction.

I often wonder how drug education in schools can be allowed to be so absolutely worthless. The “education” is basically designed solely to scare people not to try anything. As a teenager I was an exchange student in the United States and the school that I went to worked in exactly the same way when it came to sex education. There was no information about STDs, contraception or sex. The whole message was only “you should not have sex until you get married”, and it was really crammed down the teenagers throats. It is a dangerous kind of indoctrination that creates ignorant and bigoted citizens, while increasing the actual risks.

Instead we should have a proper drug education, which includes such themes as:
∙ What is an altered state of mind and how you can you work with it?
∙ How to use drugs safely.
∙ What to do if you or someone else feels bad under the influence.
∙ How to manage an overdose.
∙ How to identify and get rid of substance abuse.

Use tax revenues for addiction treatment and prevention.

Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr
Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr

A legalization would generate tax revenue that I think primarily should go to addiction treatment and prevention. Even more money is now being spent on hunting, harassing and punishing people.

If we add a substantial part of those resources to create good addiction treatment, we will soon have the best addiction treatment the world has ever seen. Health care should be accessible and able to quickly help addicts who express a desire to receive care. Addiction is a disease and addicts should be treated as patients, not criminals.

There will always be addicts, but it is my firm belief that the addiction is to be found in the person – not in substance. People flee into abuse because they are fleeing from themselves, from the traumas they try to forget or from situations that are unbearable. Good prevention work builds on this understanding and aims to help people face themselves, help them process past trauma and to make their lives bearable. It helps them to stop fleeing and encourages them to take responsibility for their own lives. Much of today’s preventive work lacks this basic understanding.

Make substances available for scientific research, therapists, health care workers and healers.

There are many substances that are currently incorrectly classified as drugs with no medical value. This applies above all to psychedelics that are proven to be extremely effective in curing such things as addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress, empathy disorders and death anxiety. There are lots of stories about absolutely miraculous healing taking place with these substances, and they are at the same time very safe when used correctly.

Another substance that is being discussed greatly right now is cannabis and not only in its mind-altering form, but also as tinctures without the mind-altering properties. It is used with good results for such things as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, depression and end of life care. There seems to be some evidence that it also has cancer fighting properties.

These substances need to be made available to those who need the help and for the professionals who are working on this – from therapists, to regular health care workers, and also in alternative treatments. Today there are plenty of alternative therapists and traditional healers such as shamans, who have the knowledge and who have been passing it on for thousands of years. Here are exciting cross over’s to be made, when traditional methods of healing meet western medicine. Such work is already taking place. To fully take advantage of this scientific research needs to get started as soon as possible.

Making up for abuse committed by the state.

While the intention has probably been good, many people have been abused and badly treated under the current legislation. The current drug laws have stigmatized people, forced them into alienation, punished them, led people into a criminal lifestyle, actively withheld health care for sick addicts and has also led to many unnecessary deaths.

There is a need for redress and reconciliation. The very least the government should do is to apologize for the abuse that occurred under the current legislation.

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This blog post has been inspired by, among other things:
∙ A challenge from a friend who is a politician to show how legalization could work.
∙ The TEDx talk by James Leitzel that does just that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Px4nYbJoQ
∙ Organisations and initiatives such as Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org/) and Transform (http://www.tdpf.org.uk/).

Main photo: Love by Nicola Romagna on Flickr

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The therapists offer

The Venerable Buddha of Lantau by LASZLO ILYES on Flickr
The Venerable Buddha of Lantau by LASZLO ILYES on Flickr

– How do you work with your addiction today?
– Mainly by practicing conscious awareness.
– You mean mindfulness and stuff?
– Sure, if you want to call it mindfulness, so by all means.
– You see, mindfulness only goes so far. Then there’s psychotherapy.
– It took Buddha all the way.
– What do you mean?
– “Mindfulness and stuff” led the Buddha all the way to enlightenment and nirvana.
– Are you comparing yourself with Buddha?
– No, I said that the Buddha went all the way by following that path. But if you wonder if I think I’m big enough to compare myself to the Buddha, the answer is yes. I am big enough to compare myself with Jesus too.

Jesus crown of thorns - West Pier Brighton by Leonski Oh Leonski on Flickr
Jesus crown of thorns – West Pier Brighton by Leonski Oh Leonski on Flickr

– It’s easy to believe that anyone who compares himself with Buddha and Jesus is a megalomaniac.
– But then it is of course precisely the opposite, that those who believe themselves to be too small or insignificant to compare themselves to them are suffering from an inferiority complex. There is a Buddha and Jesus in every person. Every human being is a part of the highest divine and those who do not understand it, don’t understand the essence of the Buddha or Jesus.
– Well… [grumpy silence] Do you want therapy or not?
– With you?
– Yes.
– I think I’ll pass. But thanks for the offer.

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