BY: SIMONE SMITH
When most Caribbean, or people from the Diaspora, hear the word “Psychology,” or “Psychotherapy,” to them the instant thought is, “Lawd, he/she gone mad!” For those who do not understand the Caribbean dialect, “Gone mad,” means to lose one’s mind. Well, in a sense, all of us at one point in our lives do feel like we are going mad. The world is a tough place to live in, and when we are born, we are not handed a life manual. Parents are a good starting point, as they are our first teachers, but what if our parents have had issues that they have not taken care of? We are then left at a disadvantage as we have to figure out our issues, as well as figure out how to deal with the transgenerational trauma. My goal as a mental health professional is to demystify the therapeutic process. I understand the importance of dealing with mental health, and my duty is to the community; I must help the majority realize the importance of taking care of our personal issues before they get out of control and begin to severely damage our lives.
Speaking as a Life Counsellor/Strategist who works in Toronto, I encounter people from every race, religion, and culture. As a human being, I have my personal views and beliefs. Respect is important when dealing with people on a day to day basis; it is even more important when I am dealing with my clients. Awareness of self is important for any individual who works in the mental health field. I make it a requirement to take the time to do an inventory of self. This inventory allows me to think of issues that could affect the way that I deal with my patients. I take the time to write down personal traits about myself that I like or dislike. I note any personal issues that I might be having at the time. I think about my biases and prejudices. Do I provide a non-judgmental environment for my clients? Asking myself these questions allows me to understand the thoughts and feelings that I may have towards some of my patients. For example, when treating an individual who is a different religion, I am sure to respect their religious practices along with their cultural beliefs. I learn these things by asking appropriate questions and opening myself to understand things through the eyes of my client.
During a client intake, I am sure to gather all the information required to understand my client. Questions about their beliefs may seem unimportant to some, but it allows for me to connect with them. They see that I am doing my best to understand them; they will eventually be able to open themselves up about issues that I could help them with in the future. Mental health professionals must be effective at communicating; it is a great way to learn more about how your client’s thoughts and behaviors may be affecting their health.
The core ideology of counseling, psychotherapy, and psychology is focused on treating each client as an individual. A common human mistake is to group individuals into categories and then make decisions about them based on these categories. This process can be detrimental if applied to treating clients; individualization is the thorough process of differentiating an object or person from a group of like objects or persons. Although it can be argued that we all have similar structure and function, we still differ when it comes to our experiences. Key differences exist in the way that we think, the way we express our emotions, our physiological build, our aversions, our likes and dislikes, our desires and our susceptibility to external influences. External influences include diseases, drugs, and substances found in nature.
I hope that this short introduction allows you, the reader to see that your psychological processes are yours and yours alone. Speaking to a counsellor, psychotherapist, or psychologist needs to be recognized as a necessity at some point in every individual’s life. The next issue will explore the process in depth and hopefully spur someone to reach out.