Chapter 1

What’s Your Healing Plan?

‘Are you going to treat me, or are you going to help me to heal?’

‘Are you going to do what’s ‘medically necessary’ to justify your insurance claims, or are you going to do what’s in the best interest of my wellness?’

‘Will you help me find whatever approach is best suited for me, even if it does not include your services?’

Lisa was interviewing me. She was trying to decide if she wanted to see me for help with her sadness and fears. And though she apologized for her bluntness, I applauded her courage and told her I shared some of her frustrations.

Many in the mental health treatment system have lost their way. They’ve lost sight of their purpose: to assist healing. I understand why. In the mad dash to find and provide relief, it’s easy to disregard the concept of healing. Medicine is overprescribed because it works fast and saves health insurance dollars. Never mind that it can blunt your feelings and slow your thoughts. Never mind that it can result in serious side effects and derail healing. As long as enough of the people who take it can go to work and seem to function in their stressful lives, medicine will remain the popular solution.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of using medicine when it’s needed. I think it’s foolish to ignore powerful medications that can save lives and restore healing. I also think it’s foolish to overuse them and to use them in place of wellness promotion, psychotherapy, and other healing arts.

I told Lisa that I operate from a healing perspective and that I consider any treatment a way to assist that healing. Assisting healing, I said, is more likely than simple treatment to help without harming. It is also more likely to result in greater self-awareness and wisdom. I made some suggestions that I thought would help Lisa decide if she would be comfortable working with me. ‘It’s time for you to stop being treated and start being healed. It’s time to place whatever helpful approaches you choose within the context of a healing plan. It’s time for you to insist that attention be given to healing as the driving force behind your recovery and wellness, and it’s time for you to write your own healing plan. If you wish to work with me, I can help you with that.’

Lisa decided we should continue on together, and throughout Mind Easing, she and I will share her healing plan as a way of helping you create one for yourself.

Your Healing Plan

Having awareness of how your mind heals itself from anxiety and depression and helping it to find its own way, requires attention, humility, and flexibility. Sometimes the best way to help natural healing is by getting out of its way and simply witnessing its course of action. Though healing often needs help, what that help needs to be is not always clear. As healing unfolds and progresses, the ways you help it must be responsive and adaptive. It is wise to remain open to all possible avenues of healing, even if they seem odd and unfamiliar.

That’s where a healing plan comes in. Unlike a treatment plan, a healing plan works directly with your natural healing process to enhance, guide, and restore your natural flow of healing to help resolve your distress and find your way to greater ease.

I’ll show you how to work with your natural flow of healing instead of imposing hastily chosen treatments. You’ll learn to make decisions about wellness, therapy, and medicine based on what would work best for your own unique style of healing.

The Three-Layered Healing Plan organizes a variety of helpful approaches in a way that best helps your mind to heal. The layers are organized by increasing need and intensity. You’ll start with healthy attitudes and behaviors, and then you can add more intensive approaches like psychotherapy or medicine if they are needed―or remove them if they are unnecessary or causing more harm than good. I’ll show you how to select the approaches that will best suit your needs and how to modify your plan as your recovery proceeds. The objective of the Three-Layered Healing Plan is to give healing what it needs so it can take care of you.

You might be tempted to jump to the highest layer of treatment (medicine) without realizing that a less intense approach may be as effective, promote lasting change, and produce the greatest long-term rewards. The risk of rushing too quickly into using medication is that it could hinder the natural flow of your healing by blunting your emotions. It could also expose you to unnecessary side effects. Using medicine when it’s needed makes sense, but using it when other approaches may work as well does not. In Mind Easing, I try to help you decide if medicine is right for you, but you should discuss this with your own qualified professionals before you make your final decision. Making decisions that are consistent with your natural flow of healing will produce greater long-term as well as short-term rewards, whether those decisions include the use of medicine or not.

How to Assist Your Healing Plan

In Layer One: Enhancement, you’ll learn how to use healthy attitudes, behaviors, and compassionate love to empower your natural healing process. In Layer Two: Guidance, you’ll gently but firmly redirect the flow of healing with psychotherapy and other nonmedicinal treatments. Layer Three: Restoration includes medical treatment when necessary to remove severe, distracting, or disabling symptoms in order to reengage the flow of healing. With proper timing and skillful application, you can use these layers to synergize and complement one another while promoting your natural healing flow.

An effective healing plan incorporates as many of these three layers as are needed. It is not just a treatment plan, and it is not just a wellness plan; it is a comprehensive plan of wellness and, as needed, treatment that remains fully observant of and responsive to your unique healing style.

When things are going well and maintenance of a healthy resilient state is the goal, enhancement may be sufficient. If you feel like you are going the wrong way with distorted perceptions and unskillful behaviors, guidance may be needed. If you have symptoms of panic, obsession, or despair that are so severe that they distract or even block your capacity to take action to be well, medicine may reduce your symptoms enough to restore your flow of healing.

Let’s now explore these three layers in more depth with Lisa’s story guiding us.

Lisa’s Story

‘Stop! You’re hurting me! That’s too hard! You have to stop!’

Lisa awoke alone and crying in her Upper West Side condo. The siren on the street below punctuated her alarm.

She still thought of the prewar unit as her family’s place even though she’d inherited it the previous year after her mother’s long illness. She’d moved last summer from the family home on Long Island.

Padding across the floor through the shadows from the streetlights, she saw her reflection in the mirror. ‘Not bad for thirty-three. But why am I still alone? And why does my life suck?’

The nightmare that awoke her was recurrent, and she had no idea why it kept happening. Her cries also woke her dog, who sniffed the air and wagged her tail.

‘What would I do without you, Ginger? You saved my life,’ Lisa said as she patted Ginger’s head.

Actually, Lisa had saved Ginger from an animal shelter, after the dog had been beaten and abandoned. Ginger was the angel who entered Lisa’s life five years ago, after her father had died suddenly. She had also comforted Lisa during her mother’s battle with cancer.

As Lisa sat on the toilet, she said to Ginger, ‘Maybe Mother was right. Maybe I should get back into therapy.’

©2018 Bick Wanck, M.D. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Mind Easing: The Three-Layered Healing Plan for Anxiety and Depression.