“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 my unique healing style even if it does not include your services?”
These provocative questions were posed by a young woman who was interviewing me to decide if she wanted to enlist my services. After she apologized for her bluntness, I applauded her courage and perspective and told her I share some of her frustrations.
She was right to ask those questions. Many in the mental health treatment system have lost their way. They’ve lost sight of their purpose: To assist healing. It’s understandable. In our mad dash to find and provide relief, we’ve lost sight of healing. Medication 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 over function in their stressful lives, it has merit. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as opposed to anti-psychiatry as I am to psychiatry. I think it’s foolish to ignore powerful medications that can save lives and restore healing. I also think it’s foolish to overuse it and to use it in place of wellness promotion, psychotherapy, and other healing arts. When we operate from a healing perspective, we’re more likely to help without harming. Those we help are more likely to gain a deeper sense of themselves and what they want out of life.
For the sake of healing, these are my suggestions:
It’s time for you to stop being treated and start being healed.
It’s time to replace treatment plans with healing plans.
It’s time to cure the things we can and conservatively treat the things we can’t.
It’s time to insist that attention be given to healing as the driving force behind recovery and wellness.
It’s time to assist healing and stop getting in its way by overprescribing and under talking.
It’s time for you to write your own healing plan if no one else will (this book will show you how).
Healing is relentless and timeless. It is the innate force that gets you well and keeps you well. It is always with you, tirelessly helping you throughout your life. It helps your mind to cope with fears, disappointments, and hardships. It leads you toward greater meaning and fulfillment.
This is a model for helping your mind to heal. It is a plan for assisting healing that uses conventional wellness and treatment approaches. It consists of three layers that were developed to assist healing without getting in its way. They are:
Layer 1: Enhancement of Healing
Layer 2: Guidance of Healing
Layer 3: Restoration of Healing
Enhancement of healing is accomplished by practicing positive attitudes and healthy behaviors. It can be supplemented with meditation classes, yoga classes, regular workouts, healthy diet guides and deliberate work on reducing unnecessary sources of stress. Guidance of healing helps correct misperceptions and unhealthy responses. Psychotherapists, counselors and life coaches can help point healing in the right direction. The third layer, restoration of healing, is reserved for times when severe symptoms of fear, despair or other distress block or distract the natural flow of healing. Using medication to reduce symptoms enough for healing to resume is the objective of layer 3. Finding someone who will take their time and not prescribe too much or the wrong thing is not always easy. Psychopharmacology remains an imperfect science with unpredictable effects. Medication should be used only as needed to restore healing. It should be reduced or removed if it blocks healing by blunting feelings or dulling thinking. It should be stopped if it causes serious or dangerous side effects. Medication should only be used as needed in the service of healing.
Your innate power of healing is what gets you well and keeps you well. It does the best it can to help you when you are struggling with fear, disappointment and confusion. It tries its best to repair the damage caused to your mind by upsets and hurts. It does the best it can to counteract faulty genetics and faulty upbringings. Healing follows ancient patterns and rhythms of energy flow refined by thousands of generations of genetic adaptation. Healing automatically strives to repair and rebalance your mind when it is troubled. Healing aims to keep you rational and well functioning.
Healing, despite how relentless and powerful it is, has its challenges when it comes to certain states of mind. We are complicated creatures who are not merely content to survive and reproduce. We want more than we need. We want success and we do things to excess. As we battle with our urges, we create stress. As we struggle and strive, we can cause pain to ourselves and those around us. We can misperceive the intentions of others and respond unskillfully. Our judgments can become clouded and lead us to do too much, not enough, or the wrong thing. We can get in our own way and derail our own healing. And yet, we manage. We manage to pick ourselves up after we’ve fallen. We reason things through. We manage to survive and work through terrible losses, disappointments and traumas. We find way to beat the odds and carry on. In these ways, our natural healing process, combined with some learned toughness, comes to our rescue.
Your Mind Participates in Its Own Healing
Your mind is capable of direct conscious participation in its own healing. It is able to make choices about how to help itself heal. Your mind is very different from other parts of you. Your skin, for example, lacks conscious awareness of itself. When you have a cut in your skin, it heals itself automatically. Without conscious awareness it repairs and regenerates. If you are aware of it, you may help it by cleaning it and compressing it until the blood stops. Skin on its own lacks conscious awareness of itself at least not in a way we can understand.
When your mind is hurt, you usually have direct awareness of it. When you feel sad or frightened or distracted or lost, you feel it. When something is wrong with your mind, you usually know it. Your mind participates in the direct care of itself. As a result, you choose to talk to a friend, a relative or a therapist. You seek comfort and nurturing from an activity or a group or a pet. You seek answers from books or art or religion.
It is a blessing and a curse that your mind, unlike other parts of you, participates in its own healing. On the down side, your mind lacks objectivity about itself. It doesn’t always make the best choices. It can use too much denial. It can run away with unhealthy distractions. It can get stuck in unproductive loops of obsessional rumination. It can exaggerate or underestimate the importance of a situation.
It’s a blessing, though, that your mind can participate in its own healing because it really knows what’s wrong. It gives you necessary information. It can tell before anyone else when you’re on the right track or whether you should stop doing something that is not helping. Your mind is uniquely talented and suited to help you find what will help it.