3 Things I Wish Mental Health Professionals Would Stop Doing

Always worth repeating, first of all: not all mental health professionals. Aye. Legend has it that somewhere, a mental health professional capable of helping me (and other people with a similar protest) exists, but I’m yet to see it. And even if I was just unlucky, these problems happen far more often than I consider acceptable. They shouldn’t be a thing, period.

Yes, in case you wonder, I do defend seeking mental health support whenever you need it (just look at my other posts), and definitely BEFORE you even think of relying solely on spirituality/religion/conspiracy theories or whatnot. But at the same time, I must also confess I am not fully happy with the mental health industry. There is not only room, but also URGENCY, for it to improve. Worldwide. So, here’s my piece on that, in open letter format.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

1. You probably study unusual/extreme cases at Uni, but I’m guessing you don’t think it’s ever going to happen in your own sessions, so you ASSUME it’s okay to ignore red flags, or misdiagnose instead of referring, or just generally never admit you were wrong.

I’ve been to therapy since I was 5. Firstly it was paid by my parents, and I didn’t fully understand why I went talk to this person once a week under confidentiality. As it turns out (now I know), my parents were too immature to understand that my toddler tantrums were, well, normal, and every toddler has them. No wonder I never received any diagnosis. I was a usual, neurotypical, healthy kid. Nonetheless, my parents kept insisting I should go, and I wouldn’t have a say in the matter even if I wanted, because I was underage, so I kept going.

Therapy during my early life was “grand”, like we say here in Ireland — it didn’t feel like a groundbreaking thing to me, but it wasn’t bad either. I’d talk to the psychologist about school, hobbies, friends, everyday stuff. Occasionally I’d complain of my mother but didn’t know how to articulate it. I made drawings that intuitively always included either the word “peace” or a white dove. She/he became like a casual friend (yes I consulted many different professionals. No idea why). It became like a routine thing I didn’t mind doing.

I have stories about my abusive mother trying to convince me (I was 13) that the psychologist told her *everything* about my school friends [she actually read and found out in my diary], in an attempt to make me dread going to therapy, but I went and kept enjoying it anyway. Narcissists have a weak spot: they are completely unable to see anything other than themselves. So she didn’t know what my REAL weak spot was, and probably still doesn’t know it. She just assumed I’d be devastated at the thought of “people finding out my secrets” because she herself would have felt that if put in the same situation. She’s fake and her worst fear is that people find out her real self. I am a genuine person and don’t fear people finding out what I’m really thinking, because I don’t have a false self to maintain (No, not even here. I’m anonymous for personal reasons, anyone can find out my identity if they dig and I don’t care). But this is a [somewhat necessary] tangent — click here to read more about my fucked up family.

The moral of the story above is that not one, not two, not three, but four (or more if I’m not mistaken) mental health professionals, with different methodologies, from different places, all glossed over the fact I was clearly being psychologically abused by my own mother as a young child. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, which encompasses a few decades of life and more professionals than I care to count.

I don’t mean to crucify an entire class of working people because they “failed” to realise how to “fix” me. That’s so not the point here. In fact I’m a firm believer that it’s unfair to measure people’s character with basis on their achievements (any dejavu from what you know by “Capitalism” is not a mere coincidence). But whether or not success is achieved, I also think it’s your job to try, and if you give up while the patient still didn’t, I don’t think you deserve your credentials.

What is it with mental health professionals appearing “too proud” to refer a patient to someone else? In my case I could have been referred to a specialist in PTSD (which I do have, recently found out), or domestic abuse, or just emotional trauma in general, in case the original one couldn’t personally help. Do psychologists all secretly hate each other? Do they live under a rock and never meet fellow practitioners? I don’t get it. “Oh but it’s not a hospital, maybe insurance won’t cover the specialist”, some would say. So what? Does it hurt to at the very least make a suggestion to the patient? Or if it’s a child patient, and the [potentially harmful] family is refusing to allow any kind of investigation, well I’m pretty sure most countries have child protection services that could intervene.

Just because parent-child conflicts are commonplace and don’t always reflect abuse, it doesn’t mean a child who clearly has “unexplained” social anxiety (despite having school friends normally), “unexplained” fear of expressing herself fully, “unexplained” worryingly high amounts of self-doubt and fucking full-blown identity crises with suicidal ideation at the age of 10–13 is a “usual case, nothing to see here”. What the actual fuck. God help us all!

Why the fuck is it commonplace to “just keep going” and pretend progress is being made, years upon years upon years, when it’s clearly not? Just cause it isn’t a physical injury bleeding for everyone to see, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Yes mental health is complicated, and sometimes analysis depends on verbal input, but we all know (professionals and lay people alike) that some things go beyond what is being said. A patient who says “oh it’s nothing” doesn’t necessarily mean it, understand it, or even recognise it. It is NOT the patient’s responsibility to “talk straight” or reveal more details. Just like someone who suffered a heart attack can’t say “oh it’s artery №5 probably”. All they can express is symptoms, and symptoms are confusing, and it’s YOUR job to make sense of them. For fuck sake.

Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

2. You abide by the unspoken rule that all patients should be good at introspection, because apparently it’s more important to “sound polite” during sessions than actually go into trial and error if the patient’s input is insufficient.

Would you blame me if I said that I wish the mental health industry was more similar to the physical health industry? Let’s imagine you went to the doctor and complained of chest pain. There can be a number of causes, aye? You don’t know for sure — the doctor, as a professional, has a better idea. You’ll take an x-ray, MRI, cardio exams, maybe angiography, sometimes all in the same week. Can you imagine that? It makes sense, doesn’t it? It sounds reasonable, because it’s standard procedure.

If the hospital above worked like the mental health industry currently does, things would get a lot funnier: the hypothetical doctor, instead of prescribing the series of tests I mentioned, would think of a number of ways to go roundabouts, beating around the bush, so that YOU will ask for the specific test you think it’s okay to go through. And if you don’t know the name of the tests, or never heard them before, well fuck you. Never mind that maybe you’ll end up asking for an x-ray of your lungs because that’s where you think the problem is at, when maybe in fact you should be talking to a cardiologist. Oh but the pulmonologist looking at you is too proud to risk losing a patient, so he enables your confusion. And when you finally realise your issue is cardiology, and go talk to the correct specialist, perhaps he, too, will be reluctant to say which test you should go for. “Oh, I don’t want to offend this patient by saying his arteries could potentially be too weak”, he thinks. “I’d rather wait until he realises it by himself, so I won’t be liable for suggesting it”.

Doesn’t the scenario above sound totally bonkers? To me it does. Maybe if you work at a hospital, it’s even more surreal. Imagine if that happened in real life!

Although there are natural differences in approach between old-fashioned medicine and mental health, come on, let’s also admit there are commonalities. The metaphors I used are perfectly reasonable to get my point across, albeit probably shocking.

There are people who either study Medicine or somehow have some of the technical knowledge about how the human bodies work, and they eventually fall ill, and are able to hold a technical conversation with a doctor at the hospital, full of specifics most people wouldn’t even think about. The same way, there are people who have a special talent for introspection, can identify and label every slight change in their mood accurately, are able to intuitively infer what might be behind theirs or other people’s reactions to specific situations, trace logical patterns from this inferred subtext, and are just generally good at “helping the psychologist help them”.

At the same time, in both scenarios, there are people who can’t. They, too, are valid. They, too, deserve the same amount of attention and investment from a professional. I don’t see doctors giving their patients who study Medicine an easier time than the patients who don’t or can’t. Why does the industry of mental health have to be any different, and not only let but also encourage professionals to invariably further torture a patient with an unnecessary amount of doubt and anguish about the treatment, unless they have a very specific kind of personality? How is that fair? How is that even LEGAL?

“Oh we can’t suggest possible diagnoses before the final diagnosis, that’s unethical because you must be tactful” — First of all, no, that’s wrong. Unethical doesn’t mean what you think it means. The word you need is “impolite”. And yes, just like an immature patient can think a psychologist is “impolite” by uttering perfectly valid technical words like “narcissism” or “ADHD traits”, an immature patient will probably also take offense at a doctor who diagnoses them with cancer. Because cancer is a strong word, isn’t it? Talk to any survivor. REGARDLESS, some nuggets of “impoliteness” are necessary. An entire industry shouldn’t be ruled by the opinions of a few immature people that could potentially take offense at difficult truths.

You think I went too far with my judgement above? Then perhaps revisit the story of psychology and psychiatry. Go as far back as lobotomies. They were also widely accepted procedures at the time, nobody thought much of them. You see, I’m not saying the mental health industry is “evil”. It just makes mistakes. Currently, it has improved a ton since the 1950s, which is great. Currently, people with a strong feminine intuition (I don’t mean “women” per se, I said intuition — click for an explanation) are the only ones who actually take anything productive from therapy sessions. That means more study is needed on people who have a hard time with introspection, so that mental health services can also cater for them in the future.

Photo by Dani Costelo on Unsplash

3. You judge people who bypass their mental health issues with religion and/or spirituality, but you forget to wonder WHY

Well, obviously, there is more than one reason why people do that. Maybe some of them simply don’t have enough money or insurance, or enough public services near them, to invest in mental health treatment. I know it happens worldwide, I just don’t have the exact figures. Solving this problem is beyond any therapist’s power.

There might be a number of other reasons which also would be unfair to blame on mental health professionals, like for example cult leaders’ appeal and charisma. I do realise that.

I’m also not saying it’s “bad” to have a religion or believe in something. It’d be hypocritical of me. I’m just talking about people who think religion can handle 100% of their development. Have you ever wondered why?

No, don’t come with essentialist excuses. Please don’t imply there are people who are naturally naive or prone to being fooled or any of that shite. The genetic research on that topic is insufficient, so please don’t use “people’s nature” or “DNA” as an excuse for your laziness. You made your bed by signing up for a career in mental health, now lie on it and admit that acknowledging environmental influences on people’s psyche is part of the package. You could have gone for any other career in case this task was indeed too complicated or beyond your level of patience, aye? So let’s own the responsibility where it’s due and drop that arrogance which I keep seeing again and again.

The fact — love it or hate it — is that spirit workers like me often meet people who are actually in need of mental health support, not only spiritual help. I’ve already confronted those people in a previous article in case you’re interested. Now I’m talking to you, mental health professionals.

I am not sure the reason why this phenomenon happens, and I won’t pretend to know. I’m just telling you it’s your responsibility to pay attention to it, and keep asking yourself questions.

What I do have are speculations, but take them with a grain of salt:

  1. It could be that some people (me included) take better conclusions from things like tarot and astrology readings way more than therapy, not because it’s necessarily “comfortable” (you should see the last vedic astrologer I consulted who called me “rude” and “competitive” because of specific placements he saw — accurately, I must add). We just feel a greater sense of accomplishment in the spiritual community, and it doesn’t even depend on accuracy in the readings. All the psychic is doing, often times, is actually hearing us out, actually offering a third-party perspective, without fear of offending us with bluntness. Some people need that. Not everyone does well in therapy, because all therapists without exception seem to think the only “ethical” thing is to walk on eggshells. I ain’t got no patience for that. Dare I say, if the psychics I know start independently reading and studying psychology books, they’ll be able to help me quicker, better, and more painlessly than real psychologists currently do. Am I suggesting that? No. I’m just trying to show you the extent of the problem.
  2. Believe it or not, modern witches and sorcerers and shamans aren’t afraid of making mistakes and admitting those mistakes. Ya know, just like doctors do when they tell horror stories from the ER or similar stuff. When was the last time a mental health professional did that? Humility in this area of knowledge is rare as a unicorn.
  3. Religion and/or magic helps you cope, gives you a light at the end of the tunnel to hold on to even if it’s sometimes wrong or fake. Something every teenage spiritual practitioner with store-bought crystals knows, but somehow grown-up people with a full degree in psychology fail to grasp, is the fact we need breaks in between the challenges. And these breaks should be filled with beautiful things that make us feel good and cosy. Some people enjoy dwelling on past worries and dramas and sob stories, constantly, which is why they “really enjoy” therapy the way it is today. But that’s just one specific kind of person, with a specific personality and story, not the entire population of planet Earth — probably not even the majority. There are people who need a “little push” towards positivity and hope too, not just constant pokes at their wound. Religion offers that, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem is (and I’m in this very same crossroads now) those who wish they could also rely on something more scientific than religion… like therapy… but can’t, because they (we!) know it is bound to be a lot of suffering for a very small payoff.

The final takeaway from this saga is that the mental health industry and area of knowledge is a work in progress — just like any other industry/area of knowledge. A lot of the current problems identifiable in it stem from things like arrogance, conformity, ignorance of different styles of thinking, and just general unwillingness to realise that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. Maybe if you dig a bit deeper… Freud explains?

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Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron Nic Cruithne

222 Followers

Psychic and spirit worker based in Ireland, friend of the Picts. I don't read minds. I don't change minds. I don't sugarcoat. Take my message or leave it.