Category Archives: therapy

Therapy Journey: Assessment

This blog post is the next in my series detailing my experience of therapy. For other posts in the series go here.

Following on from attending the Psychology Awareness Programme, I was offered an assessment with a psychologist. This was a one to one session to assess my suitability for therapy and what might be an appropriate talking therapy.

Before the assessment started I was asked to complete a set of questionnaires. These questionnaires asked about all aspects of my life and how they are effected by my illnesses. It included a questionnaire that looked at the symptoms of anxiety and how much they had effected me in the last two weeks. 

After filling in the questionnaires I was taken into a room with the psychologist. The assessment started with her explaining about confidentiality and what would be done with the information I provided her with. This included that what I said would be confidential within the team but would be discussed by the team as a whole. It also meant if I planned to act on suicidal thoughts she would need to discuss this with my mental health team. 

In the next part of the assessment we discussed whether I was having any suicidal thoughts and whether I was safe. I explained that I was having suicidal thoughts but had no plans to act on them. This led to her reiterating what I needed to do if things changed.

Following on, the next part of the assessment was to go over what I thought my main problems were and what my goals for therapy were. We then moved on to discuss my past. The psychologist asked me lots of questions about my background, including my childhood, schooling and home life. This went into a lot of detail and was difficult at times. 

In all we spent just over an hour discussing my past and issues. As we came to the end of the session, the psychologist checked what I planned to do after the session and thanked me for being so brave. She then told me she would discuss my case with the team but had some thoughts on what group would help me. She told me she would be in touch in a couple of weeks. 

After the assessment I went home and looked after myself by watching a film I like and I also talked to a couple of friends as I was struggling with some of the things that came up in the assessment. 

It took more than a couple of weeks to hear back but I eventually did via my care coordinator and found out I’d been accepted for group therapy. I was told I’d be contacted via letter when the next group began. It led to me feeling apprehensive about starting, especially as it was a group. At the time it was decided I would do a distress tolerance group though this was later changed.  

Therapy Journey: Psychology Awareness Programme 

This blog post is part of a series detailing my therapy journey. For other blog posts in the series look here

As part of my therapy referral I was required to take part in a psychology awareness programme before I would be offered an assessment for therapy. This programme took the form of three, one hour sessions over three weeks. Each week focussed on something different. Below I will look at what each week entailed.

Week 1

Week 1 was called “An Introduction to Psychology”. We started off by looking at our expectations of psychology and what we knew about psychology. We then moved on to what a clinical or counselling psychologist is and how they differ from a psychiatrist. The main thing we learnt here is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who prescribed medication, while a psychologist is a psychology graduate who offers talking therapy. We learnt how a psychologist fits into the team of professionals looking after us. 

The next thing we learnt about was what the assessment process involves and what we can expect from it. This included details of who does the assessment and what happens during it. We also learnt what happens after the assessment, including what happens if we are not offered therapy. 

We also learnt about what therapy would be like and the role of ourselves and the psychologist. Therapy is about working together as a team to make improvements. The final thing we looked at was confidentiality and when this may be broken.

Week 2

Week 2, the focus was on self care and different forms it can take, as well as useful tips. We started by looking at physical health, and the impact it can have on our mental health, and how we can look after our physical health. This led on to us looking at eating well and exercise. We discussed the benefits of exercise as well as how to overcome barriers to exercise. We also looked at how recreational drugs can have an effect on both our physical and mental health. 

We then moved on to look at sleep and relaxation. We looked at good sleep hygiene and how routine can help. With relaxation we discussed why it is important and different ways to relax. This included looking at a breathing exercise. At the end of this week we were given a pack full of useful resources to help with self care. This included more information on sleep hygiene and useful organisations. 

Week 3

Week 3 was all about motivation and goal setting. We started off by looking at the cycle of change which has 6 stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse. We talked about where we might be in the cycle of change. We then moved on to look at the pros and cons of starting therapy versus the pros and cons of starting the same. 

After this we started to look at goal setting and how to make SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, meaningful, achieveable, realistic and timely. We looked at the importance of these areas and had a go at making a SMART goal.We then filled out some questionnaires before being offered a date for an assessment. 

Overall the psychology awareness programme was informative and I can see how useful it would be if you have never had any form of therapy before. It also offered a chance to have any questions about therapy answered. I think it was a positive experience and would recommend it to anyone who is offered a chance to attend one before starting therapy.

If you have any questions or experience feel free to use the comments or Facebook or Twitter.

Therapy Journey: An Introduction

This is the first post in what I hope will be a series. I have decided to document my journey with therapy. I wanted to record each stage of my therapy journey, not only to inform others, but also as a memory aid for myself.

I have currently been waiting for this most recent therapy referral for nearly two years. I have already had to go through a few different stages that I will put into their own blog posts.

In order to get this current therapy referral I had to convince my psychiatrist that it was necessary. I have also gone through an assessment for one type of talking therapy with a different service where I was refused treatment due to the complexity of my illness. This meant I had to go back and be referred again to another different service.

In these blogs I hope to share my thoughts about each session, or step along the journey, as well as what I find helpful and unhelpful. I hope to share strategies and activities. I will not be sharing personal information or details of my past as I feel that would be counterproductive for me and won’t aid me in getting what I need from treatment. These posts may not be weekly as I may group sessions together. It will just depend on how therapy goes for me. 

If you have any questions feel free to use the comments, Facebook or Twitter and I will try to answer honestly. 

Reflecting on 2017

Its that time of year where everyone is reflecting on how great 2017 is. So I thought I would do my own refection on 2017. Please be trigger aware when reading.

The start of this year was not great. It started with an appointment where I was referred to the crisis team. This didn’t go well. They told me that my problem wasn’t the voice telling me to die but the fact I was shy. I felt let down as I was discharged from them without help. I was still suicidal and I began self harming again.

In February I managed to arrange an emergency psychiatrist appointment. This turned out to be a good move in some respects. I was referred again to the crisis team who, although they decided they weren’t the right team to help me, were more useful. They decided that I needed to have weekly support and I was assigned a care coordinator. I met my first care coordinator and was introduced to my support worker as well.

Things were still difficult but I now had someone to talk to on a weekly basis. They were able to follow things up with psychiatrists and other members of the community mental health team. This included chasing up a referral for therapy. In July I attended a psychology awareness programme. This was the first step towards getting therapy and something I have planned to write a more detailed blog post on in the future.

In July I also started blogging weekly. I decided I wanted a more regular blog schedule. My blog also turned four. I took more pride in my blog and found it a useful outlet.

At the beginning of August I attended an assessment for therapy with a psychologist. This was incredibly difficult. It took a lot out of me and my mood began to dip again after being slightly better for a few weeks. The assessment resulted in me being put on the waiting list for a group therapy. Again this is something I have planned to write about in more detail in another blog post.

I continued to see my support worker and care coordinator weekly with the occasional psychiatrist appointment thrown in but my mood continued to sink. Until I got to the point where I am now. I’m currently struggling to look to the future. I’m quite suicidal again and I feel in a worse place than where I started the year. I’ve been asking for help from all the professionals involved in my care.

So what about 2018? I don’t know what it holds. I’m due to start therapy. Hopefully things will improve. I’m not going to set any goals as I find them difficult to keep to and they stress me out. I hope though to keep reaching out to people on the blog and on Twitter. I hope you will continue to read. Thank you for sticking with me this far. I’m grateful to every one of you.

Medication matters

Medication is probably a major part in many people’s management of their mental illness (I say probably as I was unable to find any clear statistics about the number of people on medication). It is in mine.

One of my medications is currently being reduced in order to try something new. Another new medication. I’ve tried many over the years, as I’m sure others do to. The problem I have is whether maybe our doctors are too ‘pill happy’ and whether they are overlooking other treatments in their quest to cure us.

Now let me be clear, I don’t think that medication is totally redundant in our treatment at all, quite the opposite really. I feel that medication shouldn’t be our only treatment. Medication, as part of a plan with other forms of treatment as well, I believe is very important. I do however also believe that it is our right to question the medications we take and ask for them to be changed if we feel there are effects from the medications that we are unhappy with.

I feel this is the right time to say also that no changes to your medication should be made without speaking to a doctor or professional first. We are not pharmacists on the whole and therefore this can be dangerous.

Now back to the point at hand, asking for changes to our medications and/or using medication in conjunction with other treatment options. Medication is one of many different treatments. There are many people who believe that medication alone cannot cure or aid recovery. This, as well as some of the major side effects caused by psychiatric medication, is a reason to look further afield for possible ways to ease your symptoms of mental illness.

A list of other possible therapies that could be of use either alongside or instead of drug therapy is exhaustive, but includes such things as mindfulness, access to talking therapies as well as possible alternative therapies. No one should be afraid to ask their medical professionals about these alternatives and no one should be discouraged from trying anything that could possibly benefit them, if it is safe for them to do so.

Often we are told or made to feel that medication is the only treatment available to us but this is simply not true. More often the problem is a lack of funding in our particular primary care trusts for certain therapies. This can be a real problem but does not mean we should suffer with medication as our only life line.

By asking for other alternatives we are taking control of our own recovery. This is important as we also need to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies and the effects it will have on us not only while taking it but also as we try to come off of it.

My personal experience of medication has been a bumpy ride. After trying numerous anti depressants, some of which only made my symptoms worse, I ended up on my current medication. This medication, Venlafaxine, has some awful side effects, especially if you are trying to come off of it or even if you miss a dose. I was never told how this medication, or to be more specific it’s withdrawal, would effect me. It was a nasty surprise when I missed a dose and ended up feeling physically unwell as a result. This led to a lengthy battle to persuade my psychiatrist to allow me to come off it. It also involved me having a battle to get other possible therapies that could help.

I was lucky. I had a very good friend to be my advocate. Without her I would probably still be on my high dosage of this drug and would never of gained access to the talking therapy that I ended up receiving. Instead I’m now nearly weaned from this drug and had a 16 week course of therapy with an offer of more in the future.

So here is my main message. Ask about your treatment options, or find an advocate who can for you. Medication may not be the only way to treat your illness and it is important you know all the weapons that are at your disposal. Again, medication may be an aid in your treatment, but it may also need something more to help in the battle.

For more information on different treatment options check out the links in the Useful Websites post. These sites have details on other possible treatments.