Mental Health vs. Mental Illness

We hear so much about Mental Illness on a regular basis. That is one of those terms that is frequently thrown around. Actually, I don’t care for the term at all. Who wants to be told they have a Mental Illness? I doubt many do.

I come from the perspective of Mental Health. Instead of concentrating on illness or problems, I help my clients focus on the positives. Just think, if a therapist focuses on the symptoms of Mental Illness, most of the time and energy is spent discussing the problem, which is demotivating.

When the focus is on Mental Health, the time and energy is spent on being healthy. Everyone has good things about their Mental Health. I want to help my clients to build on what they already have.

If you look at the term Mental Illness, it implies that there is a biological basis, which is causing a mental problem. Although some people do have a biological basis for their problems, well over half of my clients do not have any biologically based problems. Anyone’s Mental Health can suffer due to problems with family, work, friends, and other stressors. Therefore, I stay away from the Mental Illness perspective as much as possible and focusing on helping the client improve Mental Health.

Yearly Mental Health Checkup

You are supposed to get a yearly physical, right? What about a yearly mental? 🙂 How many people check their mental health on a yearly basis–even if there does not seem to be a problem? Few people actually do this. However, I can think of at least one of my friends that does something like this.

Why go for a mental health exam if you do not need it? There are so many people that have stress creep up on them without seeing it. This is a great way to use the help of a professional to see if stress is becoming an issue. Also, it is a great time to look at what successes you have had the past year and what you need to accomplish.

Once you start a dialogue with a mental health professional, you will likely be surprised at the successes you have had and also those challenges that may benefit from a bit of consultation.

Marriage Counseling

People often come to me for marriage counseling. Actually, I prefer to call it couples counseling because I see all types of couples- many who do not fit into that marriage category.

I come from the perspective that both people in the relationship have some responsibility for the good things in the relationship, as well as the bad stuff. Often I get a partner in the relationship or marriage who states that it is all the other person’s fault. As we talk more, it becomes more and more apparent to both people that there is responsibility on each side.

In a typical marriage counseling or couples therapy session, I help the pair find their strengths in the relationship, as well as what they need to work on. Often, there is a focus on communication skills. Once the communication improves, the rest of of the relationship often follows. I also help to facilitate communication between the couple. Maybe there is a topic that is so touchy that it cannot be discussed without a huge fight. I can help by acting as the moderator. We’ll all handle it in a therapeutic way.

I offer extended sessions for marriage counseling and couples therapy. Often, the standard 45 minutes session is not enough. I have the option of a two hour session to help you get down to business.

Marriage Counseling as a Last Resort?

I see a lot of couples in my office who are striving to better their relationships and, often, save their relationships. The disturbing trend I see is couples therapy or marriage counseling being used as a last resort.

Many couples will tell me that they have tried psychiatric medication (often antidepressants) and different forms of arguing, as well as separations, threats of lawsuits, and who knows what else. Of course…this is all before trying couples therapy.

The problem I see is that many couples do not look for finding ways to better their communication, appreciate one another, or develop ways to settle differences. Instead, they are often caught up on who is right or how to get revenge. When all else has failed and they are on the brink of ending it forever, the couple calls me.

Marriage counseling and couples therapy works best when it is one of the first resorts–not last. When therapy is the last resort, there is an incredible amount of pressure put on each partner, as well as me! It is much more difficult for therapy to help a couple reverse years of bad habits, compared to helping the couple address these issues early on.

I urge couples to think about therapy as the second resort, instead of the last one on the list. If you have waited to use therapy as a last resort, there is plenty of hope. However, it will be more difficult and probably require more sessions compared to that couple who used therapy early on.

Many people view couples counseling as too expensive. However, I can assure you that your visit with me will be just a very small fraction of the cost of a divorce…and think about the heartache you may save.

Couples Therapy as a First Resort

Couples often hurt…they have arguments that seem to last forever…maybe each argument reverts back to those old hurts that occurred months or even years ago. Many couples can relate to these arguments that never end and never resolve anything. Actually, these types of arguments usually just make the couple grow further and further apart.

Should you only change the oil in your car when the engine is about to lock up? Should you only go to the dentist when you fear you are about to get dentures? Why is it that couples often wait until they are on the brink of divorce to come to couples counseling? Don’t get me wrong, its great that there are many couples out there seeking help. It makes life so much harder on the couple (as well as the therapist) when the couple wants to address years of arguing and fighting in just a few sessions.

Couples really need to think about entering counseling as more of a preventative measure or “tune up,” instead of using it as a last resort. The cost of couples therapy is not cheap and it continues to get more and more expensive when it is used as the very last resort. My motivation to write this article is to help couples save time, money, and most importantly, heartache. Actually, if couples came to therapy sooner, I would have less business because visits would be much shorter, but my job would be much easier! 🙂