Here’s something I thought was quite funny when I first saw it, and something else remarkably similar that’s not funny at all. OK, maybe neither of them is funny, or maybe both of them are. I can’t decide.
A couple of weeks ago in Risks I described some fake therapies as ‘overlay’ techniques, (inventing the term myself because I don’t know any other term for them). These techniques involve doing something that overlays your original symptoms or illness, perhaps distracting you from it or addressing it at a very superficial level, without affecting what is really going wrong inside your head.
Nothing to do with the character in The Wire, the bubbles technique is about encapsulating things you don’t like and people you don’t like in imaginary bubbles so you don’t have to deal with them. If you succeed, you end up in a kind of dissociated/delusional state where reality can’t get to you.
Come to think of it, that has quite a lot to do with the character in The Wire, who uses heroin to similar effect.
Anyway, the video made me smile. It seems like harmless fun because it comes from Beyond Blue, “A Spiritual Journey to Mental Health”. Are there people who take this stuff seriously?
Then, in a private discussion amongst therapists, I came across tree therapy.
One therapist described a patient who is helped by going on walks and attending to the leaves and blossom on the trees. Another described a patient who is helped by observing the trees and the sky.
Evidently lacking any flair for business, these two therapists have not yet founded an institute to market tree therapy through a range of books, DVDs and tree-related products. It can only be a matter of time before someone does.
When you choose a psychotherapist, the old principle of caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) still applies. There’s no implied warranty or Sale of Goods Act protecting you from daft therapies that do nothing to address your illness. The NHS is certainly no better in this respect than the private sector, and it might even be worse.
Checking that your CBT therapist is accredited is some help, but not a guarantee. (The two therapists I mentioned above are not accredited at the time of writing, but they might be one day.)
Overlay techniques, where you have to try hard to suppress or sidestep the symptoms of your own illness while the therapist does little or no work, are as varied as therapists’ inventiveness. Look out for them and question them. If your therapist seems incapable of anything else, simply leave. Otherwise you may end up blowing bubbles or gazing at trees while remaining just as ill.