I've had a few new clients start over the past week or so who are not looking to work on a crisis or a loss. They don't have addictions or trauma to process. There's no break-up to get over, and no abuse to recover from. Instead, they have approached me for therapy for a mental health check-up. They want to talk about a few things that have been going on for them, the state of their lives as they are today and to understand more about themselves. They want to be living their best lives and acknowledge that there is more to that than a gym membership and an Instagram full of carefully curated nights out.
It was all I could do not to applaud these people as they sat in my office.
I'm a huge believer in the benefits of counselling and focus on mental health. I can say that with conviction because I know that it helped me to work through some things which I might never have alone. I could have spent a lifetime trying to understand where I came from and why I do the things that I do. I like to think that I have expedited that process after spending more than four years reflecting on myself and my thought processes, and the feelings associated with them. But enough about me, back to my clients...
We are looking at these sessions as a "Mental Health MOT" if-you-will. We'll do some reflection on childhood to understand where they come from - the dynamic of their family-of-origin. We'll look at how things are in the now, and notice any threads which come up recurringly. We'll look at how we respond to stressors and the way that we relate to others. Attachment and existentialism will be key theoretical concepts in this task.
The goal of this kind of work is not to unravel a person's psyche. That is not what counselling is for. This kind of counselling - or "going to the mind-gym" as one of my clients described it - is to allow for reflection, understanding, building resilience and checking in with our anxieties. Sometimes it can be enough to tell a person who is totally unconnected to us, and whom we do not have to fear the judgement of, our darkest fears. Sometimes our secrets. That unburdening is sometimes all people come in for. A clinical confessional per se.
I'm considering putting together a package for the Mental-Health-MOT so that we can look at it as something we do semi-regularly - maybe every year or two - so that we can be sure that our mental health is in as good a place as possible, and if it isn't, that we catch issues as they form before they could manifest in addiction, anxiety, depression and relationship breakdown.
What do you think? Is it something that you might consider? Let me know in the comments.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.