Monday, March 30, 2009

The Man On The Wrong Railway Line - Therapy Wars UK


The story of the UK mental health service is one in which people with damaged backgrounds have endured poor treatment and little healing over time .. Has it changed ?

Dan (name changed) was a man in his 40's sitting on the railway line waiting for the train to come. He told me in a very quiet voice that he closed his eyes and just waited.
All this was some years ago - Dan is now well past his 60's .
He had come to be sitting in between the lines waiting for his own death because his marriage had broken down and he had some other lasting pains in his life he had not faced .
The railway line where he was sitting was near a set of Children's homes in Birmingham . He had been placed there as a child and had been raped in the Children's homes . So, coupled with his feelings of abandonment he had been seriously defiled and felt too much terror to speak about it. It had haunted him for years and years ..
When his marriage had collapsed he made his way back to the Children's homes - in a kind of trauma-homing-instinct and then after looking at the building where he had been housed as a child who was further defiled he walked through some wasteland to the nearby railway lines .
As he sat between them he finally heard the train. He tensed and kept his eyes closed .
The train went past on the opposite line . He collapsed and cried.
He told me recalling it all : "It was not my time "
His crying had been heard by a man who had been near the railway and that man ran down and picked Dan up in his arms . He took him to the nearby Highcroft Hospital and they "treated him" for depression but his past was not healed .
Dan in his 60's reported to me he was finally able to tell his story post 2005 - to a State mental health services therapist skilled at listening to feelings . Its a rare event in Birmingham for someone like Dan to be able to work through terrible feelings and memories. Too often the mental health services are risk averse around raising people's pain .
Dan's feelings and memories will always hurt him he says but he can live with them better . He had mental health problems all his life because of his pain and the shame and terror of what had happened .
Being in your late 60's is a long time to wait for mourning and tears for a childhood isn't it ?
The "therapy wars" in the UK are between a fundamental reality of being human with an internal narrative that can be properly heard, witnessed and re-owned with mourning, and a desire by the State to use a form of therapy, CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) to help people control their feelings - to allieviate depression .
Should Dan have controlled his feelings ? For years and years ? No .. Dan needed his reality validated and to be helped to be wept out . He is lucky to have found a therapist through the mental health services that wanted to hear him fully . For others it still does not happen . There is even a part CBT culture growing that puts these "past" things aside trying to create "present-mindedness"
Emotionally wounded people deserve time and witness . Nothing needed to be altered in Dan apart from him being received by others and himself fully for his great wounds . Then Dan becomes integrated into his story, and so do we .

Oliver James (UK Psychologist ) champions greater depth than the UK Govt's £173 million CBT work driven push. CBT in the UK was mainly inspired by Govt by so many people claiming "depression" in the UK and claiming benefits . Will it do the job ?
On some perhaps . But in my experience there are still many many Dans and Dianas too .

From Adam James' Psychminded :

March 20, 2009
by Angela Hussain


A second high-profile clinical psychologist has delivered a hard-hitting criticism of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) claiming it is simplistic and “does not work”

Dr Oliver James accused government ministers of being "downright dishonest” when they claimed that new NHS CBT-trained therapists will cure half of 900,00 people of their depression and anxiety.

"“There is not a single scientific study which supports that claim,” says Dr James.

"Being cheap, quick and simplistic, CBT naturally appeals to the government. Yet the fact is, it doesn’t work,” added Dr James.

His attack in a newspaper column follows that of clinical psychologist Dorothy Rowe. Writing for Dr Rowe said CBT was a "Labour quick fix”.


Anonymous said...

About time someone picked up on this.

Of course there are some wonderfully dismissive diagnosis for people that "fail"...

This is something else that needs picking up on....

PatientGuard said...

Yes its true that modern services may want to label tragedy-stored as a form of mental illness - the truth is the cultures we evolve through often cannot be empathically receiving enough .

They cannot reflect the pain of children and thus there is no healing without careful loving reflection of a child's tragedy ..

Later it all comes alive inside adults that have had to warp away from the foundation of their "mis-shape" - their so called "failure" ...

The truth is they were failed to be loved and felt and cared for - it is however a vaster failure that emerges inside our cultures everywhere .

"Self" will always be abandoned if it is not in the company of receiving caring others that help it to be heard and heal ..