Jed Diamond on Individual Psychotherapy
On the future of mental health
Posted March 4, 2016
The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.
Interview with Jed Diamond
JD: For years we’ve been treating men and women as though the only differences had to do with our sexual organs. The field of Gender-Specific Medicine was launched by cardiologist Marianne J. Legato, M.D. in 1997 when she recognized that a gender-neutral approach could be harmful to both men and women.
It was long assumed that heart disease manifested the same in men and women. But Dr. Legato found that men may experience the classic symptoms of chest pain that radiates down the left arm. Women often have symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain. A gender-neutral approach left many women under-diagnosed and under-treated and as a result many women died needlessly.
My own work on depression demonstrated that men and women often have different symptoms, with males often becoming more irritable, angry, and aggressive when they are depressed, while women show the more inward symptoms such as sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness. Looking at health through a gender lens is the first step to a more helpful and personalized approach to healing.
EM: Everybody has the sense that they know something about what ‘going to a shrink’ means. But they may well not know the differences among psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc. You’re a psychotherapist. Can you tell us a little bit about what a psychotherapist does?
JD: Psychotherapy is a practice that many different professional disciplines engage. Psychiatrists are also medical doctors and increasingly offer medication and do less and less actual therapy. For me, the term “psychotherapy” is limiting. It implies that we work with mind and emotions, but excludes the body and pays scant attention to the spirit, soul, and broader environmental issues.
When someone comes to me seeking help I want to learn everything I can about them. I’m interested in their physical, emotional, interpersonal, social, sexual, economic, and spiritual aspects of their well-being. I want to know about their hopes and dreams as well as their stresses, fears, and challenges.
I believe the core of this art and practice has ancient roots that go back to the first humans and the engagement a parent has with their children. Parents and therapists offer unconditional love without needing it to be returned, yet both sides grow in love, understanding, and acceptance.
EM: What do you see as the main differences between effective and ineffective psychotherapy?
JD: Effective psychotherapy works because the therapist continues to grow as a person and as a healer. A good therapist uses their whole being to engage fully with the whole being of the person coming for help. The philosopher Martin Buber captured the essence of a healthy loving relationship. In his book, I and Thou, he tells us that in relation to nature and ourselves, I-It sees us as separated. The other is to be used for our own benefit. I-Thou sees us as involved in a sacred relationship of communion. Others are to be respected and cherished. As Buber says, “Love is responsibility of an I for a Thou.”
EM: Do you subscribe to the “medical model of mental disorders” and do you “diagnose and treat”?
JD: I believe that the medical model misses the essence of what it means to be human and is often more harmful than helpful. It tends to create I-It relationships, rather than I-Thou relationships.
I first encountered the medical model at the age of five when my mid-life father became increasingly depressed when he was unable to find work in his chosen profession. In desperation he took an overdose of pills and was sent to the State Mental Hospital where he was given large doses of psychiatric drugs, as well as a course of electroshock “treatments.” He got worse, not better, and only began to improve when he escaped from the hospital.
This model sees illness as mainly biological with causes in the biochemistry of the brain. A diagnosis is made and treatment follows, usually with powerful medications that have the potential to alter brain functions, many times in negative ways.
A more comprehensive and effective model recognizes that symptoms like anxiety, depression, aggression, alcohol or drug use, are responses to physical and emotional pain that has its roots in traumatic experiences from childhood and later in life. It recognizes that stresses can come from the environment (economic dislocations, global warming, increasing population, and world-wide conflict), from interpersonal stresses in the family and work environment, and from our own perceptions of ourselves and our ability to engage fully in life.
I don’t diagnose and treat. I engage, heal, and love.
EM: If I’m in emotional or mental distress, or if I’m the loved one of someone in emotional or mental distress, how can I tell if psychotherapy is right for me or for my loved one?
JD: The medical model would have us believe that psychotherapy and healing is a specialized craft that can only be engaged in by “licensed experts.” The truth is, we are all psychotherapists and healers. We can all heal ourselves and heal those we love. In his book, Why Therapy Works, Louis Cozolino recognizes the importance of our interpersonal relationships with family and friends as the basis for healing our bodies, minds, and spirits. “Psychotherapy is not a modern invention,” says Cozolino, “but a relationship-based learning environment grounded in the history of our social brains. Thus, the roots of psychotherapy go back to mother-child bonding, attachment to family and friends, and the guidance of wise elders.”
I’ve been a therapist for more than forty years and certainly there is a place for “wise elders” in the healing process. But most people, most of the time, can heal themselves and those they love, with the help of their family, friends, and community.
EM: What other healing and helping methods, tactics or strategies would you recommend that a sufferer try, in addition to psychotherapy?
JD: Anything that helps us know ourselves more deeply, love ourselves more fully, improve our social connections with family and friends, and engage us more completely with the earth, animals, and environment, is a good resource for healing. I’ve also found that techniques and practices of energy medicine offer healings that are often quicker, safer, and more effective than many better known healing practices. I describe my own experiences in my book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well.
Jed Diamond is a leader in the emerging field of Gender-Specific Medicine and Men’s Health. For more than 40 years he has advocated an expanded understanding of physical, emotional, and spiritual health that goes beyond the current medical model. His most recent book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, will be published summer, 2016. He can be reached at www.MenAlive.com
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com
To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health visit here
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