Imagine you want to go on a long trek in an environment you are not familiar with. You could take the journey on your own but there is a greater possibility of getting lost, not finding help if you get injured, and generally taking longer to get from point A to point B. It would therefore make sense to hire a guide to support you to keep on track to your final destination, someone who can give you guidance when you are unsure of how to tackle a tricky path, someone who is there to help you set up the tent quickly before a thunderstorm, someone there to help you pick up the items that the wind scattered across the field. On this journey, your guide might also recommend that you make use of a walking stick to be able to be more stable on uneven ground, or to support your balance. Similarly, you might consider taking a jacket with you to wear when it starts to rain and there is limited shelter. This walking stick and jacket are not necessarily obligatory but are there to support you to reach your goal.
In this metaphor, the therapist is your guide supporting you on your journey, and the walking stick and jacket are the psychiatric medication.
In the therapy room, I often come across clients who would like to be able to reach their goals but insist that they do not want to consider the possibility of going to a psychiatrist. This is often based on a combination of misconceptions relating to medication and the unfortunate taboo that still hangs over mental difficulties. In this blog, as well as the next blog “Myths about psychiatric medication” I will be diving into some of these misconceptions and myths surrounding medication.
“This is a problem I should be able to tackle on my own.”
We live in a very individualistic world where one is expected to be able to deal with their own problems discreetly and as quickly as possible. While in some cases, this is possible, one should also consider the possibility that having support can improve the situation faster and perhaps even more efficiently. Think back to the metaphor, putting a jacket on means you will be less likely to get ill or severely uncomfortable on your journey. If you don’t wear it, you could get sick or soaking wet, resulting in you feeling more miserable and possibly not reaching the end of your goals. Psychiatric medication is like the jacket you put on on your journey.
“Seeing a psychiatrist means I am weak.”
Seeking therapy is often a very big step for clients. It’s not always easy to realise that things are not going as we would like them to go and then taking the additional step of opening up about this to a stranger. The act of going to therapy, of seeking that guide to go on that journey towards healing, is already a brave first step. Rather than pointing towards failure to do it on your own, it shows your ability to identify what is not going well, or where there is a possibility of improvement, finding the right guide to support you to get where you want to go, and being willing to take this journey together and taking the first step. In my eyes, this is proof of bravery and a willingness to improve. Similarly, seeking a psychiatrist to evaluate whether you need medications can be a further support on this journey. A psychiatrist will then guide you on whether you need to wear a jacket, and if so, if you wear it for a part of your journey, or whether it would be better to wear the jacket for the rest of the journey.
At the end of the day, your therapist is not in a position to force you to visit a psychiatrist or take your medication. These decisions will lie with yourself in the end. Regardless of the decision you take, the therapist will continue to guide you on your journey with the hope of reaching your goal together.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Roubal, J., & Krivkova, E. (2013) Combination of Gestalt Therapy and Psychiatric Medication. In Francesetti, G., Gecele, M., & Roubal, J. (2013). Gestalt Therapy in Clinical Practical: From psychopathology to the aesthetics of contact (pp. 161-183). Italy: FrancoAngeli s.r.l.