It’s About Time!

Finally, MTAS Psychology has published its first blog!  I’m Jamie Barsky.  I run MTAS Psychology, an independent psychology service specialising in psychotherapy and expert witness services.  I’ll be updating our blog with items relating to mental health, self-help and medico legal work.  I tweet fairly regularly on all of these issues, and you can follow me at @jamiebarsky.

So, our first blog.  I’ve been procrastinating over this blog for several months. So much so that I thought a piece on ‘overcoming procrastination’ might be a good introductory article, until another blog beat me to it!  That’s bad isn’t it?  Procrastinating to such an extent that I couldn’t even exploit my procrastination because other procrastinators got there first?!

I decided then to blog a little about what I do in my role as Clinical Psychologist and how some of what I have learnt about staying emotionally healthy can be distilled and used by anyone and everyone to live a more harmonious and enriched life.

Over the past 8 years I have worked with children, adolescents, families and adults, all of whom have been struggling with the anguish of mental distress, and with whom I have learnt a great deal about what it means to be a human being; not just our vulnerabilities and the challenges we face, but also our personal resources and the opportunities we can make for ourselves.

Of course, mental distress is not limited to people accessing mental health services.  It is a universal human experience.  I challenge even the most robust of us to deny struggling from time to time with low mood, anxiety, worry, self-doubt, anger, confidence, conflict, parenting, being parented, relationships….the list goes on and on!!  These experiences make us human, and all, in their own way have an important role to play in everyday life.  If we didn’t get anxious, how would we motivate ourselves to prepare for challenges?  If we didn’t feel anger, how would we know when things were happening that were not in our best interest?  If we didn’t have self-doubt, how would we reflect on our own behaviour and make changes to get the most out of a situation?

Problems occur when these normal (and very important) emotions start to get the better of us – when they make us feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.   Why does this happen?  There can be many reasons.  Normally our current situation, our environment, has a lot to answer for.  Work, money, romance, family, friends, kids – the very same things that make the world go round can sometimes make us feel that our own world is falling apart.

How we interpret and make sense of these problems when they do occur is another important contributor to our distress levels.  Imagine sitting in a café and noticing a table of people looking over in your direction.  Why are they looking?  Do you look strange and standout?  Do they like your jacket?  Do they think they recognise you?  Are they looking past you at the table behind?  Are they planning an ambush?  The interpretation you make will influence how you instantly feel and then what you do next to cope with those feeling.  Our interpretations are the missing link between event and action, trigger and response, and are often an important focus of the work I do with clients young and old.  Why we may have personal tendencies to interpret things in a specific way may be down to lots of different factors, including childhood experiences and genetics.  Becoming aware of how, why and when we do this, and then going out of our way to try out different ways of interpreting and responding to situations is the bedrock of therapeutic change.

How we cope with difficult feelings and situations will also impact on our levels of mental distress.  The skills we have to manage emotions, tolerate distress and communicate with others are central; not only for coping with things when they go wrong, but making it less likely they will go wrong in the first place.  Fortunately, as you will see over the course of our blogs (providing I keep my procrastination in check), these skills can all be learnt.  Self help isn’t the be all and end all; for some people it simply isn’t sufficient as its lack the foundation of a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist within which to explore and challenge.  Nevertheless, it can be valuable and informative.  Some of the MTAS Psychology blogs will be self-help orientated, in which I am going to use my understanding of psychological theory to tackle some of the most common forms of mental distress.  I will give tips and advice on how to avoid and cope with the challenges that we all can face.

And on that cliff hanger I’ll say farewell.  Thanks for reading.  We will be back soon.

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