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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems - Part 2

I began discussing this topic in my prior article, Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems - Part 1.  In Part 1, I outlined the problems of taking a "band aid" (also known as a "quick fix") approach to resolving psychological problems.  In that article, I discussed the problems involved in only taking psychotropic medication (instead of also attending psychotherapy) or only attending a few sessions of therapy to vent and feel better momentarily without resolving the underlying issues related to the problem.

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach to Overcoming Psychological Problems

In this article, I'll expand on this topic by giving a composite scenario, which is made up of many different cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

Ted
Ted had a long history of anxiety that began when he was a young child.

He was the oldest of five children in a family who lived from one crisis to the next.  Both parents worked two jobs and so Ted was usually in charge of taking care of his younger siblings.

Ted's anxiety began when he was a child
Ted, who was too young to take care of siblings, often felt overwhelmed.

He never allowed his parents or siblings to see how anxious he was, so he felt alone with his fears and sense of inadequacy.

Fortunately, by the time Ted went away to college, his family's financial situation had improved substantially so his parents no longer needed to each work two jobs, and Ted was free to go away to college.

But even with the improvement in their financial resources, the family was so accustomed to being in crisis that they would often react to common everyday family problems as if there was a crisis.

Both of the parents came from traumatic, crisis-oriented family backgrounds and neither had ever gone for psychological help, so this pattern was deeply ingrained and passed on from one generation to the next (see my article:  Psychotherapy and Transgenerational Trauma).

While Ted was in college, he often received calls from family members who were reacting to everyday problems as if they were crises.  This exacerbated Ted's anxiety to the point where he wasn't sleeping and he had some difficulty concentrating on his schoolwork.

When Ted was in college, he had problems concentrating on his work
After suffering several weeks with insomnia and poor concentration, Ted came home to see his family doctor, who placed him on an anti-anxiety medication called Xanax.

For a period of time after that, Ted took Xanax whenever he felt anxious and it helped him to calm down.  But it didn't help him to overcome the underlying issues that were creating problems for him.

One of those problems was that Ted continued to feel deeply inadequate.  What started as a sense of inadequacy about himself as a child trying to take care of his siblings continued into his adulthood in every area of his life.  And, although the medication helped to take the edge off of his anxiety, it didn't change the way he felt about himself.

Even worse, he began to realize that he needed more and more Xanax in order to function, and he knew that he couldn't go on this way.

Ted's doctor referred him to a psychotherapist

With the help of his doctor, he titrated off Xanax, he accepted the doctor's referral for psychotherapy to a licensed psychotherapist, and he attended a few therapy sessions.

During those sessions, he felt better after talking to the therapist and he also developed a basic understanding of why he felt anxious.

Once he felt some relief, he decided to leave therapy against the therapist's advice, believing that his problems were resolved.  But having a basic understanding about his problems wasn't the same as resolving his problems (see my article:  Healing From the Inside Out: Why Understanding Your Problems Isn't Enough).

In addition, his anxiety returned after the "feel good" feelings wore off.  So, he went to see another therapist, who advised that Ted remain in therapy to work through the underlying issues that were causing Ted's problems  But, once again, after he began feeling better, Ted left therapy (see my article:  When Clients Leave Therapy Prematurely).

After repeating this pattern several times with the same results, Ted felt frustrated and discouraged.  He wondered if, perhaps, therapy didn't work for him.  But he spoke with a close friend, who told Ted how sticking with therapy helped him and Ted realized that his pattern of leaving therapy after a few sessions was the real problem.

Beyond the "Band Aid" Approach:  Getting Help in Therapy

Once Ted accepted this and made a commitment in his next therapy to remain until he worked through the underlying causes of his psychological problems, he was able to work through his problems in therapy with a skilled therapist who was empathetic and supportive.

Getting Help in Therapy
"Band aid" or "quick fix" approaches to overcoming psychological problems rarely work.

Overcoming psychological problems requires a commitment to complete the process beyond "feeling good" temporarily.

If you're struggling with problems that haven't responded to your own efforts or to "quick fix" attempts, you could benefit from the help of a licensed mental health professional who can help you work through your problems beyond just "feeling good."

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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