[The essay below was submitted to Harmonia Philosophica in the context of the “What is Existence?” call for philosophical essays] Photo by Spiros Kakos from Pexels (source) What is Existence? Feeling is largely unknown. Some are even heard to say that feeling is not emotion. I have often wondered if there is an affect called…
— Read on harmoniaphilosophica.com/2022/05/14/lance-ah-kair-2022-what-is-existence/
I have been a counselor now for some short sliver of time approaching a year. I am a counselor, but I also say I am a therapist, I also qualify as a clinician, but as well a psychotherapist.
The name I use to reference what I do or what my clients might be involved with depends on what falls out of my mouth, really. I’m comfortable with most of the names.
I am a counselor in as much as literally I am counseling people, I am moving them through their conceptual space as it is encountered with problems or issues that they’re having trouble with. I’m not really an advisor, even though people like to think that counseling has something to do with advising people. I’d say that a very very small percentage of my activity is actually overtly advising people about what they should do, but there are moments.
Wading in a little deeper, The Internet has that the definition of therapy as concerning that which is “intended to relieve or heal a disorder”.
I would say that at least half of my clients are coming to me as a counselor with a certain mind upon that there is something wrong with them, and many of them will specifically reference some sort of disorder, asking me about what disorder they have, or otherwise telling me what disorder they have and why they’re coming to treatment for it. ￼
It is as I get into the “treatment” part of therapy, I began to get a little bit concerned for the client because, anymore, people seem to automatically reference any particular condition that they feel is wrong as having something to do with a “mental disorder”, a “chemical imbalance”. I can’t help but wondering if the reason that they think this way is because, in a way, they’ve been sold a bill of goods.
For sure, I am offering them therapy in as much as they feel that there’s something wrong with them. The issue that I’m pointing out is, as a counselor, in trying to help them is that I don’t believe that anything is wrong with them: I believe that they feel there is something wrong with them. It is a fundamental discrepancy, which could be attributed to a kind of education as opposed to the layman, that gets me into the theoretical waters of what we’re dealing with for mental health. As a counselor, I come across the problem of the problem itself.
The Problem of the Problem
Most people would like to think that the mind is located in the brain and so if there’s a problem it must be somewhat similar to a physical problem. For example, if I break my leg, we “diagnose“ exactly what the problem is, for example a bone broken in a particular fashion, come up with a solution to the problem, that is, we have to set the bone back together in a certain way, maybe put some screws in there, maybe wrap it up for a little while, give them some anti-inflammatories, maybe some pain medication, and a good dose of time, and they’ll be good to go.
The mind is not this way. It does not operate this way, but more importantly, it doesn’t have a structure similar to the physical body. Oddly enough, no one can really figure out what the correlation is between a disorder, Nuro chemistry, and the psych meds that they’re taking. It’s just kind of a wild guess, as anyone who’s taking psych meds will admit. The process they go through is often excruciatingly difficult, because no one really knows whether the med that that Psychiatrist is giving you is actually going to work until like four weeks, six weeks, maybe even months later. And then after suffering for another few months realizing that the meds aren’t the one that are working, then having the Psychiatrist. needing to prescribe you some other sort of medication.
Yet, there are many counselors which have no problem with doing psychotherapy and administering to the psychological problems that people have, and really do not think very much into whether or not something is actually wrong with the person. Indeed many people believe that something is actually wrong with the person that is coming in for a mental health counseling. And indeed they do help people.
This is the point of contention everywhere. On one hand, there is a sector of society that believes there are such thing as mental illnesses, and we find them everywhere, and people that go to therapy must have some sort of mental disorder. Indeed, in America, if we are taking insurance we are obligated to give that person a diagnosis. Yet on the other hand when we delve into what the diagnoses or the disorder is actually indicating, we find a mess. Not a mess in the person, but a mess in what the hell we’re talking about.
The Psychological Mess
This is why psychology and psychologists do not really want to look too closely at the epistemology that they support. For the simple reason that once we wade into that quicksand, we find that the very ideas and supposed diagnoses and illnesses that they’re pointing out really have no substance: They’re merely indicating an arena of debate. They aren’t really talking about the person in front of me, they’re talking about a body of theory by which psychology supports itself as a scientific career, really.
For those who are suffering from mental issues, it may seem or sound a little disconcerting to hear about a clinician who is questioning what everyone seems to know so well as a convention. However, I feel that due to the situation that actually arises for mental health, it is better for most clients if they understand what they are actually dealing with, as opposed to believing in fantasies that are promoted by institutions.
Yeah: this is to say that it depends upon how much one believes in what they’re being told as to whether or not any particular approach to mental health will be effective, but this belief has nothing to do with what you’re deciding to believe or what you consciously believe. It has more to do with how you are oriented upon things.
There is a gray area in mental health, and it’s not the Brain; it is an ambiguity routinely solved by resorting to this thing called a psyche. I am not sure that this institutional resort is actually serving the people we are trying to help.
Everywhere, whether you are an actual clinician or practitioner of mental health, or whether you are just somebody living their life, everywhere people reference the psyche and the ego. And most of the time, no matter what they’re doing, most people reference these words and have no idea what they’re talking about. They like to think they’re talking about some thing like a rock, or a planet, or even a molecule. ￼
Similarly, people like to think that the psyche and the ego are things that actually have something to do with the brain. It’s really hear that we noticed the power of ideological promotion; it really is no different than someone who feels that they have a soul or a spirit that’s going to be saved by Jesus Christ and Christianity, or receive a universe for proper living say in Mormonism, or go to Nirvana if they’ve lived the proper life, maybe in Buddhism. In fact, I’d say that it is because we can point to these religions and identify them to those terms, that we neatly move the purported “science“ out of the realm of religion to say that it is accounting for something else that is not religious, something more foundational. But here, with these terms that move through the religions so easily, the psyche and the ego, what we are dealing with is more kind of like a ‘religion of religions’.
But that gets deep in today Philosophy. then I’m not gonna deal with here.
Here I’m more interested in the difference between psychology and mental health counseling.
In particular, I am not really sure that in helping someone therapeutically I am doing anything about their psyche. This really has to do with the history of the concept and how it developed over the past 300 years. We like to think – and indeed we do “enjoy“ thinking in this particular way – That there is this thing called a psyche that we are actually discovering how it works, and when we take psych meds or when we do various intoxicants even, we are doing something to our psyche and our ego.
But without getting too far down the rabbit hole, the real simple version of questioning hast to do with the fact that the psyche in psychology arises in a particular way to suggest that its structural components are broken. And it has particular structural components that are supposed to relate in a healthy way.
I’m not really sure that this is the case, by the simple fact that I don’t think this way and actually people that I’ve been counseling do often actually get better. I’ve applied no psychological concepts as to an analysis of the structure of the Psych in my sessions, at least for most of them, and in fact people actually get better. They get better with me using probably very little psychology at all, at least in the way that psychology understands itself.
This is to say that I am treating their mental health. And I’m using strategies and intervention that has to do with the help for how they’re engaging with life. I’m not really sure if the psyche has anything to do with this. I mean, it does in as much as there is this thing called a psyche that people like to talk about and I have various ideas about, but I’m not really sure there is an actual thing called a psyche that exists in the brain, nor that the brain manifest in such a way as though there’s a structure. Neither am I really sure that medicine is addressing this psychological structure, even though medicine can be effective to help people.
One little side thing about psych meds: if you have a mental issue, psych meds are more than likely only gonna get you a stable place from which to work on your mental health. It is the opinion of an overwhelmingly large number of mental health counselors, as well as our clients, that know this to be true.
OK, I’m done with my dog walking…
And I never even got to the aspect of being a clinician!