I have been a Clinical Psychologist for almost 20 years and today I work from Shantonagh, Co. Monaghan. I have a perspective on the mind and brain, and mental health problems, that is somewhat unusual. Unlike many in the mental health professions I regard Depression and Anxiety, and many other psychological disorders, as mind problems that can be fully understood and completely eliminated.
The reason I see these things differently is because my own personal history is somewhat unique. I suffered with a mild depression in the 1980s during a period of unemployment. If I’d known that depression was a ‘thing’ at that time I might have read a bit about it to try and understand it better. But I had no idea that I was depressed and it’s possible that I had never heard of Depression. I just knew that I was extremely unhappy, so I started to read and think about ‘Happiness’. Over the next 4 years I remained unemployed but during this time I developed an unusual depth of knowledge and expertise on the subject of ‘Happiness and Contentment’, and my depression was quickly replaced by a new self-confidence and wellbeing.
The reason this is important is because the academic and professional fields of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry focus only on the ‘abnormal’ rather than the ‘normal’, or what might be better than normal. They focus only on what is wrong rather than on what is working well. But a focus on the abnormal alone is like looking at the world through a toilet roll, which makes it impossible to perceive the bigger picture. This is like trying to understand a tree without ever noticing its roots because they are hidden beneath the soil. As it turns out it is only through an understanding of happiness and wellbeing that an understanding of the ‘abnormal’ becomes truly possible.
A simple way of putting it is this. Most mental health problems are caused by the prevention of a brain/mind function that allows stable and sustained psychological wellbeing to be achieved. The commonplace experience of feeling unfulfilled and without purpose, which characterises the ‘normal’ in modern society, is also a failure of the same mechanisms. These mechanisms are unknown to the mental health sciences because they are only noticeable in the brain that is operating fully and happily. This kind of brain is relatively rare in modern life.
From my perspective most people in 21st century society have ‘mental health’ problems that they are largely unaware of. We imagine that good mental health is merely the absence of a diagnosis of mental illness. The sustained absence of wellbeing is, in fact, a widespread mental health problem.
It is this perspective that I bring to clinical practice. With the Experience Processing approach those suffering from mental health problems like Depression can potentially experience a level of mental health and wellbeing that exceeds that of the ‘normal’ population that inadvertently stigmatises them.