You know the ones I mean. You have seen them. The all singing websites and the glossy leaflets. You scroll down and see smiling, happy faces and the testimonies that pull at your heart. Then there is the promises, the answers to your endless search, the cure that you have prayed for, the help you desperately need. You read the personal stories and you wonder if you too could be there someday, your face adorning the page, cured, happy and rid of the issues that you feel are destroying your life. Then as you scroll down further there is it, the reality of what it will take to be ok again, the cost of getting your life back, £99, £150, £500, sometimes more and your heart sinks because its out of your reach and despair descends.
In the depth of my suffering from birth trauma and PTSD and I searched everywhere for hope, for help, for a cure. I would sit and read on the internet everything I could find and look for answers as to why I was suffering. Especially with my panic attacks I sought a cure. They were so severe that they lasted for hours at a time, they caused me to have a non-epileptic fits, ending up in hospital and would leave me wiped out for days. I had tried many techniques but nothing worked and so I looked in vain for the elusive answer to rid me of the curse. During my search I came across many sites and companies that offered fail safe cures, that promised to rid me of my affliction and the beaming faces of those that claimed it had worked for them. Then full of hope I would then sink into despair as the ‘cost’ of my cure filled the screen, of course they did monthly repayment plans should I feel so inclined. Hope was held out and then snatched away by the pound signs that bound it.
When searching for help with mental health conditions it can be a nightmare. Sadly especially with perinatal mental health, a lack of specialist teams in the NHS has meant many looking to other sources to find the help and support they need. From counselling, to EMDR, to hypnotherapy, the list can be endless. Looking for treatments to help manage mental health conditions is personal and can take time. Navigating the different treatments on offer can be hard.
So how can we make sure that the treatment is safe? How can we trust the person offering the treatment? How can we safeguard mental health while looking for help?
Treatments that don’t promise you the impossible.
Mental health conditions aren’t something that can be cured overnight, in some cases sadly they can never be ‘cured’ but managed so a person can still live a full and fulfilled life. So when searching for help and treatments it is good to look exactly at what is being promised. I recently saw a treatment being offered that said it could ‘cure’ a mental health condition in as little as two sessions. Is this realistic? While no one is doubting that there are treatments that can help lessen symptoms and help build coping strategies, to say it is possible to cure someone, and in so few sessions, feels like miraculous claims. Why can this be so damaging?
Suffering from mental health conditions can make ones very vulnerable. They want to believe that they can be well again and so may feel desperate. When tried treatments don’t bring the promised cure, it can leave devastation in it path, it can leave the person feeling let down, hopeless and set them back in their recovery. Time can play a big part of this too. No one wants to be unwell and often treatments for mental health issues can take time, commitment and hard work. When hope is offered by saying that paying for a treatment will somehow offer a faster relief or that relief can be obtained in a shorter time it can lead to expectations that will lead to disappointment. If this were true then surely the health service, military and governments would be rushing to commission these treatments to save money and help people recover quicker?
I remember being referred for EFT therapy. I sat with the relaxed therapist, being told that without fail it would cure my panic disorder and I left with renewed hope. Finally I had my answer. Yet after many weeks and many sessions I knew it wasn’t helping me, instead it was making my attacks worse and practicing the techniques was actually serving to trigger an attack. As I sat in the therapists office and explained my difficulties, his face dropped and gone was the relaxed person I had been seeing and instead I was faced with an angry person being told I obviously wasn’t doing it right, and didn’t truly believe in its power to heal me. Sadly this encounter set me back for weeks as I questioned myself, why I had failed, what was wrong with ‘me’ that it hadn’t worked and despair set in that I would never be able to recover. It fed my own self doubt and belief that my ptsd was some how my doing, that I was causing it and I wasn’t trying hard enough. Of course I know now that to be completely untrue, but when your mind is in turmoil and you cant see the wood for the trees, what is said to you and things you are promised have big impacts on your world and your beliefs about yourself.
False promises, unrealistic guarantees and not looking at people as individuals can lead to damage. Also remember that if any treatments are as effective as they claim there will be research to back this up and they will be being investigated by the medical field to pioneer in providing help.
So when looking at treatments ask;
- What are the results that are being promised?
- Is there promise of a cure or quick result?
- Are they realistic?
- Is the treatment evidence based?
- Is the treatment right for that individual?
- Is there some improvement as the treatment progresses?
Remember also that everyone is an individual, with unique experiences, personalities and needs. Not all treatments will work for everyone. This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you as a person, only that that particular treatment wasn’t right. Finding what does work can take time. I remember a psychotherapist telling me that I was doing too many techniques and this wasn’t helping me. Instead she suggested I stick with and use the one that I knew helped, this brought me great relief.
Can you trust them?
What about the people promising help or cures? While there are many genuine people offering help, and many who’s intentions to give support are good, there are also many who are putting people at risk or that have the intention of building a business and making money.
It can be a minefield, and a local search of any area will turn up numerous counsellors, hypnotherapists, therapists and so on. It can be hard to know who to go to for treatments that will aid recovery.
There are many organisations to check therapists such as British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp). All practitioners should be registered with some form of organisation that provides them with support, advice, supervision and accreditation.
You can also ask;
- What are training and qualifications do they hold?
- What results do they profess the treatments offer?
- Do they have genuine, honest references?
- How long have they been practicing?
- Do they promise a ‘cure’ or support to help manage symptoms?
- Is their treatment evidence based?
- Is their research peer reviewed, modern, repeatable and of representative sample size?
Another aspect of this is the claims that some make of being able to train others in short workshops to go forth and also to cure those suffering with mental health issues. Anyone can learn therapies, sometimes in half a day that are then offered to those seeking help and support. But the question is does this give them the needed skills to really help someone to recover or manage their mental health? Often these treatments need to be offered alongside other support such as counselling, CBT or medication. To not take a whole systems approach can be dangerous and also put people at risk of relapse and increase of associated symptoms. Sensationalised claims of being able to cure mental health conditions are unrealistic and a red flag to move on.
What about offered training to help support those in work they already do?
It is important to ask the honest question as to whether this training is really enough to support someone who has a mental health condition? Lately I’ve seen a lot of workshops being offered to ‘birth-workers’ to support women with all manner of things including anxiety, depression and birth trauma. While we know that support is lacking for those who need this extra support in pregnancy or after, giving support that is at best poor will only cause more damage in the long run. Perinatal mental health needs specialist support and knowing boundaries of practice and also who is qualified to offer support, shows that families and their interests are the priority. While support may not be readily available this doesn’t mean that it is ok for support to be offered that is questionable by those with small amounts of training. Also while many things such as mindfulness can help support low level mental health conditions, those with serious mental health issues should be accessing specialist support. Trying to support someone when not properly trained is gambling with someone’s life.
Let’s mention also that those who are in a position to give this specialist support have trained for many years, gaining qualifications and clocking up many hours of clinical work. If these too sometimes struggle to give the right support and help, then how can anyone who has done a few hours training claim to cure what others have been unable to?
Of course too it is important to mention the invaluable help that is offered via peers support. Having someone to talk to who has experienced the things we are struggling with can provide much needed solace. Peer support is usually offered free and can be dismissed by those seeking to make money from you.
Safeguarding mental health while searching for help.
Looking for the right help and support, as well as the right person to offer that help is hard. It can be confusing, time consuming and at times frustrating. When someone is at their most vulnerable they are often expected to go out there and find the treatments themselves. How can emotional wellbeing be protected?
- Look for treatments that offer realistic results.
- Do they offer a ‘cure’ or support to help manage symptoms?
- Is there a large cost attached?
- What are the qualifications of those offering treatments?
- Is the treatment evidence based?
- Is the treatment a compliment to other support?
- Is the treatment tailored to individual needs, circumstances and issues?
- What are your expectations of the treatment?
There are not any magical cures, easy options or answers as to why one treatment helps someone but not others. For me finding help and the right treatment was a long road that only began with a correct diagnosis. For many years I had many things thrown at me that I was told would solve my issues and make me well again. I tried everything I was given which often led to disappointment and heartache when they didn’t have the result promised and sometimes actually made me worse.
When I finally got a correct diagnosis, then accessed support that helped me understand and manage my mental health, I started to see a difference. When I let go of blame, guilt and unrealistic expectations, I began to improve. When I stopped searching for a magical cure that didn’t exist, but accepted that instead I could learn to manage my mental health, I began to recover. The biggest help to me wasn’t a cure, but understanding that healing came from within and finding others that suffered too, that could share my struggle and pain and be there to sit with me in the darkness.
Yes, there are many that are disguising money as hope. There are any looking for hope to make them well and to cure their mental health. Yet the real hope comes from support that is proven to work, by people qualified to offer it and also with you, from within and the belief that you can manage your mental health issues. Hope also comes from others who too have struggled and looked for help, these can offer solace and understanding.
Money can be disguised as hope in many forms even though sometimes the intentions are good. But when it comes to mental health while hope is important, so is getting the right help,treatment and support is what matters most.