Is psychotherapy just talk?

Psychotherapy is known as “talk cure.”

A process of talking things through when faced by life’s wounds and challenges.

In reality, it’s beyond talk.

Fact is that nobody gets healed or whole by mere talking.

Something goes deeper than talking in psychotherapy.

I once worked with an attractive woman who sounded like an expert psychologist.

She read a lot on psych and can espouse even complicated concepts about how the mind works.

Yet despite her knowledge and talks in our sessions, she remained the same.

Only to return swiftly to her old ways of verbally/physically abusing and manipulating her husband and little kids.

Then back in our sessions, she’d be quite a different persona.

Looks familiar?

Have you ever tried to change like her by talking things through, only to end up doing the same old things in the same old ways?

Here is something I want you to fully see and understand.

From a biological perspective, change does not take place with mere talking and knowing.

Note that even the brightest people in the world fall into self destructive behavior.

So the answer could not lie in intellectual reasoning.

Transformation happens in a Process.

Fundamental change occurs experientially, not informationally.

In the “talk cure” I do, a major part of the beyond is in the releasing to make it experiential.

We learn and develop life habits emotionally.

Therefore, we can only come to true healing by releasing emotionally. With authentic awareness and depths.

It’s a new education. A re-education of the damaged self into wholeness.

Sex Addiction As An Illness

Sexual addiction is an illness. It’s solitary, dehumanizing, and satisfies only itself. Contrary to love, it’s fleeting. It causes people to abuse their bodies. It distances us from our emotions, destroys good feelings about ourselves. It therefore causes people to be broken and alone.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, sex therapist and author of “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction,” provides an operational definition of sexual addiction: “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Contrary to real love, the sex addict obsesses over and depends on sex for comfort from inner pain. He or she uses it for nurturing, relief from stress etc.

Once, I heard a married man saying that he has sex with multiple women because “God is love.” Indeed, the notion of sexual addiction can be confused like that! It’s also confused with what is positive and legitimately pleasurable in married love enjoyed by the “normal” population. As life unravels, the sex addict despairs, helplessly stucked in the cycle of shame, degradation, and danger. Like a broken car, the sex addict needs a mechanic!

Nowadays, people need education and a clearer perspective about sexual addiction as an illness. Often this is obscured by media and by our reluctance to face sexual issues – personally, professionally, and publicly. The illness is further masked by secrecy and shame that inherently characterizes it.

The world is full of helpless sexual addicts in need of help.

Doing Therapy Via Skype

It used to be a traditional way. I once worked all the time in the office, with armchair and tools. But with it, the problem of the high costs of wasted time enduring more than a couple of hours travel each day to office. The cost of fuel, not factoring in medical costs of my increasing weight, blood pressure, traffic-anxiety, and fatigue, significantly reduced my joy and effectiveness.

I’m glad times have changed. With the growth of the mobile and the internet, society has progressively moved work channels from the physical to the digital. The lines between work and life are being erased in the process. Time and money are saved. The threat of burnout and mental health challenges get to be addressed. Distance is no longer a problem between people engaged in a working process.

Whenever I do Skype or phone sessions with counsellees from the Philippines, Qatar/Dubai, Australia, USA, Japan, or anywhere else around the world, I’ve come to feel that I’m more productive and refreshed working remotely than when sedentarily confined in a clinic cubicle. I’m glad I can do running or recharging while helping anyone, anywhere!

Productivity appears more in the comfort of home or natural environs of individuals engaged in life session. The domino effect is the natural fruit of seeing that the main value exists not in the structure of a fixed physical space of an office – but in the value of output made. I think I’m not alone in believing this to be so in our times.

The working world in general is more and more showing a a rising trend of decreased need for a central physical hub to do work. I’m reading US National Library of Medicine, which suggests that remote, digitally-based workers have higher performance outputs. The less office means increased productivity by up to 70%, according to Time Doctor Stats.

With technology spurring growth and saving costs, don’t be surprised if you see me championing a non-traditional office-less “psychotherapy without borders.” Via Skype or phone. Or, in coffee shops, beaches, or malls. It’s organic. Natural life flow. Time/cost-effective. In short, a more healthy option towards your search for healing and wholeness in your life.

Affirmation of the Self

When Bobby saw me, he would rather not look at me in the eye. His head was either bowed or hanged somehow. He slouched. He breathed shallowly. He appeared so unsteady on his feet while seated. When talked to, I could hardly hear the sound of his voice.

Bobby almost stayed silent during our session. He only had a few words. Upon patient prodding, he began to respond better. When I asked what he feels or why he is silent, he told me that he feels unimportant. If possible, he just wanted not to be talked to.

Such a self manifestation on the part of Bobby betrays a serious lack of self-affirmation. A person who affirms himself instead can breathe calmly, has a good posture, an expressive look, a firm audible voice, feet firmly planted on the ground, and an open countenance.

Self-affirmation is an external expression of our inner life. It consists of verbal and non-verbal behaviors: words, physical appearance, clothing, posture, tone of voice, attitudes, eye contact, gestures, and so on. We cannot isolate self-affirmation from our communication and relating with others.

Albert Camus once wrote, “To know our selves better, we must affirm our selves more.” Affirmation of the self, an expression of our mental health or inner life, requires us to be positive, honest, and spontaneous with our life experience in community with others.

I’m reminded of Marissa, one of my patients. In response to her “gains” in therapy, she started to take her place in her family and society. She taught herself self-affirmation: daring to share her ideas and needs to her husband and children, negotiating when there is conflict, being more accepting and giving of affection and attention.

Before, she preferred to disappear into the background and not to ask for what she needs. She was always quiet and unnoticed. She confided that when she was a little girl, her mother treated her like one of their maids and forbidden her to speak in front of adults. Her repressed feelings resulted in damaged self and interferences in her relationships.

Yes, once you checked your “roots” and summon the courage to affirm your self, you’ll feel proud of your self. This can be done!

Are You A Sex Addict?

One single middle aged man painfully detailed to me his decades-old piano, youth, and ministry work in the church. He expressed his desire to serve God. But his face turned to wrenching as he spoke of his bondage to pornography and gay sex with multiple partners on a weekly basis. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was so weak.

Is this man sex “addicted?” The compulsive sexual cravings and activities are certainly strong evidence. The Greek word for “addicted” means to be brought into bondage, much like a slave. Because he is a slave to his sexual passions, then he needs help for his addiction by talking to a therapist or counselor.

What about you? Let me give you a little diagnostic test. You don’t need a pen to answer; you just need to be honest. Simply answer “yes” or “no.”

* Do you masturbate to images of other women?
* Do you fantasize when a sexy or attractive woman comes near you?
* Do you watch sexually arousing videos or photos in the internet for gratification?
* Do you store nude images of women etc in your cell phone or computer?
* Do you have behaviors that you can’t share with your spouse?
* Do you call a hotline for phone sex?
* Do you practice voyeurism?
* Do you have a secret place or closed compartment that you hide from your spouse?

If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are lurking at the door of sexual addiction. Then you’re inside the room! Like any addiction, sex addiction is progressive. It starts small. Then it won’t go away. It’s always asking to be scratched, the itch intensified, seeking relief. But rather than feeling fulfilled, it leaves you feeling more empty.

Nicolas

It took over 40 years for Nicolas to really see what happened to him when his mother put him down. In our session, Nicolas was sharing that his mother is used to tell him he’s stupid or he will not amount to anything, like his father. On a recent visit, she criticizes or judges him again.

That time and each chance, Nicolas feels angry, confused, and helpless as though he’s 7 years old again. It’s a horrible feeling that he continues to experience till now. Therapy helps him discover his compulsive regression to a younger age whenever his mother mistreats him.

Psychotherapists call the phenomenon “age regression.” It means going back, repeating an ancient pattern of reaction. It’s autopilot reversion to an earlier survival mechanism. Often, one age regress when hurt by an authority or loved one, such as parents. During this, one becomes dysfunctional, helpless like a child, or out of one’s Real Self.

From countless individuals who see me in therapy, I hear and witness such age regression too commonly among those with shame and pain. And I’ve become convinced that one of the best ways out of this prison of the self is to tell the story of the trauma to safe, loving, supportive others.

In my work with Nicolas, I hear him tell his story and share his shame to me. By such process, his predicaments and pain are validated. He is unconditionally accepted as he is. His exposed wounded self, with all of its weaknesses and struggles, is helped to heal its shame. Doing so also helps me as a fellow traveler in the human journey.

How Champions Handle The Past

Champions. What characterize them?

I’ve been thinking of the world’s most successful people who suffered failures or losses in their lives. Some didn’t finish or drop out of school. Many started out impoverished, even bankrupt full of debts. Others came from broken families or abusive backgrounds.

Yet they managed to beat all odds and succeed in their respective fields. They came out stronger and better in broken places.

What’s the secret of these champions?

Common among them is the will to move beyond their painful past through determined choices. They changed the results of their past by changing their choices in the present and for their future.

As author T.D. Jakes put it, these champions “use the past to fertilize their future.” They decided to allow their disappointments to come to pass and not get stuck. They pressed forward.

If you’re going through a past trauma or loss, it’s unrealistic to say that you are not in pain. You are. But once the initial shock is over, you can choose not to allow your life to get stuck in a stage that’s just part of the whole healing process.

This devastating event in your life shall pass too. Allow it to pass. Make plans for the future.

Surely, you can choose to be a champion as well. Accepting reality, stepping over depression, and making plans for the future is a significant announcement to your heart that you are planning to move on with your life.