At some stage of my counselling journey I was working in a dual diagnosis primary care facility where I provided addiction group counselling and psycho-education groups. One afternoon I received feedback that some of the group members were not joining the psycho-education group which was an aspect of the programme, because they did not understand why if they were not diagnosed with Bipolar did they need to learn about it. I respected the autonomy of the clients as I highly value it as an ethical principal, meaning a client has their own choice. This being the one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin there was a client that shared their feedback about the impact these psycho-education groups had on him, the client reported that for the first time he realised why his marriage had ended the way it did. This lead him to acceptance.
Let’s look at the definition of psycho-education, according to an article on the Goodtherapy website, “Psychoeducation refers to the process of providing education and information to those seeking or receiving mental health services, such as people diagnosed with mental health conditions (or life-threatening/terminal illnesses) and their family members. Though the term has been in use for most of the 20th century, it did not gain traction until movements addressing the stigmatization of mental health concerns and working to increase mental health awareness began in earnest”. When providing Psycho-Education it is important to remember the client is the expert, the client knows themselves better than what the DSM 5-TR knows them or what a counsellor or psychologist thinks they know, it is not just about the information being downloaded it is a two way dialogue of processing information and then coming to a conclusion together.
When someone has received psycho education it puts them in a position where they can empathise. Supporting family members by expressing empathy rather than only sympathy. If you don’t know what a family member is going through how can you support them or show them empathy. According to an article by psychology today, “Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced”. Only sympathising with someone will keep them in a victim role when you empathise with someone they will feel validated and empowered, and when someone feels validated they will more easily validate themselves. Which will help them to not repress their feelings. Repressing your feelings often leads to depression whereas expressing your feelings lead to feeling uplifted and validated because you have someone who can empathise with you which also will make you feel less isolated.
Psycho-Education helps to destigmatize mental health disorders, in saying this it is important to highlight that the practitioner that shares the knowledge needs to be mindful of the language that they use to ensure that they don’t further stigmatize mental health disorders. No one has ever been ashamed of having the flu why be ashamed of having a chemical imbalance in your brain. The body is as important as the brain they both fulfil a very important role and the one cannot without the other, if mental health gets prioritised then physical health will follow suit.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for an online counselling session. After doing an intake I might be able to help you with a few sessions using BWRT (Brainworking Recursive Therapy) read more about BWRT on another blog on my website: https://thewellsamaria.co.za/what-is-brainworking-recursive-therapy-or-bwrt/, or we will use another technique depending on your unique needs.
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