The Couch Sessions

A couple of years ago, a friend asked me if I receive some kind of certification after a specific time from my therapist. You know, like a qualification that I am now alright again, having been through a difficult period of bad mental health. He was being more than a little facetious but there was that sense in his voice that the counselling I was getting was bound by a time frame, like a course. It has taken me this long to assure myself that the time frame for my own mental wellbeing is not really about satisfying some time-limited process but about my own health. Time then is of little relevance so he was not wrong to think that there might be a certification process. (Can you imagine the graduation ceremony? Symbolically I rise from the couch and change the direction of the tassle on my mortar board.)

Curious people, when they have found out that I attend a therapist, will ask me for how long I have been going. An understandable question given most people’s reluctance to put themselves through a rigourous and sometimes painful period of self-examination. Others, who have themselves recently decided to try it out, ask me after a few months “how do you know when you are finished?” My answer to them is that you don’t, you just stop when it feels inside like it is the right time. I came out of a session in the last few weeks and said to myself as I went out onto the street: I’m done. Don’t know where that came from. It had no context in the session I had just come out of and it had been a while since I had overcome the ‘say something for saying something’s sake’ phase. 
Shortly after that session I told the woman who helps me with all of this stuff. I passed over it at the beginning of a session and then the subject changed utterly. I seem not to have thought about when this might end since then. It does not seem so important: as if there is some relationship between the connections you can make in an individual session and what ‘quantity’ of mental illness you have in your head. I expect I am done, done with some sense that I am entirely vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of an insecure me, myself that questions, then doubts and then questions the decisions I think I make. I expect one day that I’ll merely finish a session and that’ll be it. 
Or perhaps not. 
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3 thoughts on “The Couch Sessions

  1. Your “couch sessions” posts are great! They really get me thinking about my own feelings on the matter.. And while Ive never been brave enough to comment on them here, this post got me thinking about the use of the term “mental illness”. Something that continues to strike me about Ireland (and which I admittedly find a little awkward or uncomfortable) is the use of the term “mental illness”… Where I come from, mental illness is a very loaded and quite a delicate term. It’s a concept that, when (and if) used, is done in a very careful and almost secretive manner (almost like a whisper). But regardless of how comfortable I feel with the use of the term or with how ‘loosely’ I feel it is sometimes used in Ireland, I think there is scope (and perhaps a need) to think more closely and critically on what mental illness is and how we use the term.. I have so many unorganized thoughts on this issue.. what is really ill about what we are defining (and accepting) as “illness”. Or, where is the ill in mental illness?… Is self-reflexivity a sign of illness? Do we need such categories? Where does social ‘illness’ end and individual ‘illness’ start?

  2. Anonymous: it is here as well and I think the more we can all talk about it in public the better we are? you might want to google Thomas Szasz and start reading about his redefinition of mental illness. He was highly critical of the mental illness industry in the 1970; I would accept what you say about self-reflexivity but the social and personal are so mixed up for me in this particular journey that it can be hard to distinguish the important from the unimportant.

    Conortje: you’re right. Starting was easy for me because I was having a really stressful time in a job and it brought up all sorts of other things.

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