What Is at the Root of Your Mental and Emotion Pain?

Drawn from first half of the Counseling Tips on page 8 of the Winter 2019 issue of The Advocate Magazine ___________________________________

What Is at the Root of Your Mental and Emotional Pain?
By Gray Otis, PhD, PhD, LCMHC, DCMHS-T

Many of the individuals my co-authors and I see don’t understand why they continually deal with depression, anger, and anxiety. When you see a mental health professional for the first time, your counselor has to identify what fundamental factors are causing your disorders:
Do your symptoms indicate brain dysfunction—physiological disease or injury?
If so, can you be successfully treated with medications?
Do your symptoms instead indicate that your disorders are caused by psychological distress?
If so, can your counselor help you attain better mental health?

Three Approaches to Healing

  • 1. Treating physiological causes. Injuries to the brain, dementia, substance use, hypo- or hyper-thyroidism, and congenital conditions are just a few of the many physiological causes of brain dysfunction. If your symptoms may be physiological in origin, your counselor should be aware of that and refer you to a primary care provider (PCP). Note that even if your symptoms are caused by neurological factors, mental health professionals can be highly effective treatment providers. Mental health support for you and your family members can also be crucial.
  • 2. Prescribing medication. Pharmaceutical treatment can certainly sometimes be helpful, but be aware that psychotropic prescriptions primarily relieve symptoms, not the issues that cause the symptoms. Therefore, medication alone rarely restores psychological health. For example, SSRIs (a type of commonly prescribed antidepressant) can reduce the symptoms of acute depression or anxiety, but they do not treat the underlying mental-emotional causes.
  • 3. Identifying Key Core Beliefs. This approach, which has its roots in psychodynamic therapy, can led to lasting health outcomes. Mental health professionals using this approach identify and address any of your Negative Core Beliefs, which underlie all psychologically based disorders.
Why a Key Core Beliefs Approach to Healing Works
Each person harbors a great many Core Beliefs about themselves. For example, you may strongly accept all of these statements as true about yourself:
  • I am musical.
  • I am coordinated.
  • I am smart.
  • I am irresponsible.
  • I am lazy.
  • I am unlovable.
Self-beliefs are core to how we each perceive ourselves and our life experiences. To illustrate, suppose you have all of the Core Beliefs listed above and you are asked to play the piano at a school play. You may think, “I play the piano pretty well because it takes coordination to play an instrument, and I am smart; however, playing in public would require a lot of practice. I hate to practice, and if I played poorly, it would show everyone that I’m lazy and unreliable, which is why no one could ever really love me.” Most people do not think in exactly this manner, but nearly everyone rationalizes decisions in this way.
As one mental health professional observed, “Whenever I see someone for the first time with chronic anxiety, anger, or depression, I anticipate that they will eventually tell me about their Negative Core Beliefs. Because I know what to look for, these beliefs soon become very apparent. Without fail, these self-beliefs provide the basis for effective treatment outcomes with nearly every one of my clients.”
My next blog will address how mental health professionals can help clients believe that they—like all of us—are worthy of being loved.
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“Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health” is available from Amazon.com. Gray Otis is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and an AMHCA Diplomate & Clinical Mental Health Specialist in Trauma. A past president of AMHCA, he has a private practice in Cedar Hills, Utah. He is also the primary author of the 2018 book, “Key Core Beliefs: Unlocking the HEART of Happiness & Health,” which was written for both mental health professionals and members of the public. Learn more at KeyCoreBeliefs.org, and email him at gray_otis@yahoo.com.