Monday, October 18, 2021

Helping our patients transition well into retirement

My father has transitioned very well into retirement.  He loves it. 

Having a creative outlet or hobby is important. He’s not bored and is extremely busy with his Bonsai trees.  

Have you seen some patients struggled with their transition into retirement?

In retirement, like any other time in our lives, we need stability, security, safety, love and connection, AND also, newness, creativity and novelty. 

What’s something creative you would do if you were to retire today? 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Helping our patients who request for counselors with various religious backgrounds

I get requests from patients to refer to a Christian Counselor or various religious orientated Counselors at times.  As the most important part of counseling is the therapeutic relationship or “clickiness” between the patient and the counselor, Doctor or Therapist, I think it’s good to have these options for patients. 

At times, in the right context, I do try to explain to patients that what we are trying to achieve fundamentally through counseling, is to be grounded in the observing mind to observe our thoughts and feelings rather than self identified as our thoughts and feelings.  This is “self as context” as opposed to “self as content”.

One can say that there are a lot of similarities between “self as context” as described in Acceptance Commitment Therapy ACT, and enlightenment in Buddhism, and spiritualism in other forms of religion.

We try to use whatever language that resonates with the patient and whatever works better for the patient. 

What about prayers.  Does prayer helps?

I think it can be very important. 

I often use the metaphor that the feeling mind is like your autopilot.  The thinking mind is like the pilot.  The problem is, the pilot and autopilot have lost contact with Houston ground control or flight control.  

In this example, Houston or flight control is the observing mind.  

Prayers, talking to a trusted other, counselor, friend, colleague etc. is trying to reach out to Houston in some ways.  

Over time, we can learn to be our own “Houston” metaphorically speaking.

The right destination requires a good working autopilot, pilot to override autopilot when required, and flight control away from the cockpit to have more clarity. 

Helping our patients pivot from the “fight or flight response” to the “acceptance and assertiveness response”

Over the years, I have seen fellow colleagues including Registrars, experienced much pain or dread when they see patients suffer emotionally.

This can of course, impact our own mental health.

So how can we reframe that?

Whenever appropriate, I try to remind myself that when people hit rock bottom or close to it, they are much closer than others to shift towards acceptance and post traumatic growth.

Once adequately validated and safety achieved, we can see it as an opportunity to pivot from the “hopelessness” around their fight or flight responses, to more emotional acceptance and assertiveness towards a value driven life.

So we can frame it as using the pain and suffering, as catalysts to transform the hopelessness around the “old ways”, into hopefulness with the “new ways”.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Helping our patients with their “inner work” to fine balance

Over the years, I’ve seen folks who are extremely successful in terms of the “outer world” measures, but are quite unsuccessful in terms of their “inner world” measures. They may have a lot of inner conflict, inner disharmony, feelings of inauthenticity, and can be quite miserable.

So I wonder why …

The pattern I often saw, was that they may have been too much focused on the “outer measures”, and forget to focus on their inner principles, values or feelings to find balance.  Of course, what we focus on, we tend to become better at those.  

So part of counseling is to facilitate this “reconciling or balancing” process.

Often, more “inner work”, especially in the inner principles, values or feeling department is required.