When the two worlds of my loves collide, performing arts and therapy.
Some time ago, some friends and I went to watch this show about therapy by EJA production. It more of cognitive behavioral therapy. We were also fortunate enough to be part of the Q&A that was held after the show with Dr Chua, the founder of RELATE Malaysia.
Dr Chua Sook Ning is a lecturer and clinical psychologist at National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technology University. She graduated from McGill Universitry, Canada, with a PhD for Clinical Psychology. Her main research interests are developing accessible prevention and intervention programs and examining optimal support styles.
Due to as always, a lack of time to blog on my part, I just wanted to write about some highlights that I learned through watching this show.
They talked about an issue that was very relate-able to us all, which was big transitions in life, making big decisions such as quitting your job and following a different path of life. From my own personal experience, those transitions have never been easy decisions, needing to deal with backlash, anxiety of whether it would all work out, relearning things you didn’t know before, and submitting yourself to a different culture altogether.
Personally, I was more curious on the aspect of what do you do as someone in the receiving end, what if your own friend was suffering through these things, what can I do to make you feel better, what can I do to help you through this, what can I say to say to make you happy?
For a while now, I’ve always questioned myself and God. I don’t believe I am someone who can give good advice for your life. When I have problems, there are so many individuals and figures that I go to, and honestly they help me put my life into perspective, help give a mental slap to get a hold of myself, or just cheer me up in general. Despite my efforts, I never believed that I was someone who could do the same for others.
Moses said in Exo 4:10
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
Through this experience from the show, I learned some things, in such that you don’t always need to fix someone’s problems. I love the language of therapy, they would use words such as
“It sounds like you’re experiencing ….”
“I’m detecting that you feel …. does it sound true to you?”
“What about ….. does it sound like something that you can relate to?”
“Is this very important to you?”
“Why is this important?”
“Why do you feel the need to do ….”
I’m not suggesting that these are answers to problems, however, it’s the form of language that I particularly take comfort in, in which you’re not explicitly trying to provide a solution, but helping someone to discover themselves, their intentions, trying to understand a certain individual.
Ask the individual, what are your intentions? As your friend, would you like a listening ear, or would you like my advice? Because sometimes not everyone wants a solution. I love example that was given by Dr Chua
A wife would tell her husband, “I feel fat”. And the husband of a stereotypical problem solver would say “alright, let’s go exercise tomorrow morning”, but the wife would respond with “so you think I’m fat?!”
I then started to understand men’s dilemma in understanding the language of women. Just kidding. However, I did find that to be a great example. Applicable to everyone. Not everyone wants a solution at that particular point of time, sometimes you just need to be a listening ear, or help someone guide through their problems.
Second highlight was the stereotype of mental illness and therapy. When someone asked the directors of what is your main message of this show, what are you trying to advocate?
A great example that I got from them was
When you’re generally sick or not feeling well, you would go see a doctor. You wouldn’t wait until your illness developed into something serious like lung cancer before seeing a doctor. Similarly with mental health, you shouldn’t wait until you have a serious mental illness to see a need for therapy, when actually you can just go if you generally feel unhappy or you can just go get some help if you needed to.
A great problem in society now is the stigmatization of mental illness. We look down on people who we see might have any form of mental disability or illness, deem them as individuals who bring problems in society, which shouldn’t be the case.
An interesting contribution by Dr Chua
The most common mental illness is actually depression and anxiety. Through a study it shows that 80% of people will experience some form of mental illness in the span of his or her life. To be okay today in today serious, fast-paced and busy environment is abnormal.
It is basically an advocacy that “it’s okay”. If you have a problem, it’s okay. If your friends have a problem, it’s okay.
As an occupational therapist, I believe that we always look at an individual as a whole and strive to find ways to provide the means for an individual to be as independent and functional as possible, including issues with mental illness. Dr Chua puts it
For the case of schizophrenia, as therapists we don’t try to help you to get rid of the voices, instead we tackle with how do you deal with these voices?
I think similarly, as an OT, we don’t always try to “get rid” of your disabilities, but instead “how do you live with your disabilities?”. Which I personally believe is a problem in Malaysia. When in an unfortunate event, you obtain a disability, it honestly doesn’t mean that it defines an end to your life causing you to be a “vegetable” forever. In many cases, you can still do the same things that you wanted to do, you just need to do them differently. Don’t look at it as an “inconvenience”.
In conclusion, it was a great show, and an enjoyable time with my friends. It touched upon issues that are and should be greatly discussed today.