Mental Health

Answering your questions about mental health

This article appeared in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday the 18th of February, 2016.  Click here for the original…

Meet the Herald Life & Style’s new columnist, psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald, here to answer your queries and concerns about mental health.

Kyle MacDonald has rapidly become one of the country’s most prominent psychotherapists – a practicing professional with a strong and growing public voice he uses not only to help people deal with their lives but also to fight for a better mental health system.

As a young man, his interest was in understanding “how people tick”, an interest that led him to psychotherapy, which he has now been practicing for 15 years.

He has become a vocal commentator on issues like how social and political factors contribute to mental health and wellbeing, and the politics of how therapy is funded or, more specifically, not funded.

He blogs regularly on his website, produces a podcast on social anxiety called The Confident Mind and has developed the website as a way to spread the word about the value of therapy and to start making therapy and therapuetic ideas more accessible to the public.

He says that therapy, “May be the most underrated – and is certainly the most underfunded – health intervention in New Zealand.”

“We know it works better than medication in many instances – mild to moderate depression for instance – but for many the idea of ‘going to therapy’ still carries more stigma than simply taking a pill. Sadly, it’s also more expensive than the pills.”

In short, he says, there is clear evidence that talk therapy works, and that it can help people make substantial and meaningful changes in their lives. What’s important to him now is to make sure that people get access to that help.

“I think we need to now be talking more and educating people about what good treatment looks like, so as a country we can ask for, and lobby if necessary, for best practice treatments to be funded and available. As a country, and the depression and suicide stats tell us this, we all need to be thinking more about what good mental health looks like, and how to stay mentally and emotionally well.”

MacDonald hopes to carry on the good work that has been done by people like Mike King on his Newstalk ZB radio show The Nutters Club, to destigmatise mental health treatment.
He says that therapy is for anyone who wants to make changes in their life. There are the obvious triggers, like anxiety, depression, drinking issues, relationship struggles, but if you’re curious, he says, you’re likely to gain something from it.

“I’m not going to say everyone should try it, but it can be really helpful if you find yourself stuck or struggling emotionally with something in your life, you don’t have to be “depressed” or “ill” to see a therapist.”

He adds that it’s important for people to find the therapist that is right for them. Research has shown that the ‘therapeutic relationship’ between client and therapist is an accurate predictor of therapy’s effectiveness.

In his own practice MacDonald employs a range of tools to help clients: “I’m a firm believer in practical tools like mindfulness, exercise and so on, but also in taking time to really think through and figure out how to make the changes that need to be made.

“Some people get what they need in weeks, some in months, and some, particularly if they’ve experienced a lot of childhood trauma, may need years. People need what they need.”

“Often, people just want to know, ‘Is this normal?’ and as I often say, ‘If you do my job for long enough you realise there is no such thing as ‘normal'”.

• Every Thursday, Kyle will answer a reader question. Send your query here and check back next week for his answer.

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