How often does one see "strength based therapy" on a psychotherapist website, or when reading psychotherapy biographies; it almost always features as part of a psychotherapy model. However I ask myself ”would any practitioner in fact not be strength based”?
I had a client today who came to me with a list of her perceived problems; she very routinely listed these off as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D) and at the end of her list she mentioned, "my psychiatrist thinks I possibly do not have Bipolar Disorder, but it still needs to be ruled out".
I asked her to think about a time period in her life when she in fact was not anxious, was not depressed and was not struggling with P.T.S.D. She was silent for a while and then explained that prior to her current four year relationship, she was quite happy and tended to enjoy life. It became clear that this intimate relationship involves regular police involvement, due to her feeling physically threatened by her partner on several occasions. In fact it was the new normal over the past two years for her to walk on eggshells around her partner due to his unpredictable mood swings, and sometimes physical outbursts and daily "put downs".
Would her P.T.S.D and generalized anxiety disorder be a sane response to this insane environment, this battlefield that she has become a part of?
Where has the so called strength based therapy featured in this woman journey to wellness?
This woman is resilient- she has a post graduate degree, works a top management job, dedicates herself to her close knit group of girlfriends, all the while she is navigating an exceptionally explosive and destructive relationship.
This woman is intelligent, kind, insightful and has a sense of humour, all the while she is navigating the next aggressive outburst from her partner.
Talk about inner strength!
Now she can begin to re-frame her labels as understandable responses to the crazy environment she is a part of; not own the pathology internally that those labels represent but own her unbelievable ability to bounce back and transcend this present situation.
As mental health practitioners we love to talk about narratives of wellness; but lets truly embody these narratives and in turn re-frame growth identities from suffering as opposed to perpetuating identities grounded in sickness and shame.