First, please read: Outpatient program part one.
Third Session (Sept. 29, 2017)
Today was better. The first hour of checking in was conducted by a facilitator I'd actually seen before. I've finally made it to the repeats! One woman said she'd had a hard time making a stressful phone call, but she finally did it. She started to say that it had made her feel anxious and afraid, but the facilitator pulled her attention to her success in getting it done. She assured the woman that anyone would have felt anxious in that situation, but she handled it and that's great.
That's the general tone of this program. They don't have time to hold your hand through whatever fear or anger you're feeling. They want to lead you straight to the bright side, the better way to look at it, the possibility of success. I guess this strategy works a lot of the time.
I also got the feeling that the facilitator wanted to normalize the woman's anxiety. Her attitude seemed to be, "You're fine. You're just like everyone else. You're normal." It's like they're trying to hypnotize us into believing we're not depressed or anxious.
When the facilitator got to me, I told her that I was feeling so-so. She asked why. I told her I was really looking for more group therapy with everyone taking part in a conversation and so far this program hadn't provided that. I said this made me feel disappointed. She said, "You wanted more time to process?" I wasn't sure what that meant, but it sounded about right so I said yes. She said maybe they'd try to do some more of that kind of activity.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but after the break, we spent the second hour having more of a conversation, and it was led by an actual psychologist. Finally! Dr. B had someone pull a slip of paper from a pile, read aloud the challenge described on it, and say what they'd do in that situation. For instance, one described being at a family reunion and sitting next to a family member who was drunk and talking badly about people with mood disorders. We only had time for about five of these challenges, but each time people said what they'd do, or how they've faced that challenge, or how they're facing it now and don't know what to do. It was almost like group therapy!
I pulled out a slip that described being on the bus and having someone harass you. I said I'd just ignore them. Dr. B asked if it would invoke any emotions for me. I said, not really because I'm very good at boundaries and I'm very good at not engaging if that's what I've decided. He said, "So this is within your skill set." I said yes, it was. So he turned to the others who said they'd have different responses.
In fact, every challenge we discussed wasn't anything that I'd have trouble with, so while I was glad to finally have some group discussion, I still didn't feel like I was learning any new coping skills.
After lunch (fried fish sandwiches with regular potato chips), Dr. B led the last activity. Not only did the same person lead two exercises on the same day, but it was a psychologist! I was impressed. We had a discussion about how we feel about the stigma attached to having a mental illness, with Dr. B answering our questions about how many people have mental illness and why some psychiatric wards operate as they do. He was a good source of information.
The last part of the morning was a handout. Oh, well. Not having to do any handouts would have been too much to hope for. We wrote down how we'd respond to someone asking about our symptoms/illness in different contexts, such as at a party, in a therapy session, on a first date, in a job interview, at work, with friends. Then we discussed our answers in pairs. It was another exercise that didn't tell me anything new about myself.
At the end a facilitator asked how we thought the day had gone. I said I really appreciated the group interactions and thought the day had gone well. I also said that doing handouts and then reading aloud what we wrote puts people to sleep. Another woman backed me up, saying she thinks filling out worksheets and then reading them doesn't get us anywhere. I tried not to smirk, but had to nod in agreement. Most of the others said the day had gone really well and they liked all the exercises.
So I have a little more hope that I might get some of the group dynamic and emotional support I'm looking for. But the level of skills that this program teaches doesn't feel like the level I need. So far nothing has challenged me (although plenty has challenged my patience). Plus today someone smelled like urine, so I left the room to eat lunch.
The next post is Outpatient program, part three.