In this issue
Depression: a journey of understanding (free article)
Sarah Parry explores the many factors leading to depression
Is there a need for specialist counselling for church ministers?
Rachel Hudson discusses the needs of church ministers
Christopher Rex Bryant SSJE: spiritual director
Robert Jeffery describes the interests of his spiritual director
On becoming a therapeutic grandparent
Beaumont Stevenson explores the importance of wisdom and experience
Mindful of presence: a Buddhist approach to person-centred therapy
Becky Seale researches how important presence is within the person-centred approach
When I was an undergraduate, I studied medical biochemistry and spent a year working at the National Poisons Unit at New Cross Hospital. Sometimes, scientific approaches follow a rather linear causality; for example, this depletion of this chemical in the brain has this result, focusing on one factor among many. This is not terribly sophisticated; brain chemistry is a complex matter!
There is no diagnostic test for depression (one can’t accurately measure for ‘depression’ as one can for diabetes). The diagnosis of depression is highly subjective: it depends on how the GP or psychiatrist interprets the answers to their questions during a brief interview. A diagnosis is a snapshot of that particular moment in time and one patient could perceive their own symptoms as mild, while another patient with similar symptoms could perceive their own as severe. Diagnosis is far from the exact science some people think it is. McIntyre and Nathanson, in their book, Severe Depression, state: ‘Currently, no consensually agreed-upon definition of “severe depression” exists.’1 John Welwood, an American psychotherapist, describes depression (like all psychopathology) as an opportunity to wake up and become more connected to life.2 This is similar to James Hillman’s ideas, which Thomas Moore describes as an ‘imaginal approach to pathology’. Hillman describes depression as ‘essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens the dry soul, and dries the wet’. He goes on to say that ‘The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression’.3
In this issue, Sarah Parry’s special focus article is an honest exploration of depression and its causes. Her approach is refreshing in an age where many people look for answers and quick scientific solutions to complex issues. How our modern lifestyles contribute to depression makes me question my own lifestyle. We all seem to be under constant pressure to participate in social media and be available at a moment’s notice. We are distracted by constant and instant messages coming at us from many angles.
Rachel Hudson reflects on the many challenges faced by ministers in their work. Most ministers are generally expected to be available for everyone at a moment’s notice. Their work must be very draining and overwhelming at times. Giving support to those people who are constantly expected to be there for others requires specialist skills and understanding.
Robert Jeffery’s exploration of the life of his spiritual director, Christopher Bryant, makes for interesting reading. I was fascinated by how various forms of prayer suit different temperaments. Beaumont Stevenson takes a playful approach to making the most of therapeutic experience. In a rapidly changing world, experience is often not appreciated and his article reminds me that listening to more experienced practitioners and learning from them is invaluable when training as a psychotherapist. We are very fortunate to have supervision in the forefront of our work as therapists, counsellors and coaches. I have been working with supervisors for a short period of time and really value my supervisors’ experience and knowledge and their sense of humour. Supervision is a serious business, but it can be enjoyable too.
Becky Seale writes about the overlap between a person-centred approach to therapy and meditation practice. Her research focuses on the importance of presence in the therapeutic relationship. She asks important questions about mindfulness and how it has become increasingly trendy.
As I write this editorial, I am about to embark on my clinical year of training. The focus is clearly on the work with clients and supervision; on practice, not on theory. In the UK, September marks the beginning of the university year. I hope to approach my studies with a beginner’s mind and be open to learning as much as possible with the more experienced teachers I meet along the way. I am amazed by how much I learn from my clients and am looking forward to the year ahead. I would like to encourage you to engage in discussion with the contributors in this issue and to consider writing something for our forthcoming issues.
1. McIntyre RS, Nathanson J. Severe depression. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2010.
2. Welwood J. Depression as loss of heart. Naropa Institute Journal of Psychology 1:123–133; 1987.
3. Hillman J. The essential James Hillman: a blue fire (edited by Moore T.) London: Routledge; 1989.