Why depression requires special attention in LGBT community?
Every one of us has had days when just the thought of getting out of bed felt unbearable and the Los-Angeles sunny blue skies peeking into our bedroom felt dull and grey. These days when our bed seemed to be the only safe refuge from the overwhelming and joyless world are quite rare for most of us. However, they provide us with an excellent sense of what depression feels like. The combination of low motivation, lack of interest and pleasure, low energy, withdrawal from the world, emptiness, guilt, purposelessness and worthlessness are just few examples of the pain that comes with experiencing depression.
Situational depression is quite common and many of us have experienced short episodes of depression in response to a breakup, loss or other traumatic life event. Depression is more common in LGBT community and amongst gay men. The reason for greater rates of depression within our LGBT community is the additional layers of marginalization, discrimination, victimization and social injustice our community tend to experience. Growing up gay in our culture carries a heavy burden of secrecy, guilt and shame, which is occasionally exacerbated by social rejection, victimization and bullying. These internal and external pressures add to the natural challenges of growing up and add to the risk of developing depression.
On the positive side, the commonly held belief that depression is chronic and difficult to treat is simply not true. In my Los Angeles clinic I have worked with numerous gay men who came in suffering from depression. Nearly all were able to fully recover from depression and re-engage in life with vigor and enjoyment. Psychotherapy, counseling and guidance of a seasoned therapist are essential in the process of recovery from depression and in restoring our sense of joy and well-being. The process of healing requires full dedication and engagement, however, the reward of feeling alive and vibrant again is absolutely priceless.
What causes depression?
The complexity of our human experience can be divided into 4 aspects, or 4 planes of experience, starting with the most abstract and subtle Spiritual plane of pure Consciousness, and down to the most dense and tangible Physical plane of our 5 senses. So here are the 4 planes of experience:
Spiritual Plane – This is the plane of the infinite field of Pure Consciousness that gives birth to all there is. In Quantum Physics this plane is called the Morphogenic Field. This is the plane of the Blueprint, the plane of the Essential Reality out of which all other realities emerge. The spiritual plane is the plane of the Absolute, which means it is not subject to change. Although Spiritual plane has a profound conceptual importance in our work, psychotherapy operates at lower Mental and Emotional planes.
Mental Plane – This is the plane of our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, ideas, memories, expectations, preconceptions, etc. Psychotherapy work effects mental plane through change of such mental constructs as beliefs, ideas, attitudes, etc.
Emotional Plane – This is the plane of our feelings, including the emotional baggage of old unresolved negative emotions and trauma we have been carrying with us. Psychotherapy also engages and effects change at the emotional plane.
Physical Plane – This is the plane of our body and the physical 3D reality. We experience the physical plane through our 5 senses. Interestingly enough, our emotional baggage and past traumas are stored in our body’s nervous system and muscle tissue. As much as we try to divide our being into separate aspects, we are a one integral whole and each plane of our experience is interconnected with every other plane.
Depression is a multilayered human experience that can originate from our past experiences, our limiting beliefs about ourselves, significant life events, loss, unresolved past emotional baggage and much more. In psychotherapy we create change and foster the process of healing through addressing mental, emotional and physical planes of our life experience:
Mental: Our Mind is a powerful tool that creates our subjective reality and enforces existing mental patterns. Disempowering beliefs we hold, such as - “I’m not good enough,” “I am unworthy” etc., tend to create situations in our life that validate these beliefs. For example, the belief of being worthless and undeserving is likely to make us enter a relationship in which our partner treats us badly. By doing so our partner reinforces our belief of being worthless. The cycle continues until our beliefs are changed. This process is called Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality – our Mind. Hence, in order to change our life experience we have to change our inner experience. There is much more to be said about these mind-bending ideas. The bottom line is that shifting our disempowering beliefs will change our reality. In my Los Angeles clinic I apply Neurolinguistics (NLP) and hypnotherapy to help my clients extract the old limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering new ones.
Emotional: The emotional baggage is the unresolved feelings of anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame and hurt. This “baggage” is stored away in the depths of our Mind as well as in our body. As long as it remains unresolved, it will bring about and re-create life situations similar to those responsible for the initial emergence of the “baggage.” For example, unresolved trauma of abuse has the potential of recreating a pattern of abusive circumstances replaying in one’s life, until the initial trauma is resolved and released. Neurolinguistics (NLP) and hypnotherapy are highly effective in resolving past trauma and releasing old unresolved negative emotions, allowing us to start a fresh chapter of self-empowerment and fulfillment.
Physical: Our daily routines, habits, food, exercise, substances we introduce into our body, weather, people around us, even the colors and smells in our surroundings have powerful impact on our well-being. Creating physical internal and external environment to support our wellness is a subject of great body of knowledge. For our purposes it is sufficient to point out the importance of the physical aspect of our experience in healing.
How can we alleviate depression and are anti-depressants enough?
Our culture often resorts to the bio-physiological explanation of depression as “chemical imbalance” within the nervous system (the Physical plane). Once depression is explained as a merely physical dysfunction, it makes sense to treat it with physical remedy – medication. Anti-depressants aim to restore “chemical balance” in our body to alleviate depression. At times anti-depressants are an excellent 1st step toward restoring our well-being, however, is it enough?
Allow me to answer this question with a question: Would you consider treating a toothache with pain medication only, without further medical intervention? Would you agree to treat the surface symptom, aka, – the pain, without addressing the cause of the problem? Probably not, since it would likely lead to a worsening of the underlying problem. If we do not feel the pain, it does not mean the problem that initially caused it has been resolved. Pain medication would be an excellent first step to prepare the patient for treatment, however, it would not be considered treatment as in of itself. We intend to numb the pain in order to better address the underlying root cause that created the symptom.
Depression can be viewed in a similar fashion. Depression is a psychological pain with roots reaching deep into our psyche. Numbing the psychological pain with anti-depressant medication might be necessary first step of treatment if the emotional pain is debilitating, however, medication as in of itself does not treat the root cause of depression. In other words, anti-depressants are excellent in numbing the psychological suffering and preparing us for psychotherapy, however, medication cannot change our mental and emotional experience. In order to effectively alleviate depression all planes of experience, including Mental and Emotional planes, must be addressed. Psychotherapy and counseling are excellent tools to address the root causes of depression and restore our wellbeing.
How does therapy with you work, Dr. Harel?
When working together we will use the 3 phase ARC psychotherapy approach, which incorporates Neurolinguistics (NLP) and elements of hypnotherapy, to create rapid and profound transformation within Mental, Emotional and Physical plains of your experience. In my Los-Angeles based practice I have developed a 3 Power-step approach (ARC) to help my clients achieve their goals:
The A-R-C approach:
Awareness – During the first Power-Step of psychotherapy we evaluate all aspects of your life that brought you to where you are right now. Here we aim to gain insight into the current situation and determine the root causes of current challenges. It is during this step that we also clearly define the ultimate goals for our work together, as well as the evidence procedure, which will show us that our work has been a total success. The Awareness Power-Step is a crucial step that identifies both the problem and the solution.
Release – In the second Power-Step of the counseling process we use advanced mind-technology of Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy to create rapid and profound shift in your experience. Both NLP and hypnotherapy are tools to release the old emotional baggage of unresolved negative emotions and limiting beliefs, and clear the path toward your desires and dreams.
Co-Creation – The third and final Power-Step of psychotherapy is designed to provide new tools and resources to solidify your gains and establish your life trajectory toward all of the things that you want. During this step we create a vision of your ideal life and set you on the path of joy, purpose and fulfillment.
I see my role of a psychotherapist as similar to that of a guide. When you hire a guide to navigate an unfamiliar terrain, you hope that your guide takes you to your desired destination choosing the optimal route that is both efficient and safe. You also understand the unspoken agreement that the guide will help you find your destination as long as you agree to follow the guide and to do the walking. I can help you find your path and support you in achieving all your heart desires, under one condition – you will have to do the walking.
Will psychotherapy work for me?
My clinic serves large and diverse Los Angeles community of gay men and same-sex couples. Sometimes I am asked whether as a therapist I can guarantee my clients’ results. This is an important question to answer. Our time, energy and money are valuable resources and we want to make sure we allocate our resources wisely. When we talk about guarantee, there are 2 key elements to consider – you and me. As a therapist I can absolutely guarantee that you will receive 100% of my knowledge, expertise, experience, attention and support. I can also guarantee that if my total commitment to your success is met with your total commitment to yourself, there is a 100% guarantee you will achieve your goals and our work together will have a transformative impact on your life.
My guarantee of your success comes with 2 prerequisite assumptions on the part of my clients:
I am 100% responsible for my life and my life is my making.
I am 100% committed to making any and all changes necessary for me to achieve my goals.
This single-minded commitment to your own success and wellbeing is the key component of our work. From my clinical experience at my Los-Angeles psychotherapy clinic I can attest that all of my clients, who showed up with absolute commitment to themselves, achieved remarkable life-changing results during our work together.
So what if you are not quite at total level of commitment yet? Perhaps, despite the pain of depression, you are struggling to fully commit to your own well-being right now. If this is the case, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a little nudge to help us bring our intent and motivation into a single-minded laser-sharp focus. Consider what freedom from depression would feel like? What it would be like to wake up in the morning energized, motivated, excited about life and open to new experiences? How would it change your relationships, career, and your health? If these pictures in your mind create some movement within you and awaken curiosity or even excitement, pick up the phone and give me a call. Perhaps after talking to me you can find yourself either adjusting your goals and getting excited and committed to your new vision of what is possible for you. Or you can find yourself ready to make the 1st step toward the new and empowered you. I am just a phone call away. If you are on the fence, pick up the phone and let’s chat. Great things await.