March 14th, 2013
A few weeks ago I answered a problem in The Telegraph from a woman whose moods were getting in the way of her marriage. You can read the full question and my reply here.
I asked colleagues and friends for feedback on the advice given – including what information was shared and the tone/approach taken. Their thoughts on how I could improve the reply are below:
“The information you give is very good. I think though that, if she’s depressed, for instance, she could find that number of questions at once a bit overwhelming. It might be better to break up such blocks of questions and intersperse them with an illustration of what could possibly be going on, or what you’re trying to get to, or recognition of how difficult things must be for her. All of these things could help make her feel seen and heard and make it easier for her to absorb what you’re writing and act on it. Things are undoubtedly also difficult for her husband, but we don’t know what’s going on there, what the state of the relationship is or whether or not he’s contributing to the situation in a way she’s unable to spot. I personally would find out what was going on with her (i.e. individual therapy) before I went the route of couple therapy.
Also, I suspect that telling you what kind of help she would like and what barriers are in the way would be too difficult a question for her to answer or she wouldn’t be writing to you. I’m not sure though that all this is possible within the limitations of your word count. One more comment: NHS mental health services are being cut so badly, that anyone needing treatment for a serious problem is not very likely to find it. Even when you’ve survived the waiting lists, often the number of sessions available is inadequate to deal with the problem, plus the type of therapy offered can be unsuitable. I hear this all the time from NHS colleagues, and from clients who end up going private (often referred by an NHS therapist).”
“I might also ask whether she has girlfriends or other outlets to talk about her problems. I would be suspicious of prior sexual or physical abuse, though that would be hard to target in a newspaper column– why is she identifying her husband as the target? And of course I would want to know if there are children witnessing this and then patterning their own relationships after this.”