Updates

Hello all. It’s been a while. So, what’s new…

1) My psychotherapy site has had a facelift. If you’re looking for a psychotherapist in Toronto, I’m your man. Unless you’re looking for a woman.

2) I have completed my accreditation with TIRP and am now (slowly) preparing to join the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO). I am no longer a “Candidate” – yay!

3) My novel has an official title now. It’s called The Society of Experience. For updates, you can go here for now. It’s to be published in the Fall of 2015. It will be published under the recently-launched imprint Buckrider Books (a subsidiary of Wolsak & Wynn).

I’m extremely excited about the upcoming months. I don’t doubt there will be more things to announce. I will also try to come here more often and actually post something other than point-form updates.

 

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Book Review: The Therapy Industry, by Paul Moloney

I don’t have a lot of time or head space for reviews of any kind these days, however I try to make an exception for work which deserves attention, if only for sake of better exposure and discussion.

One of these works is the book The Therapy Industry, The Irresistible Rise of the Talking Cure and Why it Doesn’t Work by author Paul Moloney (Pluto Press). I came across this provocative title through Moloney’s recent curation of new book releases on the site New Left Project. What follows is a necessarily compressed review, certainly more so than what you would normally find for this sort of work, and perhaps more succinct than this book deserves.

Let’s stop the bus and draw your attention to the driver. My interest in this book is complex and certainly not unbiased: I’m a relational psychotherapist – it is a career I chose later in life and one whose practice and philosophy I have a deep, evolving respect for. However, increasingly I have found myself dissatisfied with the level of critical discussion about the array of available therapeutic modalities, the politics non-medical practitioners encounter with respect to recognition in an increasingly medicalized notion of mental health, and not least the pecking orders (particularly reinforced by those practitioners who receive provincial health care coverage, those who receive coverage via corporate health benefits plans, and those who receive neither).

I was drawn to this book not only for its stated critical approach but also, perhaps relievedly, that it was written by someone who is a counselling psychologist and lecturer. This is not, in other words, a journalistic view from the outside. Quite selfishly I thus figured that it must have some sort of a happy ending. And, in short, it does, though you need to swallow some hard medicine first.

The gist of The Therapy Industry is that there is a disconnect between the mainstream approach toward treating those with mental health issues and the realities of (at the very least Western) industrialized society which is becoming more and more demanding upon us, economically, socially, and – as a result – psychologically. The system generally available to the public – from awareness campaigns to the attitudes of medical and non-medical practitioners – goes to lengths to make those seeking help feel that the problems they are experiencing are the product of their genes or their own faulty reasoning about the world around them. Or, if the practitioner does recognize that there is a probable cause that is environmental rather than genetic, the prevailing course of treatment is, in essence, mind over matter. According to the book there is, in short, some denial about the more environmental causes in the marked rise of mental health-related issues over the last century. And worse still, if there is clinical – which is to say institutionalized – denial then that doubly disfavours those seeking help. Continue reading

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So, Another Year (A Needle Pulling Thread)

2013 was good to me, which is not to say that it was without challenges. I suppose it was a cluttered year, and I will take that over barren, even if I’m feeling exhausted.

I had two articles published, on two topics that I took personal interest in: the shape of Kensington Market, and the 10th anniversary of SARS. They both involve Toronto, but aside from that they don’t hold much in common. I took great pride in writing them and each provided healthy challenges for me as a writer.

The biggest news, for me as a writer and an individual, was having my novel picked up by Hamilton publisher, Wolsak & Wynn. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done until its publication date in 2015, but it’s about the biggest milestone for me as a writer that I could have asked for (a big shout-out to my agent, Kelvin Kong, with The Rights Factory).

And yet it was also a year where my psychotherapy practice grew and broadened. This February will mark the completion of two years of private practice and I could not be happier with it, though like starting anything new and independent there are always going to be challenges. I began working with couples in the summer and found myself liking the dynamic very much, though working with the energy in the room can be taxing.

I’m not completely out of the woods with respect to the film industry. I started work on Bruce McDonald’s new feature, Hellions, as a post supervisor/consultant. It’s difficult juggling this type of work with therapy – two different parts of my brain which don’t always play well: the anticipatory, structure-based, logic-seeking left brain vs the open-ended, empathetic, creative right.

I would like to top 2013, but I don’t know if that will happen in 2014. I would certainly like to complete the first draft of my new novel. But it’s a tough nut to crack and doesn’t want to be rushed. My greatest challenge as a writer with respect to new work will be combining the worlds – and words – of therapy and writing: finding a project in which to write from the viewpoint of a therapist. I see this as an inevitability and I would prefer to jump in the pool rather than be pushed. I look forward to the days to come.

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The Importance of Self Care

I was reading this article in the National Post, about a psychiatrist whose trained specialty is analyzing and working with violent sexual predators, who recently experienced a breakdown as a result of what is believed to be symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He has worked on cases involving Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, and most recently Russell Williams: all of them so-called sexual sadists, all of them convicted murderers.

To put this into context for those reading from outside Canada, each of these convicted – by virtue of the severity and depravity of their crimes – is a poster boy for reinstating capital punishment (which, for the record, I do not support). They have individually terrorized regions of the country when they were active. It’s important to understand all of this due to the nature of being a mental health professional – someone trained to see people as people no matter who they might be or what they might have done – working with people of this description.

The article describes how Dr. John Bradford simply lost his ability to keep the burden of content (and ostensibly the affect of said content) from seeping into his consciousness, whereas before he was able to separate the explicitly graphic information he worked with from getting to him. What stood out in the article for me was the following:

What he wouldn’t realize until he went into therapy was that the videos from his many cases had been gradually taking their toll and they rushed back to haunt him on that long drive home.”

 

In particular, the phrase “until he went into therapy”, which implies that he wasn’t seeing a therapist until this point. Assuming this conjunction isn’t sloppiness on behalf of the writer, I find it appalling that Dr. Bradford could have such a role and somehow not be mandated by his employer (or his governing professional society) to be in some form of regular personal therapy. It boggles my mind, actually.

We live in an odd time when the general public are being told (rightfully) the importance of mental health and not allowing toxic environments to fester within them and yet someone tasked with watching videos of killers’ victims doesn’t walk into a therapist’s office until he is exhibiting signs of PTSD and is forced to take a month off work?

Let me be clear: to my knowledge there is no explicit mandate for said procedure. I am not implying that Dr. Bradford was in any way professionally negligent. I am however suggesting that the past and current culture of psychiatry, with its “detached” experts, should reconsider its standards for those tasked with a specialty like Dr. Bradford. Self care goes both ways: it allows patients/clients/non-professionals to seek help and understanding for their issues; it also allows professionals an opportunity to explore how their work impacts their lives.

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RIP Lou Reed

I don’t want to come across as melodramatic, but I’ve been preparing myself for the day that Lou Reed passed away. That day came today.

When I say “preparing myself”, I don’t mean with an end in mind. I suppose the point was being mindful that he wasn’t going to be around forever. No one is.

The photo to the left is the first album of his I bought (on cassette). It introduced me to both Lou and the Velvet Underground in equal measure, taking the listener to his Street Hassle release. His voice lingers in my head, his words undoubtedly. He was as much a writer as a musician. He created settings for his songs, surrounded with strange people. It was impossible to feel lonely with his voice in my ears.

 

 

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SARS Essay in Torontoist

Torontoist just posted an essay I wrote about this being the 10th anniversary of the SARS breakout in Toronto (which went on to kill 44 people and cost the country $2 billion), and the fact that nothing is being done to commemorate it. That is to say that commemorations are not necessarily celebrations, but can be sober remembrances of mistakes made in our past.

Read it here.

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Limits

I don’t typically work from home when I’m writing fiction. Too many distractions which are almost purely mental (as opposed to audible or visual). Reminders of things that need cleaning, fixing, adjustment. Things I’ve put off seemingly forever.

I typically write in coffee shops, sometimes the odd bar. So yes, I am typically more comfortable in a strange place, surrounded by strangers (though to be honest I tend not to seek out locations that are packed), with music that is not my own playing overhead. This may sound odd. After all, what could possibly provide more distraction than that?

I find the hardest variable is music. The last thing I want is to write while music I know is playing. Why? Because if I like a song, then I’ll be focused on it rather than the brittle little fictional world I’m constructing. My foot will inevitably start beating on the floor to the drums. I will anticipate the dynamics, the chorus. Pretty soon lyrics will be passing through my eyes like ticker-tape instead of my characters’ dialogue.

So, though it might seem paradoxical, I prefer the random jukebox that is the playlist of whomever is working at an establishment I’m located in. And you know what? I discovered many years ago that I can write through pretty much any type of music. And the stranger or furthest away from my taste the music is, the easier it is to tune it out. When I’m in a place that isn’t home, with people I don’t know, with music playing that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to listen to, I can more easily fall into that glorious black hole which allows me to sync with the fictional universe on the other side of my consciousness. Continue reading…

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New Author Site

Hello all. In order to promote my upcoming book and to (eventually) be a hub for promoting any published works I do between now and then, I thought it best to have a standalone author site created: mattcahill.ca. This task was handily undertaken by Ingrid Paulson, and it looks great.

Eventually I will start adding pages to the site, to flesh it out (so that it is more than just a page, but an actual “site”).

The question currently stands: what will happen to this here blog? I’m not sure. The more I focus on writing gigs, the less time I have for blogging, and yet – paradoxically – I have more things to blog about because potentially I have more gigs. In other words, there is still a need for the blog, so imagitude will stay where it is and perhaps be linked-to from the author site at some point.

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