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The importance of focus

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:04pm

I’m seeing my therapeutic neuropsych (TN) this afternoon, and I’m presently preparing for the visit. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’ve not been very focused or economical with our sessions. They’re a stickler for the clock, unlike my former therapist (FT), and they allocate less time to our meetings that my sessions with my FT. It’s been an adjustment. And I must admit I’m feeling a bit short-changed, having only 40 minutes with them each week.

Then again, when I think about it, it’s a good thing that we don’t spend a full hour each time going over all my stuff. I don’t have that kind of stamina, frankly. And I think they can tell.

Also, having shorter sessions is forcing me to focus in and make the most of what time I do have with them. It ensures that I don’t get worn out and depleted during our sessions, which can be counterproductive and a real discourager. I slip too quickly into the negative, when I’m getting turned around. 40 minutes is just the right duration for me to stay sharp and involved and present enough to figure out my next steps.

It’s also short enough, that I feel a sense of urgency when I’m meet with them. I’m the kind of person who likes to ease into things and take my time getting the feel of a situation… and then let things marinate and slowly sink in, before I do something with the info. This is not the sort of activity that fits with my new therapy. Before, that’s how it was. But no more. This is a different animal, and I feel that difference keenly.

I’ve got to make the most of my time, and I’ve got to make the most of their experience and professional training, which is extensive. Unlike my FT, this TN has advanced degrees with a neuro psychological focus, so they are oriented in an expanded way that is proving tremendously helpful to me. No more of this sitting around plumbing the depths of my soul. They spend a fair amount of time steering me away from doing that. At first, I was bothered by it, then I realized that since I’d started seeing them, I had not been having the same level of anxiety and dread and malaise that had dogged me all through my time with my FT. Certainly, I’ve been painfully on-edge about certain things, but that was because of external circumstances — deadlines and logistical issues with learning — rather than feeling like I couldn’t sense my own soul, which is how I often felt before, when I was trying like crazy to get in touch with what my emotional issues were.

So, I’m adjusting the way in which I’m dealing with this therapist and our sessions. I’ve decided to treat them like a professional consultant, rather than as a counselor or a “therapist” per se — at this point, I need their neuroscientific expertise more than their emotional support. And approaching them as a consultant gives me a different orientation than with my FT. This arrangement is far more like a professional peer situation — I’m the owner of this brain of mine, and it’s not working the way I’d like it to, and I’m at a loss for how to fix it, so I’ve called in a highly qualified consultant to help me sort things out. It’s similar (in my mind) to running a business, and having certain processes breaking down and key staff members not behaving properly… so I’ve brought in a management consultant to identify and address the issues and help craft strategies to address the problems, so my business can get back on its feet.

Yes, that’s how I can think about this cognitive-behavioral conundrum that is my life — as a management issue. A business management issue, in fact. Because my mind is all about business. The software engineering and culture creation business. Not to make it sound cold and distant, but it’s a metaphor that works for me. I’m all about metaphors. They help me get my head around things that otherwise confound and confuse me.

In the spirit of this new type of therapy, I’ve started doing more preparation for my sessions, making mental (and handwritten and typed) notes about what I need to talk about… taking “props” to show them, which illustrate a certain issue I’m having. I also have my notes from my diagnostic neuropsych’s testing, which I’m going over with them. Taking things one at a time, systematically working my way through and getting my head around the information that’s there. Getting organized and having a point of focus is very important for me. If I don’t have a clear view of why I’m there, sitting on that couch across the room from them, I can easily spend the whole time rattling on about this, that and the other thing… none of which have anything to do with the cognitive-behavioral Burmese tiger traps that I’ve been falling into and climbing out of for the past week.

The other advantage to this newfound focus is that it gives me something to follow up on for the rest of the week till I see them again. Organizing my therapy sessions around issues and coming up with action items to follow up afterwards gets me more involved in the whole process and lets me feel less like I’m being acted upon. I feel less like a victim, and more like someone who’s essentially running a busy shop that is full of unruly employees who need structure and discipline in order to be productive.

It’s a management issue, this collection of cognitive-behavioral conundrums of mine, and I need to take a structured and focused approach, to deal with them effectively. That means tracking my activities and progress on a daily basis. Not just when I want to, but when I need to – which is all the time, and especially when I don’t think I need to. That means getting clear on what my problems are, and what issues aren’t specific to me, but common to the human condition. It means figuring out what really needs fixing, and what I can reasonably accept about myself (and other people). It means understanding where I can improve, where I should improve, and where I can afford to let things slide.

I’m sure it sounds rudimentary to most regular, neurologically intact folks, but to me, it’s not so straightforward. I’ve been operating with a “morphed” brain for as long as I can remember, and my perceptions and understandings of life and my experiences have evolved differently from most folks I know. But now I have help, and the person who’s helping me understands that brain injuries do have an impact. Now I have a chance to figure this out — and do it really well.

I’ve been marching down this recovery road all by myself for as long as I can remember — and more intentionally so, in the past year and a half. Now, I have someone (two highly qualified professionals, in fact) to work with me on this and help me sort things out. I’ve got an amazing and very distinguished diagnostic neuropsych on my side, and I’ve got a thoughtful and insightful and highly trained therapeutic neuropsych meeting with me regularly to sift through the loam of my life and screen out the rocks and weeds. I’ve got a good job with people who are warming up to me and are seeing more and more each day how well I can perform.

I’m (finally) very well “staffed” with support, and it is good. Very good, indeed.

I’m seeing my therapeutic neuropsych (TN) this afternoon, and I’m presently preparing for the visit. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’ve not been very focused or economical with our sessions. They’re a stickler for the clock, unlike my former therapist (FT), and they allocate less time to our meetings that my sessions with my FT. It’s been an adjustment. And I must admit I’m feeling a bit short-changed, having only 40 minutes with them each week.

Then again, when I think about it, it’s a good thing that we don’t spend a full hour each time going over all my stuff. I don’t have that kind of stamina, frankly. And I think they can tell.

Also, having shorter sessions is forcing me to focus in and make the most of what time I do have with them. It ensures that I don’t get worn out and depleted during our sessions, which can be counterproductive and a real discourager. I slip too quickly into the negative, when I’m getting turned around. 40 minutes is just the right duration for me to stay sharp and involved and present enough to figure out my next steps.

It’s also short enough, that I feel a sense of urgency when I’m meet with them. I’m the kind of person who likes to ease into things and take my time getting the feel of a situation… and then let things marinate and slowly sink in, before I do something with the info. This is not the sort of activity that fits with my new therapy. Before, that’s how it was. But no more. This is a different animal, and I feel that difference keenly.

I’ve got to make the most of my time, and I’ve got to make the most of their experience and professional training, which is extensive. Unlike my FT, this TN has advanced degrees with a neuro psychological focus, so they are oriented in an expanded way that is proving tremendously helpful to me. No more of this sitting around plumbing the depths of my soul. They spend a fair amount of time steering me away from doing that. At first, I was bothered by it, then I realized that since I’d started seeing them, I had not been having the same level of anxiety and dread and malaise that had dogged me all through my time with my FT. Certainly, I’ve been painfully on-edge about certain things, but that was because of external circumstances — deadlines and logistical issues with learning — rather than feeling like I couldn’t sense my own soul, which is how I often felt before, when I was trying like crazy to get in touch with what my emotional issues were.

So, I’m adjusting the way in which I’m dealing with this therapist and our sessions. I’ve decided to treat them like a professional consultant, rather than as a counselor or a “therapist” per se — at this point, I need their neuroscientific expertise more than their emotional support. And approaching them as a consultant gives me a different orientation than with my FT. This arrangement is far more like a professional peer situation — I’m the owner of this brain of mine, and it’s not working the way I’d like it to, and I’m at a loss for how to fix it, so I’ve called in a highly qualified consultant to help me sort things out. It’s similar (in my mind) to running a business, and having certain processes breaking down and key staff members not behaving properly… so I’ve brought in a management consultant to identify and address the issues and help craft strategies to address the problems, so my business can get back on its feet.

Yes, that’s how I can think about this cognitive-behavioral conundrum that is my life — as a management issue. A business management issue, in fact. Because my mind is all about business. The software engineering and culture creation business. Not to make it sound cold and distant, but it’s a metaphor that works for me. I’m all about metaphors. They help me get my head around things that otherwise confound and confuse me.

In the spirit of this new type of therapy, I’ve started doing more preparation for my sessions, making mental (and handwritten and typed) notes about what I need to talk about… taking “props” to show them, which illustrate a certain issue I’m having. I also have my notes from my diagnostic neuropsych’s testing, which I’m going over with them. Taking things one at a time, systematically working my way through and getting my head around the information that’s there. Getting organized and having a point of focus is very important for me. If I don’t have a clear view of why I’m there, sitting on that couch across the room from them, I can easily spend the whole time rattling on about this, that and the other thing… none of which have anything to do with the cognitive-behavioral Burmese tiger traps that I’ve been falling into and climbing out of for the past week.

The other advantage to this newfound focus is that it gives me something to follow up on for the rest of the week till I see them again. Organizing my therapy sessions around issues and coming up with action items to follow up afterwards gets me more involved in the whole process and lets me feel less like I’m being acted upon. I feel less like a victim, and more like someone who’s essentially running a busy shop that is full of unruly employees who need structure and discipline in order to be productive.

It’s a management issue, this collection of cognitive-behavioral conundrums of mine, and I need to take a structured and focused approach, to deal with them effectively. That means tracking my activities and progress on a daily basis. Not just when I want to, but when I need to – which is all the time, and especially when I don’t think I need to. That means getting clear on what my problems are, and what issues aren’t specific to me, but common to the human condition. It means figuring out what really needs fixing, and what I can reasonably accept about myself (and other people). It means understanding where I can improve, where I should improve, and where I can afford to let things slide.

I’m sure it sounds rudimentary to most regular, neurologically intact folks, but to me, it’s not so straightforward. I’ve been operating with a “morphed” brain for as long as I can remember, and my perceptions and understandings of life and my experiences have evolved differently from most folks I know. But now I have help, and the person who’s helping me understands that brain injuries do have an impact. Now I have a chance to figure this out — and do it really well.

I’ve been marching down this recovery road all by myself for as long as I can remember — and more intentionally so, in the past year and a half. Now, I have someone (two highly qualified professionals, in fact) to work with me on this and help me sort things out. I’ve got an amazing and very distinguished diagnostic neuropsych on my side, and I’ve got a thoughtful and insightful and highly trained therapeutic neuropsych meeting with me regularly to sift through the loam of my life and screen out the rocks and weeds. I’ve got a good job with people who are warming up to me and are seeing more and more each day how well I can perform.

I’m (finally) very well “staffed” with support, and it is good. Very good, indeed.

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