Depression as a Spiritual Journey: Parker J. Palmer on Finding Life-Changing Meaning Within Clinical Depression

Ansel Adams

Conventional wisdom presents us with several different — often contradictory — theories as to the causes of depression.  We may see depression alternately as a genetic predisposition, a faulty neurochemical mechanism in the brain, a response to childhood circumstances, or to current adverse life conditions.  Research has pointed the way to several effective approaches to alleviating depression, including psychotherapy, exercise, mindfulness meditation, and antidepressants (judiciously used).  But it seems as though little attention is paid to the idea of a meaning or a message buried within depression. 

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Pathways Out of Depression: A Book Review of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – And Unexpected Solutions

In the book, Lost Connections, journalist Johann Hari takes aim at the antidepressant industry and the story it sells – namely, that depression is a physical ailment, a chemical imbalance in the brain, correctable with medication.  Hari begins by relating how, as a severely depressed teenager, his doctor told him his depression was a physical problem that could be corrected with a pill.  The antidepressant helped at first, despite an array of unpleasant side effects, but a year later, Hari found himself as depressed as he was before.  The writing of Lost Connections became Hari’s quest to come to terms with his own experience, and to investigate why it is our modern understanding of depression is failing to mitigate what has become a societal epidemic.

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Let’s Start With the Basics

Psychotherapy is personal. Deeply personal. So it makes sense that anyone considering therapy needs assurance that whatever is said in therapy stays in therapy. That’s why, when I meet a client for the very first time, I spend the first few minutes carefully explaining the rules of confidentiality. 

Here’s how it goes. I do not disclose your information (i.e., what you tell me in session) to anyone or any organization, without your explicit written consent. That means that our sessions are a safe repository for the facts of your life, your hopes, dreams, fears, opinions, regrets, most awkward and painful moments, victories and successes, and anything else you might share with me. As I often tell my clients, it’s like the walls are 400 feet thick. You can talk about anything here. And in a lot of ways, that’s the whole point of therapy. 

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