How Metacognitive Therapy Helped Me

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Today’s guest blogger is Sandra Yuen MacKay, an artist and the author of My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, a memoir about her struggle with schizoaffective disorder. She states, “This painting on the cover of my book expresses the impact of mental illness on my life – the fragmentation – but also the vivid colours symbolize my hopes and dreams.” Sandra is the recipient of the 2012 Courage to Come Back Award in the mental health category. For more information about her book, interviews, and links to her art, please visit: http://symackay.blogspot.com . Today she shares what has helped her develop insight.

How Metacognitive Therapy Helped Me

 By Sandra Yuen MacKay

When I was first diagnosed in 1980, my mind was filled with false beliefs. I denied I was ill. After stabilizing on medication and educating myself around mental illness, I gradually developed insight but I continued to go back and forth between reality and my delusionary world.

Over thirty years later, I have a very different outlook because of good things in my life, growth in self-esteem and confidence, and support from others, and have learned to let go of some very strong delusions I had. I met people who had similar past experiences within the mental health community so I felt I wasn’t alone in my struggles. I learned wellness tools from the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support (BRIDGES) and metacognitive therapy.

I’d like to share more about metacognitive therapy training (MCT), an innovative program developed by Steffen Moritz at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany and Todd Woodward, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Todd is also an award-winning research scientist at the BC Mental Health & Addictions Research Institute (BCMHARI) in Vancouver.

I attended a 16-session MCT program at Midtown Mental Health Team led by two staff members. The program is designed to help people to improve cognitive skills through interactive powerpoint presentations. They led the group through different exercises involving memory, logic, reasoning, and awareness. For example, we viewed a picture of an individual and tried to figure out things about him based on his appearance. But one can’t always judge a book by its cover. I discovered my perception was based on my own biases or experience. Through the program, I discovered how I might misinterpret an event, which if left unchecked, may contribute to my anxiety or false belief systems.

For example, if I have a foreign thought, I may jump to the conclusion that someone is sending me a telepathic message or controlling my mind, which may make me anxious. Instead, if I retrain my thinking and realize it is a symptom of my illness or has another explanation, I am better able to dismiss it through mindfulness or by distracting myself.

Or if I’m walking down the street and I hear a stranger swear, I might think the person is angry at me. However, maybe he’s having a bad day, on a cellphone, or talking to himself. Just because he said something, doesn’t mean it has anything to do with me but may be more to do with him or the situation or circumstance.

The powerpoint modules in this program are available on the internet, however, I found it much more beneficial to do the exercises with others and be led through it with the aid of staff. It was insightful to hear the other participants’ interpretations and suggestions. By questioning myself, I can recognize symptoms more readily and see experiences from different angles rather than seeing only my point of view. MCT may not cure me, but it is a very useful wellness tool.

So if you have a group or know a mental health team that might want to get started with the MCT program, you may contact Todd Woodward at todd.woodward@ubc.ca

Or for more info, visit: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/cbt/alt/3 – article on MCT

http://uke.de/mkt – program modules and materials

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