responsible for applying the self-help methods, and "live with" the
A "treater," such as a surgeon, is highly trained and usually takes
responsibility for diagnosing the problem and assumes full control in
the operating room because the patient can't help him/herself in that
situation. You have not had the years of training and supervision
necessary to become a competent therapist to someone else. If you
feel that a friend of yours is allowing or asking you to take charge and
tell him/her what to do or to make him/her feel better, please refuse
to do so. Tell your friend that he/she must make the decisions, take
the action, and assume the responsibility (no matter how much you
would like to be a hero and save him/her). If the friend is unable or
refuses to handle his or her own problems and needs someone to take
over, please insist that your friend to seek professional help (and stay
only a friend, not a second competing therapist).
On the other hand, I want to make it clear that it is great to help
friends and to receive help from them. The world would be a healthier
and more beautiful place if all of us helped each other. But that
"helping" never includes taking over their life. Mutual helping or
support groups are wonderful opportunities to help and be helped (see
chapter 5 and Gartner and Riessman, 1984).
Understanding 11: If your problem(s) could be caused by physical-chemical
factors, see a physician first.
Certain physical conditions, such as low blood sugar or
hyperthyroidism, can cause symptoms that seem to be psychological,
such as fears, nervousness, irritability, depression, etc. Likewise,
psychological factors can cause physical symptoms, like exhaustion,
paralysis, pain, nausea, baldness, headaches, backaches, skin rashes,
sleeplessness, impotence, high blood pressure, etc.
Probably, physical, chemical, and constitutional factors play a role
in almost all personal-emotional problems. A psychologist or social
worker cannot deal with the physical causes; you must consult a
physician if your problems are possibly physical and not psychological
or interpersonal (see step 1 in chapter 2).
Understanding 12: When your problems are severe and/or your self help
efforts are ineffective, seek professional help immediately.
While knowledge of self-help may prevent or relieve many
problems, there are certain situations in every life where outside help
is necessary. Self-help is like first-aid; so, if you need surgery, don't
use band-aids, see a surgeon right away! What are some of the
psychological situations that call for professional help? When one is so
depressed that there are thoughts of suicide, when one's thoughts are
confused or unreasonable, when a person experiences urges to hurt
someone, when feelings towards other people are very strong (so that
one is not likely to be thinking straight), and when someone has tried