Many Problems Are Unique to Women and Require Specialised Therapy

In an age where stress has now become the prime cause of mental illness, the numbers of both men and women who are in need of counselling and psychiatric therapy continue to grow annually. For several decades now, the line that once differentiated the traditional roles played by males and females has been growing increasingly blurred and, as a result, many of the pressures to which they are exposed are quite similar, as are the ways in which each tends to be affected by them.

Despite this commonality, however, there are numerous psychological pressures that are unique to the female world and for which there is thus a need for an equally unique and specialised programme of treatment. For example, the act of childbirth can often be followed by the condition known as “baby blues” or post-partum depression, sometimes with dire consequences.

Wives, girlfriends and daughters, all too often, are subjected to physical and mental abuse by members of the opposite sex. In South Africa, today, the incidence of rape is on the increase, and while its victims display the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder, many others who are aware that they may be at risk live in the grip of a constant fear that it could be their turn next.

While there is little external pressure on males to look their best, females tend to experience far more pressure with regards to their physical appearance, which frequently leads to the conditions known as bulimia and anorexia; both psychological disorders. Even in the workplace, and despite the progress made in entrenching women’s rights, gender-based discrimination continues, thus adding one more to the list of reasons why so many are forced to seek therapy.

Regardless of the specific factors responsible for these conditions, among the primary requirements for recovery is for victims to understand their feelings and thoughts, to develop ways in which to relate both to themselves and to others, and to restore their sense of self-worth. Under the supervision of a therapist, patients are helped to better identify and express their emotions, and relating them and the behaviours they engender to events both past and present. These realisations lead to greater self-acceptance and pave the way for patients to adopt alternative and more appropriate ways in which to express their emotions.

The role of the psychotherapist is not to instruct or to correct a patient, but to promote enlightenment and eventual catharsis through the insights achieved by encouraging self-questioning. While much of the counselling involved may be conducted on an individual basis, the value of a group counselling session, shared with others who have suffered the same or very similar traumatic experiences, is self-evident and plays an important role in women’s therapy.

At a time when single parenthood almost seems to be the norm, concerns about finances see many of those with mental health issues failing to receive the treatment that they need. A leading psychotherapist, with almost twenty-five years of experience, Dr Tienie Maritz believes that affordability should never be a barrier to mental health. His fees are below average, within medical aid limits and require no up-front payments, while non-members are free to arrange payments with instalments.