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Teresa Barrera, psychologist: "Wounds can generate strengths".

The demand for psychologists and psychiatrists has grown in the pandemic, and how to help in the face of vital fractures is sometimes ignored. Psychologist and therapist Teresa Barrera reviews seven tools for psychological and spiritual accompaniment. She speaks, for example, that "wounds can generate strengths", or to look "in an integrated way".

Rafael Miner-November 25, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes
PhotoTeresaBarreraPrimeplanoMesa

Teresa Barrera in her speech at the University of Navarre.

What does it mean to look at people in an integrated way? "Taking into account their three dimensions: psychological, biological and spiritual". We all have our fractures throughout our history, "it is something that we must assume and that also generates in us strengths". This is what the psychologist Teresa Barrera, collaborating specialist of the Dr. Carlos Chiclana Consultation, assures.

"Living in an integrated way allows people to be happy and to know what they have been called to do", said Teresa Barrera at the conference. Psychology and spiritual lifein a session entitled Addressing fractures in the coherence of life of the Christian subject, which he gave to more than 300 people at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarra.

The issue of mental health, especially in these times of pandemic, is of increasing concern to some specialists, who warned as early as 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic would be followed by problems of the mind. For a good accompaniment, Barrera considers it important to know what the person does, how he does it, why and for whom: "This way we will understand the causes of the rupture, to be able to reorder his behavior and that the person lives in freedom. Often it is not a question of attitude, and this makes the patient feel much less guilty. 

Regarding the origin of the incoherence, he distinguished two cases: when it has a psychiatric root, such as cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); or when the incoherence has a psychological root, in which case it is helpful to know the personal history.

These are some of the questions that psychologist Teresa Barrera discussed with Omnes, following her intervention at the University of Navarra.

-The American Psychological Association (APA) warned in late summer last year that psychologists and psychiatrists were seeing an increase in consultations in the pandemic. Some said at the time that Have these demands continued to grow?

Yes, it is evident. There are things that were already in people, they were already adapted, and the situations we have lived through of uncertainty have destabilized them, and they have become more present, and that is why they have asked for help. And then there is a lot of grief to live through. Not only personal mourning, but also things that we have lost in our relationship with others, the time we have been away from others, projects that have had to be closed..., These are also mourning that we have to live through. There have been many variables. There have been people who have been destabilized by the instability of the moment, and by the situations they have had to face.

-What type of fractures are you referring to? Because there can be different kinds of fractures. Life is hard and many things can happen.

They do not have to be big fractures. For a Christian, a difficulty in communication; in marriage, a lack of intimacy is a fracture in coherence. We don't have to talk only about addictions, or infidelity, or serious things. And that can have an origin, from a psychiatric point of view, or from a psychological point of view.

For example, laziness can be a symptom of depression, and it is a fracture in coherence, but it has an origin, it has an explanation. Overwork, for example. People who live more for work than for their family.

-You have spoken of the fractures in the coherence of life of the Christian subject, but it is assumed that the psychological tools you propose are also valid for non-Christians.

The title of the presentation spoke of the fracture in coherence. That is, when a person acts inconsistently. That is what we were referring to. Where is the explanation of incoherence, which can have a psychiatric origin or a psychological origin. A person who is dependent on another person. It can have a psychological origin in the first family relationship, and emotional dependencies are generated. That is why it is a fracture in the coherence. Maybe it is a person who does whatever it takes to be loved by the other person.

And the fracture is not in the wound, but in the coherence, in this case. Although my presentation had the title of fractures of the Christian subject, these are things that are also valid, logically, for non-Christians. It is the fracture in coherence. Although here we are talking about Christian values.

-Let's go to the psychological tools for a good accompaniment of the person. You spoke of seven, and you started with this one: 'The relationship that heals'.

The therapeutic relationship in itself is healing, therefore, in spiritual accompaniment it is also fundamental. This therapeutic relationship generates a stable and safe relationship, where emotional expression is allowed, where the person can show him/herself as he/she is, without being judged.

-Second, the framework of spiritual accompaniment, can you summarize it?

A framework is needed to help the person being accompanied to understand what spiritual accompaniment is and its limits: what aspects are to be dealt with, areas of life to be discussed, times, place, frequency and mode of communication.

-Third, what does it mean to 'make a life line, which we will then join to the work on strengths and emotions'? These are his words.

Ordering one's life is key to know oneself and allows to align life events. It can be done in different ways, by years, by crisis...

-Fourth. Strengths.

Our wounds can generate strengths. It is important to reflect this, because if we only show where the problems are, the person becomes frustrated in the end. If we reinforce the attempts at solutions and the things he or she has learned along the way, the person becomes empowered.

-Fifth. Emotional awareness and regulation.

It consists of helping to detect which emotions the person has in important moments, so that he/she integrates them in life and learns to regulate them. Naming emotions, defining them and expressing them allows the person to know him/herself.

-Sixth. Enabling and reflective questions.

We can use questions that help the person to reflect on him/herself, the consequences of his/her actions, what he/she feels and get a glimpse of the strengths mentioned in the previous section.

-And seventh. The ideal self versus the actual self.

To allow the person, through the map of his history where are the shortcomings and strengths, to know his originality and love himself, to know where he wants to direct his life in freedom. We can translate it by working on the ideal by relying on reality. The idea is to work the person from how he/she is, not only from the ideal; to work the ideal based on reality.

-Let's talk for a moment about 'doing whatever it takes' to get attention, as you mentioned before. It often happens sometimes that after a breakup, for example, you can think of anything crazy...

When we reach these extremes, we need therapeutic accompaniment. Because what one feels and what one does is not proportionate to the vital fact. In these cases, when the person does not tolerate the anxiety, the discomfort or the pain of separation, therapeutic accompaniment is necessary, because it is not proportionate. When emotions are disproportionate, they mean that something is not working well. Another thing is that a person is sad, and cries, or gets angry because of the circumstances, but can continue with his or her life.

We conclude the conversation. In case you are interested, the academic conference was also attended by Dr. Jorge Iriarte, doctor, priest and professor at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarra; Montserrat Lafuente, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, professor at the Abat Oliva-CEU University and at the seminary of Barcelona; Professor Wenceslao Vial, professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome); and university professors José María Pardo and Martiño Rodríguez-González Rodríguez, professor at the University of Navarra; Professor Wenceslao Vial, professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome); and university professors José María Pardo and Martiño Rodríguez-González, who moderated the presentations.

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