What are we talking about in psychologists’ and life coaches’ consulting rooms across the country? What’s eating at us? We asked seasoned professionals to share their thoughts.

The last eight years of counselling people and couples in my Cape Town practice have seen many and varied issues arising, ranging from infidelities in relationships and sexual identity issues, to trauma and divorce.

In the last year, however, I’ve observed a marked rise in what I refer to as a ‘new wave’ of modern-day psychological issues. Many people report that they feel ‘stressed out’ and that they are ‘stuck’ or ‘lost’ in their life, not knowing how to change it or who to turn to for help. They might lack confidence in themselves, or have a negative self-image or low self-esteem, which holds them back from growing and moving on in life. They experience anxiety much of the time, primarily about not being where they feel they should be in their lives and where their lives are going. This can lead to depression, and increasingly requires the use of antidepressant medication, which seems to be on the rise.

I recently had a discussion with a GP who commented that he now prescribes more antidepressants than he does antibiotics or cold and flu medication. It reflects the presence of a general malaise that currently affects the upwardly mobile, 30+ age group. The last year has seen a rise in asexuality, particularly in women who have no drive or desire for sex, whether in or out of a relationship. On the other extreme there are instances of aberrant sexual behaviours and sexual addiction, often exacerbated by the increasingly available material and connections on the internet and social media. – Janet Winterbourne, family and relationship therapist, Cape Town.

For the most part, the reasons clients come to see me are varied, but as I look deeper, however, I realise that there is, in fact, a common theme that connects all of them: change. Of course, by definition, all of my work with clients addresses the need for change, and my role is therefore to assist in facilitating change.

"What I have noticed over the last while is an increase in clients who lack vitality." 

Some have questions about, and symptoms of, depression or anxiety and yet many refer to it in quite vague terms, perhaps as a desire to live a more fulfilling life. For others, even the expectation of a meaningful life seems too much to ask.

In essence, it seems that people are steadily feeling more alienated from a meaningful life. I think the increasingly rapid pace of change in our global society, and possibly to an even greater extent in the South African context, is becoming ever more challenging to negotiate.

More and more, people are feeling out of touch with their own lives. The models of successful living presented to us are unattainable, and don’t fulfil people. Clients feel confused, and struggle to cope with so much change. At the root of the problem is a disconnection with personal values, and a reliance on external sources, such as the media, to provide guidance for a fulfilling life. In addition, many people have little understanding of the role of their thoughts and feelings, or the importance of basic mental health, such as diet, exercise, social engagement and sleep. – Yoav van der Heyden, clinical psychologist, Cape Town

In my practice, I usually see a wide range of cases which vary from your normal day-to-day problems to the more severe.

However, what I did notice is the staggering number of people suffering with some form of addiction or other: substance abuse, gambling, sexual and pornography addiction are the most common.

What is of great concern to me is the number of professional people affected by dependencies. Substance dependency, for example, is no longer only associated with a lower-income population. The demands of balancing work, family caught up with many.

“What I did notice is the staggering number of people suffering with some form of addiction or other”

My clients often complain of being unable to keep up with expectations. I have several cases where clients have been severely traumatised, yet their employers and society expect them to be back at work and fully functional shortly after the trauma occurred. It seems society is much more tolerant of a physical injury than a mental one such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PtSD).

I also do couples and relationship therapy. It seems that people are much more blasé about ‘old’ values. Infidelity is almost the norm. However, people expect their partners to be faithful and demand the benefits of a relationship (safety, security, trust and intimacy) without putting in the necessary effort themselves to sustain a healthy relationship. – Cathrin Venter, clinical psychologist, Durban

I’ve seen a huge spike in clients with pornography addiction, as well as addiction to chatrooms and ‘hooking up’ – romantically or sexually – with others online. Often these clients are in a relationship, and may enter therapy because a spouse has discovered some form of infidelity and given them an ultimatum. For these clients, treatment is less likely to be successful than for those who enter into therapy of their own accord.

The ease with which pornography is accessible online is a major problem; it can, and has, developed into a serious compulsion for many men of all backgrounds, from taxi drivers to corporate CEOs. It’s also very easy to ‘hook up’ online and escalate this into a physical encounter.

One man came to see me after his wife had found images of a naked woman on his phone. He hadn’t actually had an affair, but his wife refused to believe him. The images had been sent to him months before by a woman he’d met online, and he thought he’d deleted them. Technology makes it so easy to transgress, and the damage to a relationship can be devastating.

Apart from that, a significant portion of my clients are young couples, recently married, who are experiencing problems. I think younger people have unrealistic expectations of marriage, encouraged by movies and the media. There is also a stronger sense of wanting to have their own needs met without much consideration for their partner. – Woolf Solomon, PhD, or ‘Dr Paul’ as he’s known in the media, clinical psychologist, Johannesburg

People often come to my practice because they are suffering from loneliness. Ninety percent will tell me they feel lost for no reason; they feel detached from their real self and they sometimes don’t recognise the person they see in the mirror.

Some feel lonely because they don’t have any close friendships. They feel isolated and invisible, lack social support or think that no one around them understands what they are going through.

Often loneliness becomes more prominent when a client is under stress – they only pay attention to the feeling when a situation has triggered loneliness. This is called functional loneliness, because most of the time they can carry on with their lives without feeling crippled by it. There is also the chronic kind, which can lead to depression and suicide. This kind of loneliness is a terrifying condition no one should ever have to deal with.

To treat loneliness, the client has to be motivated to change, which is not easy. It requires them to start trusting other people enough to open up about how they’re feeling – not only a life coach, counsellor or psychologist, but also friends, family members and loved ones.

It’s difficult for people to be a source of comfort if we do not let them into our lives and ask for help. It involves taking a risk and moving out of your comfort zone, but if you are willing to make that change you can make that background loneliness noise go away, or become a very quiet whisper that you’re able to deal with. The problem with lonely people is that they isolate themselves so much that you can’t even hear them scream. – Moeti Modiba, life coach and Neuro-linguistic Programming practitioner, Pretoria

“Men who come to see me willingly have found that their addiction to porn or sex is compromising their life and relationships”

In my 20 years as a sexologist in private practice I’ve seen people’s perceptions of sexuality, and of therapy in general, change from being inhibited to being much more open. After Viagra’s launch in 1998, people started talking more openly about sexual problems and realised that successful treatment is available. The number of clients using medication for anxiety and depression is much higher today, suggesting the negative impact of higher stress levels, higher expectations of life and higher rates of trauma. These factors influence sexual desire, and there has been an increase in male and female clients with sexual desire disorders, erectile dysfunction in younger men, as well as women experiencing pain during sex. 

On the positive side, women are taking back their sexual power and are more in touch with their sexuality – they want to be sexually fulfilled as well. I also see more couples over the age of 65 who seek treatment for sexual problems. My oldest was 83. The use of sexual aids is now viewed as a normal, healthy way to spice up one’s sex life. – Elmari Mulder Craig, European-certified psychosexologist, psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, relationship therapist and author, Pretoria

For free advice on mental health issues, Jet Club members can call our helpline.

SA & Namibia
0800 00 45 45

Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland
+2711 991 8258

5 REASONS WHY THERAPY COULD BE HELPFUL 5 REASONS WHY THERAPY COULD BE HELPFUL Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on February 26, 2021 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.