4 MIN READ | Mental Health

Maxwell Guttman, LCSW

The ‘New Norm’ Is the Idea That Your Situation Simply Isn’t Going to Improve

Cite This
Maxwell Guttman, LCSW, (2022, May 6). The ‘New Norm’ Is the Idea That Your Situation Simply Isn’t Going to Improve. Psychreg on Mental Health. https://www.psychreg.org/new-norm-idea-your-situation-simply-isnt-going-improve/
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The ‘new norm’. I have a big issue with this concept.

Has life gone to shit? More importantly, are therapists saying: ‘Be OK with your situation regardless?’ As Dr Phil would say: ‘How is that working for you?’

Therapists, peers, and mental health professionals need to ‘help’ their consumers be at greater peace with their situation. The only issue then is what constitutes ‘help’? Professionals in mental health cant agree. Misapplication of techniques and misdiagnosis complicates everything further. How is anyone supposed to track recovery progress accurately without the proper treatment fit? 

Radical acceptance is another skill people in mental health grossly misapply (which makes the treatment fit challenging to decipher). Misuse this skill can be just as disabling and harmful as someone losing behavioral control. There is a fine line here before helpful becomes harmful. In the mental health realm, practitioners are too clumsy when paying attention to crossing this line. 

Finding the best treatment

Indeed, the climate in the rooms at mental health seminars, retreats, and the next team meeting at a local agency is never on the same page. Even when it comes down to our very intentions of helping folks in distress, how to do so has become a bit nebulous lately in the field. The gap between practitioners on best practices makes the helping process even more beguiling. When the helping profession cannot agree on what help means?! Unfortunately, there is no consensus (not even close!) through care systems in Eurocentric expressions of mental health treatment or the reform movement because help is far too unique to the individual. We are working with people from different cross-sections of society.

The manifestation of any ‘disorder’ or symptom (for those that lean towards DSM-oriented frameworks for positing mental health issues as a constellation of illnesses requiring treatment) will differ. Even for folks on the other end of the spectrum (and it is just that, a range of stances), the real issue continues to fascinate people in mental health.

Understanding these issues at hand as a direct or indirect result of complex traumas or learned behaviors from environmental, discriminatory, or nonorganic and codifying approaches to framing what the person needs make it profoundly difficult to define the idea of help.

Self-awareness and insight

Other insight-oriented cognitive processes make us think more about our behaviour. Thinking about our actions and behaviors does not guarantee to make a. healthy decision. After all, at this point, sadness and knowing things are going well. Being more aware does not mean doing the right thing in every situation.

Holding on to the belief solving a problem is futile is an even bigger problem. Therapists cannot gauge where people are regarding the intensity of the symptom and its persistence/chronicity regarding patient safety. The risk of potential harm is even more dangerous, and this is just one symptom. More expressions and many outcomes exist depending on the contributing factors we discussed earlier.

Now, this writer thinks very highly of himself and his colleagues. Despite these lofty beliefs, this writer is also a realist and needs to be pragmatic at work as a therapist. Not even the most skilled and calculating clinician or peer can predict or calculate every outcome (reading the DSM backward and forwards or as an expert in human behaviour). Unless the therapist is supernaturally clairvoyant and can read into the future with their clinical gaze, there are always incidents in this line of work. 

Peer and collateral support

Peer relationships and friendships can suffer tremendous interpersonal failure in the wake of not prosocial behaviors. As a friend or a peer, how many figurative slaps in the face with untoward behavior will you take before dropping a disordered peer? Radical acceptance of a sad person’s feelings comes with the peer’s mutual responsibility to accept these persons where they are at in life, right? How can we practice mutuality and not be realistic about a sad person’s potential behaviours when they do not feel well?

Some friends may claim to be supportive. Some reality testing here. Let us be honest if this were in a job situation. Even within family systems, some behaviors warrant immediate police intervention beyond a friend’s support. Threatening an ally and putting them at risk of harm, this friend must call the authorities. 

Symptoms make prosocial interaction far too complex for friends to practice radical acceptance. Friends and peers should be mindful of their peers’ ability to identify the line where your friend is still OK and then becomes or feels unsafe. And select an appropriate intervention congruent with a client’s clinical picture’s shifting nature. Increasingly tricky as old symptoms can manifest unpredictably. Understanding this will go a long way in reducing possible resentment and anger from allies regarding unexplainable behaviors or symptoms.

Radical acceptance

When practising radical acceptance, making decisions about your safety may not be mutual. Regardless, your friends and peers need to be comfortable enough to be present when your symptoms are active and direct you to obtain support when they can’t be fully present. Sometimes, like in all relationships, the decision to be there for you and support you isn’t always mutual. Be prepared for friends to walk away during your recovery.

When someone is friends with a person carrying a mental health diagnosis, there should be unconditional radical acceptance of their symptoms and their chosen recovery journeys. Unfortunately, some friends may not always be along for your recovery, so keep your chin up and always look for new friends that can accept your illness radically and not make your symptoms about their insecurities.


Maxwell Guttman, LCSW teaches social work at Fordham University. He is also a mental health correspondent for Psychreg.

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