Anxiety Therapy in Stockholm: Walk and Talk or Talk and Tea… You Choose!

Stress Meter

Treatment for Anxiety is now attracting the same attention given to Depression over recent years. And it’s no wonder. Many people are unaware that Anxiety is affecting their lives and as a result become confused as to how to better approach their symptoms. Talk therapy can offer new ways of responding to Anxiety, and you don’t even have to do it sitting down!

Expat counselling brings me into contact with a wide range of people and personalities. I meet bankers and barmen, teachers and tradies, researchers, roadies and radio journalists. Some come to Sweden for relationships, some for money and some for recognition. It isn’t easy being an immigrant in Scandinavian culture regardless of how advanced Swedish society seems to be. Relocation, cultural differences and relationships are stressors and how we respond to stress affects how well we adjust and how happy we are.

When people come to me, they have often already researched their symptoms on the Internet and tried to diagnose themselves. So what is actually a stress response has been interpreted as ADHD, or OCD, or Depression, or Aspergers Syndrome, or Bipolar. These are the most common diagnoses people are concerned about. It is quite common for Depression to be preceded by Anxiety. However misdiagnosing yourself with the help of the Internet can mean using an ineffective treatment for the condition or falling into a sense of hopelessness. Some even come to the conclusion they have a genetic fault or biological deficiency that cannot be fixed.

I reckon that most people have come to these understandings because we don’t hear enough about Anxiety and how we can respond more effectively to it. Hopefully that is about to change. However this brings another danger: the idea that there is a ‘quick fix’ to Anxiety. My experience is that those suffering from Anxiety are also susceptible to promises about ‘fast results’ or ‘cures’. Taking medication can sometimes help but some drugs are addictive and only worsen the problem. A promise of complete recovery can be much more appealing than the idea that we might have to work at reducing Anxiety or even learn ways to live with it.

Click Here to Ask a Question or Make an Appointment

How Can I Reduce Anxiety?

Firstly, most people with Anxiety know that it can affect how their physiology works including changing the way they breathe, their heart rate and the feeling of control over their body. But not so many have learned that the reverse is true as well: you can lower physical and psychological Anxiety through consciously changing your breathing, using relaxation techniques and getting back in touch with your physical being. It is much easier to read about these methods than put them into practice. So getting the help of a therapist to try them out can make a huge difference. Let’s talk about the acute stress response of flight / fight / freeze and how important it is to drop out of that if your really want to get a handle on Anxiety.

Mindfulness Book
Secondly, the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being right here, right now. Not in the fear of the future or the regret of the past, but physically present in the moment. It is about focussing attention, without judgement, in calmness and clarity. It is not new but at least 2500 years old and it has stood the test of time. Mindfulness offers you a way of observing your feelings and emotions (including Anxiety) without being pushed around by them. It is highly effective but requires work and practice. This is where the therapist or counsellor can support you by explaining the practices of Mindfulness and helping you monitor your progress. If you are interested in reading about Mindfulness and Stress reduction, I recommend A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook available here on Amazon.

Thirdly you can work with your thoughts. This is why Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT or KBT in Swedish) has become so popular. It can be effective but so much depends on how the therapy is undertaken, the relationship between you and the therapist and, most importantly, whether you are outside of the stress response enough for your cognitive capacities to function properly. There are other approaches to working with Thoughts as well. Deconstructing ideas and concepts and working out how the thoughts arose in the first place can be a significant aspect to talk therapy. Again it requires a degree of trust is established between you and your counsellor.

Walking Talk Therapy

I offer a unique approach to working with Anxiety which I call ‘Walking Talk Therapy‘. Of course, you are always welcome to take a comfortable armchair in my consultation room and chat over a cup of tea (including herbal tea), coffee or glass of water. But if you prefer to walk and talk, we can do that and get some exercise at the same time. It is generally well known that exercise helps alleviate many forms of Depression but it can also be effective for Anxiety. This is at least partly because we are using our whole body when we walk and we can work with the breath in different ways as we walk. These are the most effective means to reduce an acute stress response. It can help us to access a more relaxed sense of ourselves, feel more free and clear our thoughts so we have capacity to think differently.

We aren’t all the same and some of us respond better to some Anxiety treatments than others. So apart from face to face appointments in my consultation room and Walking Talk Therapy, I also offer therapy for Anxiety over the Internet through Skype webcam, Instant Message and Email Exchange. So it doesn’t matter where you are in Sweden or anywhere else in the world, through web technology we can communicate and work cooperatively to reduce Anxiety and change your response to stress.

If you are ready to make an appointment or if you want to know more about my availability and fees, contact me now and let’s make a start. There is more information about me and how I work in these pages but if you have any questions I would be happy to answer them directly.

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I look forward to hearing from you!

Ash Rehn.

10 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Counsellor or Therapist Who Works In English

Questions for Therapists

Have you reached a turning point in your life and want to find therapy in English?

Do you need counselling for relationship issues, stress or a break-up?

Or would you like to find an English speaking coach to improve life generally?

Here are ten important questions to ask your prospective counsellor or therapist. I’ve provided my own answers to give you a sense of where I fit according to these criteria:

1. How long was your therapy training?

My therapy training commenced when I started training as a counsellor in 1989 and it has not stopped since! Over the last 20+ years I have undertaken Bachelors and Masters degrees in Social Work, specialist narrative psychotherapy training through the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia and completed many short courses and workshops in a range of therapeutic approaches. These include CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), mindfulness, psycho-education (including motivational interviewing), stress management, relaxation strategies, problem solving, anger management, therapy for adult survivors of child abuse and couples counselling.

A good therapist does not stop his or her education simply when a qualification is achieved. Professional development must be ongoing. Each year I attend a number of training activities and conferences and regularly share the outcomes of these with my clients.

2. Under which title, coach, counsellor or psychotherapist would you be allowed to work in your own country?

In both Australia and England, I am allowed to use all 3 of these titles: coach, counsellor and psychotherapist. In Sweden the title ‘psychotherapist’ (or psykoterapeut in Swedish) is a protected title and only practitioners licensed by the Swedish National Health and Welfare Authority – Socialstyrelsen – can use that title. I have not applied to be licensed as a psychotherapist in Sweden and instead refer to myself as a samtalsterapeut (counsellor) or narrative therapist in my work. Psychotherapist training in Sweden is limited to certain methods or approaches and applicants for a Swedish license must demonstrate compliance with particularly Swedish requirements. I have found that most of the people who meet with me are far more interested in the benefits of a therapist who speaks their language and understands their culture than they are in meeting with someone who fits precise Swedish requirements or works through the Swedish healthcare system.

3. How often do you have supervision?

I generally attend supervision at least twice a month and my commitment to supervision meets the recommendations of the AASW and BACP. Supervision for counsellors and therapists is not the same as supervision in a management situation. It means something completely different. It is about discussing professional issues in a structured way and ensuring the counsellor or therapist is taking care of their own well-being. It helps counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists and social workers ensure their integrity and ethical practice. Counsellors and therapists in private practice will generally be paying for private supervision from a more or equally experienced person. I have such an arrangement with a more experienced practitioner and also engage in regular peer supervision with colleagues.

4. How long have you been practising?

I began practicing as a counsellor in 1989 and have worked across the community, government and private sectors over the years. Since 2005 I have been specialising in mental health counselling and therapy. I commenced private practice as a therapist and mental health counsellor in 2008.

5. What is your theoretical approach?

My practice is informed by a range of theoretical approaches. When undertaking advanced therapeutic work with people, it tends not to be helpful to be limited to a singular technique or method. In Sweden, counselling and therapy is dominated by Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT or KBT) and Psychoanalysis but there are many other ways of working together if these do not appeal to you. I am particularly drawn to dialogical and narrative practices and the work of a number of well-known therapists including Harlene Anderson, Johnella Bird, Art Fisher, David Epston, Michael White. If you would like more information about these approaches, I would be happy to send you some links if you email me for details.

6. Do you offer a 50 or a 60 minute hour?

My standard appointments are 60 minutes but longer appointments (75 minutes or longer) can easily be negotiated. I generally leave at least 15 minutes between appointments and, if I have more time available, I usually don’t mind if we continue a little longer if it is helpful to you.

7. What do the initials behind your name actually mean?

Currently the initials after my name are: BSocWk, MA, MAASW (acc.). They stand for Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Arts and Member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (accredited).

8. Are you an accredited member of a professional organisation?

Yes, as above, I am an accreditated member of the AASW in Australia. This accreditation means I have a qualification awarded by a professional association as a specialist mental health provider and can offer focussed psychological services under the Australian government Medicare program when I am meeting with clients in Australia (similar to the services provided by psychologists that are reimbursed by the government there). The AASW supports my practice in Europe and represents my professional interests, however unfortunately Medicare will not reimburse appointment fees unless we meet in Australia.

9. Do you have insurance?

Yes, I hold both professional indemnity and public liability insurance.

10. Are you registered for tax in Sweden?

Yes, I am fully registered with Skatteverket, the Swedish tax authority and required to invoice moms (consumption tax) on my services in Sweden. If you require your invoice made out to a particular company name, please advise me in advance.

Extra question: How old are you?

Some people want to know how old I am and I am quite open about my age. I was born in 1969 so at the time of writing this, I am 43 years old.

You can read more on the About Ash Rehn page. If you are interested in making an appointment, please contact me by email or phone. I’m happy to answer any further questions you might have.

Life Coaching in English to Turn Your (Swedish) Life Around

motivation and life coaching in Sweden 2013

Not adjusting to life in Sweden? Worried about your mental health? Can’t concentrate and think you have ADD or ADHD? Struggling with the winter? Don’t let the darkness, Snökaos (snow chaos) or winter blues drive you to depression. Whether you choose to do it in-person or by webcam, you might just need a few sessions of life coaching to get back on track.

Here’s how therapy and life coaching with an English speaking coach and counsellor might make a difference to life in Sweden.

Bollplank, Sounding Board or Reflective Surface

Talking with your partner sometimes is not enough. Sometimes we are just too close to someone to offer a different perspective and it can seem like a lot of pressure if a sambo, husband or wife is the only one to talk with. The Swedes have an expression ‘bollplank’ which in English is akin to ‘sounding board’, someone or something we can throw our thoughts against to test them out. (Literally it is a plank of wood for kicking footballs against). In my work I call it the Reflective Surface.

There are many ways to employ a reflective surface: some people keep a journal or diary, video blog, artwork, cooking, craft… In fact any activity that combines structure and imagination with a product can provide a means to reflect your identity and ideas back to you in a positive, affirming way that supports change. A conversation can also be a reflective surface. In my office I use a whiteboard which is a literal reflective surface and sometimes I use it to hold onto the expressions or words that come up in a session. But even without the whiteboard, meeting with a coach serves the same ends because you hear yourself saying things and the coach can hold onto your words and ask you about them. A life coach can help with:

  • Sharing what has been happening
  • Working out what is important
  • Making goals
  • Following through with intentions
  • Acknowledging and celebrating progress.

If everything seems to be going well for your partner but not for you, don’t take it out on your sambo. Make it you New Years Resolution to get your own ‘bollplank’ and let the relationship be what it should be.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

A lot of people approach me thinking they have ADHD because they can’t concentrate at home or work, or both. And there is a lot of discussion at the moment about ADHD, particularly in Sweden where there is a huge expectation that people are on time, focussed and ‘get with the program’. The norms of behaviour in Sweden are very influential. If you have seen preschoolers being marched around the city in pairs, you will get what I mean. This is a society where, to a large extent, cooperation and compliance are unspoken rules. I mention this because it is important to understand that cultural influence and social expectations can play a part in how we feel and how quickly we adjust.

But difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom of depression. When we feel low, unmotivated, frustrated or insignificant, it can be harder to stay on task. In a way this is our instinct or animal side at work, trying to get our bodies moving again. Movement and exercise to treat Depression has been recommended.

Here are some other signs and symptoms that you might not be alright:

  • You are spending all day inside and not going out at all
  • Mood swings or constant irritability
  • Feeling like a zombie or not feeling anything at all
  • Eating constantly and more than you need to (or a loss of appetite)
  • Drinking alcohol everyday or most days on your own
  • Not engaging with friends
  • Ruminating thoughts, ‘overthinking’ and dwelling on failure
  • Less attention to self care or neglecting basic hygiene (not showering, brushing teeth or changing clothes)

The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a psychologist or to go on medication simply because some of these are present. The benefit of working with me is you can tell your friends / family / sambo that you are seeing a coach for adjusting to life in Sweden. You can even meet me online, over webcam or for instant message counselling if you don’t want to take on the snökaos or you are living in Uppsala, Västerås, Nyköping or otherwise on the outskirts of Stockholm. Likewise if you are in Malmö, Gothenburg or Umeå or somewhere more remote, online coaching means you save the travelling time and can get help from the warmth and comfort of your own home.

Of course, if you are at any serious risk or your health is deteriorating quickly, you should not hesitate to consult a GP.

From Therapy for Depression or Adjustment to Coaching for Life Goals

When life seems to be stuck or falling apart, it can help to talk it over, make a plan and have someone to engage with and help you to monitor progress. A lot of people start to meet with me for therapy around a particular issue and end up feeling better to the point that our sessions become more about coaching and moving forward. Recently I have been speaking with people about:

If you have found me through ForwardTherapy.se price and cost of coaching might not be your main concern. You are probably more interested in finding a professional who understands what you are going through and offers the advantage of sessions in English. But just send me an email (preferred) or call and leave a message for a callback if you would like more information about my fees and payment options.

Engelsktalande Samtalsterapeut (English Speaking Counsellor): A Word For Spouses and Sambos

If you think your partner, wife or husband might benefit from coaching, kognitiv beteende terapi / cognitive behaviour therapy with an english speaking coach (kbt på engelska) or just a bollplank with someone other than yourself, feel free to send me an enquiry. I am used to working with people in relationships where one partner is struggling with culture or climate or relocation adjustment and there is some conflict in the relationship as a result. There is more information here på svenska.

Next year I will be relocating my office from Kungsholmen to Södermalm in Stockholm. But you can make a start now and put yourself on a better track for 2013. Start making your New Years Resolutions.

Write to me and I will send you full details of availability, fees and answer any questions you have. Please let me know if you prefer in-person (face to face in Stockholm) or online consultations.

Anxiety and Regular Therapy in Stockholm: Temporary and Ongoing Solutions

Image of a man with stress associated with cultural adjustment

Person with Anxiety at work in StockholmInternational relocation to Sweden is a major life change for most people, particularly if it is the first time they have moved somewhere English is not the first language. But for a person with persistent anxiety, the stress of finding accommodation, dealing with visa issues, trying to make friends and maintain relationships can make pre-existing worries feel much worse.

How can regular counselling appointments help Anxiety?

The advantage of building a relationship with a professional therapist or counsellor is that when things go ‘pear-shaped’, you have someone who knows you and can work in ways that suit your background and personality. Uncertainty coupled with the frustration of being in an unfamiliar place can lead to mood swings, irritation and sometimes a sense of despair or hopelessness. It can be reassuring to know there is someone in Stockholm or online who is willing to listen and help you through the transition of settling into life in Sweden or assist to deal with anxiety over the long-term, if that is what you want.

Sometimes I am asked the question: Which is better, brief counselling or ongoing therapy? The straight answer to this is that they can both be helpful in their own ways. It really depends on what you are looking for. ‘Counselling’ is often the term to describe a series of appointments with a particular goal in mind like getting strategies to make it easier to talk to people at parties or ways to manage mood swings after a relationship break up. Sometimes particular methods like CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) or breathing techniques can be employed to meet specific objectives. Counselling appointments can also be a means to access health education or relaxation techniques. A series of counselling appointments might last 6-12 sessions over 2-3 months.

The word ‘therapy’ is usually used when people describe a process that takes place over a longer period, for example, from several months to a year. Therapy for anxiety can involve talking about previous life experiences and retelling these in ways that reflect new understanding or reveal skills and abilities that may not have been previously acknowledged. Or it can mean developing new approaches to fears or worries, putting these into practice, refining and modifying them over time while checking in with a therapist who helps monitor progress or maintain a sense of achievement. Of course some people choose to continue with their therapist even beyond a year. In this way, a therapeutic relationship can be akin to meeting regularly with a personal trainer, nutritionist or accountant. Ongoing therapy appointments aren’t just about solving problems. They can also be a way of maintaining your overall well being.

These are generalisations of course. You can attend therapeutic appointments with me in Stockholm or have coaching and counselling over Skype webcam for as few or as many sessions as works for you. Both approaches are more than just listening, and ideally are more than just being given skills or techniques by the therapist. Counselling and therapy work best when they are a collaborative process where both you and I work together.

What happens in Anxiety Therapy?

The answer to this question really depends on you, your preferences, experiences, hopes and expectations for the appointments.

I don’t work from a manual because people are not machines. While some of us have common experiences, we also have unique histories that require unique outcomes from therapy consultations. You might be someone who responds well to cognitive strategies and being offered new ways to think about distress and uncertainty. Or you might be looking for tools to modify your behaviour in  situations when nervousness takes over. Perhaps you just need a sounding board, to have someone hear what you are going through and ask questions so you can explain and understand your worries. Or maybe you just want to talk and get something off your chest?

I work with anxiety and depression every day. I’m used to meeting with people who feel nervous and don’t know what to expect from the appointment. When you come to see me I will do my best help you to feel comfortable and talk freely. You can talk to me in English and take a break whenever you need. What you say to me is confidential and I am bound by ethics and membership of my professional association to maintain your confidentiality. The only exceptions to this are where there is a high risk to a person’s life, when a child is in danger or if the law orders me to report something in particular. But even in these circumstances I will always try to discuss my concerns with you first.

There isn’t a set time frame for anxiety treatment. Adjustment to living in Sweden and culture-shock tend to require shorter term approaches than fears, hang-ups and suspicions that have been carried around for years. My intention is to provide you with a space where you can put down some of your psychological ‘baggage’, go through it with me, and decide what is useful and what isn’t. Together we can try to make sense of whatever is confusing you or holding you back so you can go forward. Hence ‘Forward Therapy’.

Trust develops as we get to know each other. If you have had difficult or unhappy memories of therapy appointments in the past, I welcome you to share these with me to help me provide you with effective consultations.

A Word about Drinking Alcohol and Stress

It is very common for expats to seek help for problems with drinking too much. Alcohol can enable people to relax and unwind, particularly when they are finding their job (or unemployment) stressful, if they feel they are not meeting the expectations of their partner or having other relationship issues. Unfortunately, drinking can also lead to the other extreme, a total absence of control, anger and more regrets. But even when people are struggling with drinking they don’t always want to stop completely. I will work with what you want to achieve in terms of your alcohol use and what you are aiming for, whether it is just a reduction in how much you drink, changing when or under what circumstances you drink or ceasing drinking completely.

We can meet in-person at my office in Stockholm, for Walking Talk-Therapy on Kungsholmen or over Skype webcam. If you would like to make an appointment, please contact me by email or leave a message on 08-559 22 636 for me to call you back.

Walking Talk Therapy for Mental Health in English in Stockholm

A Park to Walk in Stockholm

A Park to Walk in StockholmThe advantages of counselling and therapy shouldn’t just be psychological. Walking while talking is a new approach to talk therapy that benefits the body as well as the mind.

As a therapist who personally enjoys exercise and the positive effects of movement, I was not surprised when I read in the Sydney Morning Herald about research that demonstrated sitting was bad for our health.

I’ve written before about how exercise is important to both our physical and psychological health. Sitting for prolonged periods can reduce lifespan so decreasing our sitting time is just as critical to health as taking exercise. But modern lifestyles have many of us spending long work hours in front of our computers. It can be difficult to remember to take regular breaks let alone to keep moving our bodies.

So I am now also offering counselling, coaching and therapy in English in Stockholm while walking outdoors. This is a unique service for Stockholm that fits with making it easier and more beneficial for people to meet with a counsellor.

The Benefits of Walking Therapy

Taking a walk each day can lift mood, free thinking and help us manage emotions. For some people, it can be a reasonable alternative to medication. But there are other advantages to therapy while walking outside as well. We know sunlight is important for production of vitamin D and general health. Talking with a counsellor while taking a walk treats your whole person, body, mind and spirit. The practice of walking itself can quieten thoughts and relieve anxiety. It’s refreshing, relaxing and the rhythm of a walk can also help to sort out problems.

Like other forms of counselling, Walking Talk Therapy is an opportunity to discuss strategies, get things in perspective, or simply get a sounding board for the changes you know you want to make. Being out in nature is conducive to healing and improved mental health. Expats can speak English during the appointment and benefit both from the change of scene and a compassionate listening ear. People who have experienced disappointment, loss or even trauma may find that time spent in nature is therapeutic in itself. Those seeking to improve their physical health and motivation can find active consultations even better than sessions that are office based. So counselling appointments while you walk offer a combined form of treatment.

With my Walking Talk Therapy in Stockholm, you are welcome to request help with the same kinds of goals or concerns you bring to office based appointments. Many people who come to see me talk about depression or anxiety, family and relationship issues. But the areas I specialise in include:

How Does Walking Talk Therapy Work?

Usually we start the first appointment in my counselling rooms on Kungsholmen in central Stockholm. If you decide to proceed with a walking appointment, we can go to Rålambshovsparken or along Norr Mälarstrand by Riddarfjärden. These parts of the island are quite beautiful throughout the year and provide plenty of open space for private conversations while walking. We can hold onto important points by jotting them down or taking an audio note as we go. Walking Talk Therapy is suitable for therapeutic approaches such as CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and narrative therapy.

If the weather is bad we can still meet in the office. The Swedish have a saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” but it is always your choice whether we go out for a walk or sit inside and chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

So why not combine therapy and some exercise? It’s healthy, refreshing and better for both of us! For daytime appointments until 5pm you are welcome to choose a 50 or 75 minute consultation depending on how much time you have available.

My goal is to make it easier for people to see me so, of course, if you prefer to sit comfortably and talk we can still do that. I still offer a range of options including online counselling over webcam from Stockholm or anywhere in Sweden.

Call now on 08-559 22 636 and leave a message if I don’t answer.

Or contact me through the form on my website for more details.

I look forward to us walking together!

Mental Health in Sweden: Normal Behaviour Becoming Harder to Achieve

bar graph image

bar graph imageIs psychological disability in Sweden really stopping so many from working?

(Update from June 2013: This post is actually about the pathologising of human experience: how more and more people are being labelled as ‘disordered’ or ‘deficient’ by the psychiatric profession in Sweden and the expectation that individuals fit with certain norms of behaviour. Some bloggers have attempted to use my words as evidence that Sweden is suffering from collective mental breakdown due to a breakdown of gender expectations and norms. I am certainly NOT suggesting that. If anything, taking a more gender neutral approach in education and other social functions has contributed to greater personal freedom for Swedes. However there is an increasing requirement for individuals to be diagnosed with an illness or disability in order to access support. Read on for more…)

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter has run a story about the sharp increase in numbers of young people leaving work and put onto disability pensions (known as ‘activity support’ for those under 30 and ‘sickness benefits’ for those 30-64).

Fewer young people are returning to employment after being pensioned off work, a phenomenon that has been referred to as a ‘ticking time bomb’ in view of the fact that many may be destitute by the time they are 30.

Sweden is not alone here. There were increases in young people starting on disability support in other Scandinavian OECD countries between 1995 and 2007. In Finland the increase was 5 percent, in Denmark 10 percent but Sweden had a massive 80 percent increase! That’s almost 30,000 people under 30 in Sweden who are on a disability pension.

Psychiatric Disorders Becoming More Common in Sweden

So why the huge increase? Well 73% of those young people have been given medical psychiatric diagnoses such as autism, ADHD and Aspergers. Could it really be that Sweden had such a rise in psychiatric disorders and mental disabilities compared to our Nordic neighbours? Is it something in the water?

As a counsellor, therapist and coach, I am often asked about such diagnoses and the increases. I think people expect me to say something about teenage computer gaming culture or genetics or to applaud the ‘science’ responsible for discovering such a vast previously undiagnosed population.

But what I see happening in Sweden is that so-called ‘normal’ behaviour is becoming more defined. The goal posts for what is considered normal are being brought closer together. The tolerance for non-conformity and extremes of mood and behaviour is reducing. It is becoming harder to be ‘lagom’!

In Sweden, psychiatric health has been constructed as a medical problem. Both anxiety and depression are treated primarily with medication. But drugs are also heavily prescribed for those whose attention, communication techniques or social skills fall outside what is measured to be the norm. And unfortunately, those norms are progressively less accommodating.

There’s no doubt that the pathologising of human experience is increasing in many countries. More people are being diagnosed as depressed, anxious, having a mental disability or disordered in some way. And this corresponds to increasing expectations that we fit prescribed ways of being and relating to each other. In workplaces and schools across Australia, the United Kingdom and America, more standards of performance are being established and procedures for selection are becoming more sophisticated.

Fortunately, not all mental health, psychotherapy or counselling practitioners favour responding to diversity with drugs or exclusion and many take a more norm-critical approach. Narrative therapy, Open Dialogue and other collaborative therapeutic practices are approaches which honour what people have to say about their own experience, rather than categorise us using medical terminology.

My hope is that eventually the doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and others responsible for measuring, diagnosing and categorising people will see the limitation of these practices. I look forward to a new era when Swedish society ceases to be obsessed with locating its deficits and deficiencies but instead acknowledges the unique skills, competencies and abilities of all individuals. A time when the expertise we bring to life’s challenges is respected and valued by the health professionals we consult and diversity is appreciated rather than shunned. Perhaps then we will see more young people participating in the workforce in Sweden.