What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


Where does mental health fit in?

Posted on September 1, 2022 by Katy Byrne

Here’s my opinion: If you don’t get to the roots of the weed it just grows back. We can remove guns and make new laws, that goes a long way. But, until communities have affordable, competent mental health counselors and educators who help people learn about their gritty emotions, we will have emotional and physical violence.

With insight about what underlies harmful or hostile impulses, we can redirect these never-ending, destructive hair-trigger reactions. Understanding false beliefs, fears, self-loathing, shame, unmet needs, frustrations and so on is essential for continued cooperation and collaboration. Otherwise, we humans will keep finding ways to demolish life.

Granted, the most wounded people, with abusive childhoods, usually do the worst possible violence and crime. But, it’s undeniable that most humans sometimes need assistance. Good quality, affordable counseling, education and learning about communications skills props us up. Knowing about history and civility could help knit together our disenfranchised and angry world. 

Too many people are one minute away from a trigger. Hopefully not a gun, but distorted feelings can fracture our homes and towns. The upshot (not a pun) is that we would have calmer communities if we all had accessible places to process, digest, explore our emotional hairballs and understand our patterns and longings. 

We all need support, including me. Though I have been a psychotherapist for over 35 years, I am human. 

I sought out a counselor last year to sort through some questions about my life. It was comforting being with her, even on Zoom. Having a place to “unpack” mixed feelings and identify my goals was empowering. After a dozen sessions, she announced that the insurer decided I wasn’t sick enough or “acute,” so we had three more appointments left for closure. It was a blunted ending. 

The absence of available social support is a glaring part of increased hatred and depression everywhere. Only eight percent of Americans report having important conversations with their neighbors in a given year. Seventy-three percent of third marriages end in divorce. Suicide is the twelfth leading cause of death in the U.S. Statistics show that ending gun sales – especially to the under aged – helps a helluva lot – but, it’s not the entire solution.

I have worked in many settings, including foster care, prisons, homeless populations, hospitals, county work, probation, etc. They all need budget increases that bolster and sustain stable services. 

I respect my profession and its profound purpose. But, the stigma attached to “being unhappy” in our culture devalues the comfort and repair possible from having safe conversations in the community. As of now, we believe we have to hide our true selves in this society, fueling loneliness and fragmentation. 

We could all be learning how to listen better without shaming others. Bessel Van Der Kolk writes, in The Body Keeps The Score, about how many children are accustomed to adults who yell, command, sulk, or put earbuds in their ears…re-traumatizing them. “The critical challenge in the classroom setting is to foster reciprocity: truly hearing and being heard…” Whether at home, in schools, or clinics, support is essential to life.


Katy Byrne, MA, LMFT has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Sonoma and the Bay Area for 35 years. She’s written two books: The Courage to Speak Up and The Power of Being Heard. Conversationswithkaty.com. 707.548.8982


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