Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens


Smoky Summer Affecting Mental Health Around Pacific Northwest

We’ve had two summers now with significant smoky air from west coast wildfires. We northwesterners look forward to and treasure our short, perfect summers, so it’s disheartening to have to stay inside during our precious warm weather. There are health impacts as well as significant environmental degradations from these increasingly frequent and intense fires, but we’re affected also on a personal level, as our brief summer slams to a close.

Local shop owner/herbalist, Karyn Schwartz wisely observed about our smoky skies on her Instagram feed:

Remember that your physical well being and your emotional well being are not two separate things…. [I]f you have been agitated or anxious or just overwhelmed with feelings – you are not alone. This is part of the sickness we are all enveloped in. The smoke is exacerbating struggles we already have, and making it impossible to ignore a lot of things we all wish were not true. Part of our collective medicine is to be kind and gentle with ourselves and each other.

A recent story on the CBC website focused on these personal impacts on our mental health. For many people, they feel isolated and depressed, having to stay inside during the one time of the year when we normally can savor warm sunny days, dine al fresco, swim, and enjoy long, light-filled evenings. For others more drastically and directly affected by wildfire, they struggle with loss of home and livelihood.

These long-term significant disruptions to one’s place in the world can have profound effects on your mental health. If your feelings of despondency don’t fade when the air improves, it’s a good idea to seek out mental health assistance.

by Judy Koven

The On-Demand Culture and Therapy

We in Seattle live in a busy city, with its strong economy, burgeoning population, changing demographic, and the many challenges these bring. The corporate technology culture that’s become predominant in central Puget Sound exerts a powerful influence on our sensibility, values, and priorities. I call it the “on-demand culture”.

Want to buy something? Order it from Amazon Prime and it shows up in a few hours. Hungry? Find something that looks good on your restaurant app and a delivery person is at your door with an insulated bag, dinner at the ready. Need to get somewhere quickly? Get on your smart phone and Lyft will be there.

As someone who educates and matches clients looking for a therapist, I often see the ripple effect from this on-demand worldview. People now come to the search for a therapist with similar expectations, foregrounding convenience and immediate results. These are understandable requests but not necessarily realistic, nor are they reliable determinants for successful therapy.

Therapy entails a different mindset. Research has repeatedly shown that a good match in a therapist is essential for a positive outcome. When we’re in distress, it’s understandable that we want relief now, and it takes courage to reach out for assistance. But convenience doesn’t guarantee productive and successful therapist-client collaboration over time.

An on-demand culture may work efficiently for meeting practical needs but doesn’t translate well for our deeper well being. In fact, it is a significant source of stress. Therapy provides an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and create new ways of understanding and interacting with the self and the world. The result is deeper, more lasting transformation.

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator