They are people, not ilnesses…!

They are people, not ilnesses…!

“At the end of my suffering,

there was a door.”

Louise Gluck

As a psychotherapist, I have the opportunity to listen to incredible life stories, stories of struggle, suffering and endurance. These are lives with lead characters (in the life of one lead character there are also other lead characters) who often suffer for several years, mostly in silence (the problem is that angst is always lurking) and who feel lost, empty, neglected, abandoned, revolted, or simply alienated or distant from their essence. Each Psychotherapy session resembles a chapter in a fantastic adventure.

Every story has a beginning; in Psychotherapy they never begin with a “Once upon a time…”, nor do they end with “And they lived happily ever after…”. On the contrary, most begin with a silence, a shy look, a hesitant “I feel sad”, “I don’t know what to do”, “I’m sick”, or a painful and threatening “I need your help!”, followed by “I don’t even know where to start”. The beginning is always difficult, it can awaken fears… monsters, and generate ruptures. Nevertheless, without a beginning one will never reach the end!

Most people start by telling me about their condition, how sick they are or how other health professionals have diagnosed them with a pathology (that which constitutes or characterises an illness). I spend long hours often in silence but with an alert mind, listening, calmly and patiently trying to figure out where the lost person is in this labyrinth of emotions and symptoms, who this person is, who takes on the role of lead character of this often agonising story. One needs to be patient and take time. Psychotherapy is an endurance test, not a speed test.

In Mental Health, especially after long years of suffering, the line separating the person from their illness is often thin and subtle. It can even be indecipherable. “I am sick” is the indelible mark we can see in someone who has lost their identity, who feels shattered and overwhelmed by the pain of the illness. There is no longer a person (human creature), there is an illness!

This is the characteristic scar of hopelessness, of surrender, of weakness, the cry of someone who sees no meaning or direction except the one that the symptoms of their illness have pointed them out to.

As a psychotherapist I have cultivated patience, understanding, the ability to wait, to know how to listen to people far beyond the symptoms that torment them. In each person, illness manifests itself uniquely (though with similarities), so I often say that the illness is the patient’s; it is very different to “suffering from an illness”, “feeling ill”, or “being ill”. For example, someone may have cancer, but not have symptoms of the disease yet (i.e., not feel sick) and therefore not be considered a patient.

So, I try to respect each person’s rhythm, to help them surface, to know who they are, where they come from, who they are accompanied by and where they want to go. What they feel is the pointer of the compass I use to guide me.

Everyone has something that connects them to life (or they would not be looking for help), everyone is seeking to free themselves, to find a meaning, to recover desires or to relieve suffering. There are those who seek a walking stick, a support mechanism, who only want to talk (as if being heard was not one of the most important things); others want to get to know and recognize themselves, to find treatment or to grow as a person; indeed, what we all want is someone to listen to us without making value judgements, showing prejudice, or making accusations. Freedom to be who we are, without having to adopt disguises.

In Mental Health, not distinguishing people from their symptoms (or illnesses) can be (and almost always is) a serious mistake, behind which some professionals hide their own weaknesses. After all it is much easier and more comfortable to know symptoms than to understand people.

Throughout the many years of my professional practice, I have got used to listening to each person who comes to my practice, not through the filter of their illnesses (sometimes the illness speaks for the person) but through what they tell me about themselves and the others, how they think, how they behave, what they feel and how they make me feel… what they are like, what their suffering tells me… I try to guide myself through the person’s anguish, never losing my way, remaining fully aware that those who come to my practice are people, not illnesses!


Rolando Andrade

Clinical Psychologist


Sports Psychologist

Professional ID card O.P.P 4365





  • Guilherme Machado
    29 May, 2021 at 12:47

    Boa tarde,li e gostei da forma como o Dr Rolando Andrade explica caso a caso.Interessado.Bom fim de semana.

  • Jorge Almeida
    25 June, 2021 at 17:34

    Boa tarde,

    A psicoterapia é uma disciplina que me interessa muito.

    Como indivíduo de 57 anos e o diagnóstico de esquizofrenia há mais de trinta, fazendo ainda medicação de manutenção, a psicoterapia sempre exerceu sobre mim uma enorme atração e fascínio.

    O seu post no Facebook é o artigo que li e gostei muito, não foi por acaso que me surgiram agora. Não acredito no acaso.

    Talvez aqui esteja a oportunidade que há muito espero de iniciar uma conversa que me conduza a revelação do mistério do que sou.

    Um abraço

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