Monday, January 09, 2006

Psycho-babble or Psychic Healing?

Today's Guardian has an interesting article on therapy. It conveys well the ambivalence that many people have about whether it is the feel-good cure-all as promised by many, or a complete con which will £cost you dear and make you feel rather worse.

I have the same dilemmas too, but I am becoming more and more cynical. I have seen too many people go into therapy because they are struggling with an issue, and end up in years of therapy with a series of therapists, by which time the therapy is all about how much the previous therapists have fucked them up. Therapy breeds therapy?!

I hope that doesn't sound dismissive, because that's how I mean to sound, not at all. It's too, too true, unfortunately.

In the good old days (?!) of first wave feminism, it was said that Feminism's aim is to make itself redundant. I think that way of therapy. I do believe that therapists should be working with clients, with the aim of not seeing them any more, at some point. But so many therapists seem to breed and encourage certain levels of dependence on themselves.

Of course, they are making a living doing this - if someone is paying your mortgage, it's hard to actively try to lose that income - but ethics should be paramount, not secondary to a therapist's finances.

I guess I get mixed up when I think that these people (hopefully) chose this profession due to a desire to help people. In order to continue their work, they require a certain amount of misery to be around. And yet because of their original motivations to get the job, they want to help people feel less miserable. But do they ever question, on one of those days when the month lasts longer than the money, whether they really want to encourage a client to become independent and live without their input?

And that's not to mention those who go into therapy due to a desire to control, not help, or who develop this desire as they work. Abusive and unethical therapists are, it seems, not that hard to find.

I dunno. Sometimes I'm very up on therapy, other times very down. I'm currently cynical and that will come across here. If I wrote about the same article in a few months, who knows what my take would be. It's a complicated issue, and therapy itself is incredibly intense and powerful, provoking strong emotions, both positive and negative.

In the past week, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has received about 10,000 inquiries
The recent publication of Shouldn't I Be Feeling Better by Now?, a collection of people's experiences in analysis, has reignited the 'cure or con' debate. It claims that about one in four clients either deteriorates in treatment or shows no signs of recovery.
Virginia Ironside, one of Britain's best-known agony aunts, revealed that she had spent £54,000 and hundreds of hours on the couch. Her conclusion? Therapy is fraud. 'I became sucked into the destructively seductive world, always hoping I might find understanding and peace through knowing myself better,' she wrote. 'But I can't help feeling angry at being manipulated when I was at my most vulnerable into investing so much money and time in therapists who, truthfully, only made me feel worse.' (More here...).

I have to admit that none of my views will have been helped from the unconscious messages burned into my brain when I spent several hours helping in a mailout advertising a talk by a psychotherapist. You know when you see a word written down a lot and it starts to look weird? I was packing thousands of envelopes telling people about a psycho-the-rapist. Again and again and again. Get Freud going on that one!

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The Goldfish said...

I think money may be a big issue in all this. I had a very positive - trully life-changing - experience with an NHS therapist and whilst I shall not claim to be the most sane person in the world it did solve my particlar problem and I have been mentally healthy since.

However, in the same way that folks who go for cosmetic surgery tend to go back for more and more procedures, when the individual must pay for any given medical treatment, the culture will encourage them to do it again and again.

In the States where there is no NHS, there is often talk about people being encouraged into all sorts of procedures, drug regimes etc which are of dubious benefit. But from the medical professions perspective, why not?

Within the NHS, there are of course forces other than the best interest of the patient, but it is not such a coldly capitalist model.

Nobody ever comes to your door and says, "Well I had come to sell you some new windows, but it looks like you've already got perfectly decent ones that will last you at least another ten years or so."

Anonymous said...

Anything of interest I might want to say on this would probably breach the political correctness which NHS confidentiality enforces *lol*. But I'm intrigued by the way the author sought therapy for not having a cat. I was fairly out of it when I got mine, but all it took was a trip to the local animal shelter...

Anonymous said...

"Of course, [therapists] are making a living doing this - if someone is paying your mortgage, it's hard to actively try to lose that income - but ethics should be paramount, not secondary to a therapist's finances."

You don't often find car mechanics having this problem though... come in with a clutch that needs changing, come back to find your carburettor* has mysteriously cracked.

(*No, I don't know what one of these is.)

TP said...

Psycho-the-rapist - hah!

I recently took a counselling course at my local college, and the people there seemed to be on the course for two reasons, becasue they wanted to help themselves (ie for their own mental health) or they wanted to help other people.

It is quite probable that after the initial passion to 'do good' has waned the passion to 'make good' becomes more important.

Interesting post.

Anonymous said...

I just got one thing to say... All hippies should fucking die...

Anonymous said...

If you need therapy, talk to one of your friends - that's if you have one who's a good listener. Therapy is all about what you say, not what the therapist says.

If you want real healing try Shiatsu. It's amaaazing!