Archive for March, 2011

There is loads more to come on this blog, I’ve just been a bit busy with a course for work.  Until my next substantial post, have fun – you know, the wincing, cringing kind of fun of recognizing something stupid and shitty you were once involved with because you didn’t know any better, like when you see someone you had sex with and now regret it and don’t want anyone to know about it, so you cross the street to avoid them and hope they don’t see you (you know that kind of fun?) – with these psychotherapy-related videos.

Pseudoscience in Psychotherapy Hurts People (first in a series)


Pond Life – Bitter & Twisted (watch how the therapist reacts to Dolly’s quitting – classic!)


How to be a therapist: I learned it from watching movies : Rotten Tomatoes Show


Dennis Miller’s rant on psychotherapy (I think he was too gentle)


David Smail on depression (At last, a voice of reason.  I’d love to see more videos from him.)


Comedy Counselling part 1 (The first and last parts are hilarious!)


The Century of the Self [part 1 of 4] (In case you are in any doubt about psychotherapy being made-up bullshit and/or a mindfuck.)



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I just watched an excellent documentary called “Inside Job”.  It’s about the complicity of Wall Street in the 2008 economic collapse.  More info is here: http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob.  Everyone should see this movie, but be warned, it’ll keep you up at night.

What is the connection between this film and the Con therapy? In the deleted scenes, there is an interview with Eliot Spitzer.  (Say what you will about Spitzer’s choices in his personal life, there is no denying that he knows Wall Street.)  I was struck by a remark he made about how Wall Street rationalized its actions to itself.  Spitzer said the industry and regulators  “defined the problem away”, “it was a way to handle denial, nobody wanted to see it.”  He also quoted an analyst who said “what used to be viewed as conflict of interest is now viewed as a synergy.”

I thought those comments could easily be applied to the therapy industry, particularly the comment about “defining the problem away.”  This is how the therapy industry deflects almost all criticism.   Like this:

client’s negative feelings towards therapist = transference

client’s positive feelings towards therapist = transference

therapist’s feelings towards client = countertransference

(but the client is the one making countertransference happen, of course)

client doesn’t want to do or talk about something = resistance

And so on.  See this link for more along these lines: http://www.goodpracticeinstitute.com/Good–Definitions-Reference.html

The problem is never defined as “client is having a natural and justifiable reaction to the therapist’s actions or remarks” or “client is making the right decision based on their needs and desires, and asserting healthy boundaries”.  Notice how there isn’t even a word for these things; I had to write it all out to make it clear.  Grifters Therapists are great at naming things, they’ve got names that make a disorder out of every human belief or activity, but very few names that identify a healthy person.  But what interest do therapists have in healthy people?  There is no money to be made from them.

I’m not sure the therapy industry even has a concept of “conflict of interest”, so it hasn’t yet gotten around to redefining it.  (So that’s one way in which Wall Street is more ethical, which is really saying something.)  Therapy has a conflict of interest at its very core; ongoing emotional distress on the part of the client means ongoing income for the therapist.  This is easy for everyone to see, except therapists. Of course, if you don’t see something in the first place, you never have to define it away.

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A reading list

This list doesn’t include every book or article that is critical of the Con psychotherapy, just the ones I have read so far, in no particular order.  There are LOTS more.

Commenters, feel free to add your recommendations.

Notice how much has been written against therapy.  That’s a red flag in itself.

I find it interesting and troubling that the criticisms of psychotherapy go back decades, and yet there is still so little change or improvement in psychotherapy practice.  It is as if  Grifters psychotherapists are either unaware of these criticisms, or simply do not care.  As long as the public believes that psychotherapy is helpful and remains ignorant of these criticisms, I suppose psychotherapists have no incentive to change.  They can just keep practising their nonsense and collecting their fees.

There are also numerous first-person accounts of experiences in therapy.  You can also read the texts associated with different therapeutic approaches – and marvel at the lack of critical thinking, the anecdotes that always prove the theory (and never an anecdote that challenges the theory), and the underlying smugness that practitioners of this therapy are never wrong, and any clients who think so are merely showing how badly they need to be cured.

Shouldn’t I Be Feeling Better By Now? Edited by Yvonne Bates.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Mind Games.  Robert A. Baker.  Prometheus Books, 1996.

The Psychological Society.  Martin L. Gross.  Random House, 1978.

House of Cards: Psychology and Psychiatry Built on Myth.  Robyn Dawes.  Free Press,1996.

Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists: The Common Roots of Psychotherapy and Its Future. E. Fuller Torrey.  Emerson Hall Publishers; 1st edition (1972)

“The Bait-and-Switch Tactic in Psychotherapy” by Martin H. Williams, in Psychotherapy, 1985, vol. 22, pp. 110-13.

“Fringe Psychotherapies: The Public at Risk” by Barry L. Beyerstein for The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, circa 2002.

Smoke and Mirrors: The Devastating Effect of False Sexual Abuse Claims.  Terence W. Campbell.  Da Capo Press, 1998.

Psychotherapy: The Purchase of Friendship.  William Schofield.  A Spectrum book, 1964 (updated in 1986).

Against Therapy: Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing.  Jeffrey M. Masson.  Common Courage Press, 1993 (revised edition, I think the first came out in 1988).

Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People.  Tana Dineen.  Robert Davies Multimedia Publishing (US),1998.

What Therapists Don’t Talk About and Why:  Understanding Taboos that Hurt Us and Our Clients.  Pope, Sonne, and Greene.  American Psychological Association, 2006.

Therapy’s Delusions: The Myth of the Unconscious and Exploitation of Today’s Walking Worried. Ofshe and Watters.  Scribner, 1999.

Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria. Ofshe and Watters.  University of California Press, 1996.

Crazy Therapies:  What Are They?  Do They Work? Singer and Lalich.  Jossey-Bass, 1996.

Gaslighting, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis. Theodore L. Dorpat.  Jason Aronson, 1996.

The Death of Psychotherapy: From Freud to Alien Abductions.  Donald A. Eisner.  Praeger, 2000.

The Shrinking of America: Myths of Psychological Change.  Bernie Zilbergeld.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1983.

The Illusion of Psychotherapy.  William M. Epstein.  Transaction Publishers, 1995.

Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology.  Edited by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn and Jeffrey M. Mohr.  The Guildford Press, 2003.

Demystifying Therapy.  Ernesto Spinelli.  Constable and Company Ltd, 1994.

Psychotherapy and its Discontents.  Edited by Windy Dryden and Colin Feltham.  Open University Press, 1992.

Can Psychotherapists Hurt You? Judi Striano.  Professional Press, 1988.

Other interesting authors:  Thomas Szasz, David Smail, Irving Yalom, Hans Strupp

I’ve heard that Alex Howard’s Challenges to Counselling & Psychotherapy is a good book.

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As of this writing, psychotherapy is not regulated in my province.  Anyone can call themselves a therapist, and anyone can do psychotherapy.  Regulation is coming, however, and once it kicks in, only certain groups will have these privileges.   A few groups have been pre-approved to do psychotherapy under the new regulation.  Each has its own regulatory agency.  Not all of them fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial health review panel.   Eventually there will also be an agency specifically for psychotherapists.

(Please note that other associations, coalitions, etc that Grifters therapists may belong to are not necessarily regulatory agencies.)

These agencies are self-regulating bodies.  There is an ongoing debate about whether allowing professions to self-regulate actually protects the public, or just the profession.  There can be a fox-guarding-the-hen-house element to it.  I recommend finding the regulatory agencies in your jurisdiction, looking up the discipline summaries provided on each agency’s website and judging for yourself.  How do the agencies respond to member misconduct?  Do you agree with their decisions?  What about the cases that don’t get posted on the website?  How many were there?  What happened with those?  Is there any way to find out the number and nature of the complaints the agency gets each year?

In my opinion, ALL complaints and decisions should be posted online.  (With identifying details removed as appropriate, of course.)  Let the public know the full extent of the complaints and the agency’s responses.  Even though formal complaints constitute an unknowable fraction of all cases of misconduct, and some complaints are baseless, having all the complaints posted would give the public, and agency members, a much clearer view than is currently available.

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While many Grifters psychotherapists have university degrees in psychology, social work, family counselling and the like, that doesn’t necessarily mean they use that training in their therapy work.  Many therapists go on to get training or certificates in various therapy modalities and mostly use those with their Marks clients.  They may stick to one modality or use an “eclectic” approach that draws on multiple modalities.   (This is also known as “making it up as you go along.”)

What is the value of this training?  Not much.  For the vast majority of these therapies there are no standards one has to meet to be considered qualified.  The schools and trainers are totally unregulated, unaccredited and unlicensed.  I could think up some new therapy, teach classes and hand out certificates to anyone who paid the fees, with no legal obstacles whatsoever.  (Check whether this is possible in your jurisdiction.  I’ll bet it is.)  Often the training amounts to nothing more than a weekend seminar or even an online course.

I later discovered that my ex-t got her “post-graduate certificate” from an “institute” located in a suburban strip mall.

Most of these therapies have zero research or evidence to support their claims.  These therapies are ALL hypothesis and no proof.  Their proponents really, really hate it when someone points that out.  They fall back on anecdotal evidence that can never be verified, and they will never admit to ANY failures. The major assumption of virtually all these therapies is that it is the total solution to all emotional distress, and quite a few mental illnesses too, for everyone.  In their world, there is no such thing as iatrogenesis.

The schools and courses for these therapies never teach anything except that one therapy.  Usually the therapy was thought up by some guy, who is/was almost always a white man (often with a beard, like he’s deliberately cultivating a Freud look) with all kinds of weirdness in his personal life that his followers try to gloss over.  He is usually seen as a genius or guru, and yes, there is a cult element to this situtation.  Much of the training is really concerned with indoctrinating the students with the belief that the therapy is the best and the only truly effective approach.

If you live in a major city, therapy courses and seminars are likely to be abundant.  Do some surfing and see what comes up.  Then check the credentials of the trainers, and look for some proper research on the modality.  Does the evidence support the claims?  How much confidence do you have in the trainers?  Would you trust your mental health with one of these therapists?  Does the theory behind the therapy approach even make sense to you?  Don’t let the Grifters trick you into believing that you don’t understand it because you don’t have the necessary training or intellect.  You don’t understand it because it’s horseshit.

One thing I find frightening about this state of affairs is that virtually all of this horseshit training actually counts as “continuing education” with many regulating agencies.  I think this has the effect of appearing to legitimize some truly noxious bogus therapies and many time-wasters as well.  Why would a therapist stop doing a bad therapy when their own regulator has approved it, sort of, by not telling them NOT to do it?

Here is an article that touches on this issue (from an excellent website called Psychotherapy Brown Bag, of which everyone should read every post) :


Note the comment at the end.  This issue is not limited to the USA.

So far I’ve discussed only Grifters therapists with apparently adequate training and credentials.  Even with them you cannot be sure of what you will get.  Will it be based on the university-level evidence-based training they cite on their resume, or the pseudoscience nutjob therapy they learned at a mountain retreat on the last long weekend that they’re all jazzed about these days?

Toss into that toxic stew the reality of the therapist with nothing BUT pseudoscience nutjob therapy training.  Yeah, they might have a Fine Arts or Sociology BA or similar.  Probably they found it was difficult to get a good job with those credentials, but learned that the therapy field was wide open and could pay $100 per hour or more.  They got some plausible-sounding training certificates from somewhere, became members of some authoritative-sounding association, and laid in wait for the Marks set up shop.

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Most of us do our jobs to get paid.  Even if we like our work, even if we’re good at it, most of us would bail on our jobs if we got rich somehow.  Grifters therapists are just like everyone else in this regard.  After all it’s possible to help people for free, like working on a crisis line, and probably some therapists do that as well.  The rest just want to earn.

The money can be pretty good.  Say a therapist charges $100 per hour and bills 1200 hours per year, roughly 26 hours per week, 46 weeks of the year (which is a lot less than most people work), that’s $120 000. Knock off $20K for office rental, phone, computer, website, advertising and other overheads.  That’s $100K in taxable income, still not bad.  Take a third off for taxes and other deductions (the same ones every working person pays), that leaves a take-home annual income of $67 000, which I’m guessing is well above the median or average take-home income in many wealthy countries.  Hell, it’s more than I take home and I’m pretty comfortable.  Full disclosure: I don’t have kids or a mortgage.  But plenty of people who do have kids and mortgage would thank their lucky stars if they took home $67K per year and they would work 40 hours per week, every week of the year, to get it.  Without a word of complaint either.

Sure, it’s easy to challenge these numbers since taxes and overheads will vary widely between locations.  But so will therapy fees; you can be sure that NYC therapists charge a lot more than Tallahassee therapists.  So I figure it evens out and my example isn’t too far off the mark.

Not that it’s easy for therapists to book 1200 hours every year.  They often must work evenings and weekends, since their Marks clients are people who can afford expensive therapy sessions and tend to be at work on weekdays.  Every Mark that leaves must be replaced.  Some cities have an over-supply of therapists and competition is fierce.  Grifters need to hustle to keep their schedules full.

How do therapists hustle?  Generally in two ways: Recruiting new marks and upselling current marks.   Which do you think is easier?  Yeah… this whole thing of therapists never thinking that you’ve done quite enough work, gone quite deep enough into your issues yet… yeah, starting to make more sense now, isn’t it?

Google “terminating therapy” or a similar phrase and notice how many articles – written by therapists, of course – say that you should not quit therapy without first discussing it with your therapist.  That’s so they can talk you into staying for three or four “termination sessions” during which they find some bullshit reason why you need stick around for a year.

Google “unconscious fiscal convenience” too.  Yeah, there’s even a name for this dynamic.

Also, there is a niche market of therapists offering other therapists help to build their practices, for a fee of course.  This indicates just how precarious many therapists’ financial situations really are 1) because there is a market for such a service and 2) so many therapists have the time to try to fill the demand.

The challenge of making a full-time income as a therapist partly explains why so many therapists are women and work part-time.  They have a partner who brings in the household’s primary income.  The therapy practice brings in money for extras like vacations or kitchen re-modelling.  Maybe it’s something she’s trying out because her kids are older and she has more time, and it’s way less of a drag than working for an employer.  I think there is a danger of such therapists not being invested enough in their therapy practice.  It’s more like a hobby to them and if it doesn’t work out, whatevs.  Imagine putting your trust and your emotional well-being in the hands of someone with those motivations.

Money is one of the major reasons why I believe therapy is a con.  The therapy industry presents itself as only interested in your well-being, but this is a lie. Therapists, being human, are as prone to self-interest as anyone else and it takes a lot of discipline to set self-interest aside.  Most of us only do it for people we really love.  Grifters don’t love their Marks, but they love the cash.

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Did you know that a psychotherapist can…

  • deliberately withhold from you information about their approach, methods and techniques?
  • misrepresent their qualifications and services in their advertising?
  • fail to obtain your informed consent to use psychological techniques on you, and set a therapeutic agenda for you, without first assessing your situation and finding out what are your therapy goals?
  • be careless about maintaining your confidentiality?
  • do all of the above and get away with it?

They can.  I know because it happened to me.

And much, much worse has happened to other Marks in therapy offices around the world.

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