I wasn’t even thinking of doing a post today, but then I came across this:
Actually what I came across was this therapist’s flyer posted on a grocery store bulletin board. The content on the flyer is much the same as that on the website, but with more info on the therapist’s background.
The content of the flyer and website typify much of what I believe is wrong with therapy.
1. The idea that by delving into your unconscious will be of some benefit to you. For one thing, the “unconscious” is just an idea. There is no proof that it exists, and if it doesn’t exist, it cannot hold any truths or secrets. For another thing, let’s say the unconscious does exist – its functions and purpose have not been thoroughly researched and understood, so no one knows if it is a good idea to go spelunking in there. Maybe things hide out in your unconscious for a very good reason. Maybe you are better off staying out of it.
2. “Befriend the sea monsters”. Well OK, this is the metaphor she’s working with in her advertising and that’s her call. But what does it mean? My interpretation: facing your hidden issues, problems, dysfunctions, etc rather than running away from them. My issue with this sort of thinking is that it builds into therapy a couple of dangerous notions: a) that you have sea monsters, and b) it’s good to befriend them. I.e. that therapy might get very intense and painful but good will come of it (all those pearls you will bring to the surface). I.e. that “it will get worse before it gets better.” Again, there is no proof of the value of this exercise. It’s dangerous because it provides a ready-made explanation for harmful (iatrogenic) therapy. If feeling worse and worse as a result of discussing painful issues means therapy is working, how can you tell if therapy is not working? When you start contemplating suicide? Maybe sea monsters make bad friends and you should stay away from them. And if you don’t have sea monsters in the first place – if you are basically healthy and self-aware – does it make good sense to go looking for them? Will your therapist believe that you don’t have sea monsters? Do you have the option to say “No thanks, I’ll let sleeping sea monsters lie?”
3. There’s a kind of power-of-suggestion Neuro-Linguistic Programming vibe with some of the language. “You and I will identify”, “we will bring”, “I will be your guide” (emphasis added). Well, not necessarily, Donna, that’s up to me.
4. The word “potential” appears three times on the flyer, maybe more on the website. This suggests that therapy might result in your having a better life, or being better at life, than you are right now. Again, there is no proof of this. It sounds great though – everyone can think of ways their life could be better, so it’s hard to walk away from something that seems to promise that it will.
5. Qualifications. A BA in.. what? An MA in … what? A Doctor of Ministry degree from an independent US school that specializes in one religion. What does any of that have to do with psychotherapy? Religious guidance for members of that faith – OK, I can see that. But beyond that – no, I do not think these are adequate qualifications. Then there is the “in training” with the Ontario Association of Jungian Analysts. Hm. This is the just the sort of unregulated, unaccredited, snake oil type of training I discussed in an earlier post. To say the least, Jung remains a very controversial figure and Jungian analysis has not been empirically validated as a treatment modality for anything.
6. Regulation. Notice that this therapist is not connected to any regulatory body. As of this writing, this is technically permissible in Ontario because psychotherapy is not regulated. It will be within a few years; the legislation had passed but has not been formally enacted (or promulgated, or whatever the correct term is) yet because the details of regulation are still being developed. When regulation comes into effect, this therapist may not meet the necessary requirements. (Although regulation is such a joke that I predict she and other similar therapists will be grandfathered in. Hey – maybe I should get in on this action!)
OK, that’s enough harshing on a therapist I have never even met. She isn’t doing anything that thousands of other therapists aren’t doing, so she is not especially deserving of criticism.
But you see what I mean. With a bit of surfing you could find hundreds of therapist websites with similar language and ideas and conduct the same analysis, and get – I predict – much the same result. Ask yourself – at a moment when you are calm and reasonably content – is that good enough? Is it wise to entrust your emotional and psychological health to a stranger with this background? Oh yeah, and maybe don’t look for a therapist on a grocery store bulletin board.