God I hate these assholes. I know that is not a particularly nuanced comment, but that’s what all my feelings add up to.
Now on to discussing the response in detail.
First, note that the
grifter therapist never responded to my second letter, even though the process permitted her to do so. I suspect that she thought she had it in the bag already, so there was no need. And she was right!
It’s clear to me now that the committee’s default approach is to find ways to excuse the therapist’s behaviour. Only in the very worst cases (e.g. having sex with a client, defrauding a client) will the committee actually impose sanctions. The Agency posts the horror stories on its website, but these are a fraction – like 5% – of the total complaints the Agency receives.
Second, a few quibbles. The response is dated November 10, 2010, but I did not receive it until February 15, 2012, THREE months afterwards. I think that in itself is indicative of the Agency’s commitment to addressing complaints. Actually I think somewhere the Agency states that it aims to have all complaints resolved in 4 months. The summary also misquotes me in a few places. E.g. I wrote that “I only claim that (therapist) was practising on me the the therapy that she herself claims to practise, and to to teach.” The summary has it as “I can only claim…”. It’s a subtle but importance difference.
Also, whoever did the summary has a weird habit of putting legitimate terms into quotes as if there is something wrong or doubtful about the terms. E.g. “anticipatory grief”. Anticipatory grief is a common term in the literature, and given how common it is in people’s lives, one would think that a group of mental health professionals would be familiar with the term and the concept. Another one is “unvalidated”. (I think that also appears with a [sic] beside it.) Unvalidated is a common, legitimate term in the context of psychotherapeutic modalities, which, again, seems like something the committee should already know. Another one is “specific examples”. I guess that’s not an everyday term? Does the summarizer need a remedial course in punctuation?
Third, as with the other complaint, the summary leaves a lot of stuff out, and I wonder if the committee actually saw my letters. I think there is some pretty compelling information in my footnotes about the theory and assumptions of Gestalt therapy. I think it backs up my claims that I was getting Gestalt therapy. Why remove it? Is there a formal rule against footnotes in complaint letters? Of course there isn’t. I highly doubt the committee would have anticipated them and decided in advance not to allow them. I think the real reasons are 1) laziness on the part of the summarizer, and 2) a sly way of weakening my complaint.
Fourth, the really juicy and offensive stuff is on page 11. There is “insufficient information” to determine whether it was Gestalt or Cognitive Behaviour therapy? I guess that can happen when someone just cuts out a bunch of information. Also, I guess it doesn’t matter that I never consented to either modality, that I never consented to any modality.
Having researched both modalities very thoroughly, I know that the committee was really reaching to claim that my “specific examples” [sic] are equally consistent with CBT. E.g. the committee claims that the therapist’s calling me “to arrange a termination session” is consistent with CBT. It isn’t. There isn’t anything in the CBT literature that says a therapist should chase after a client who quits. For another e.g., CBT is very big on the therapist and client collaborating to identify specific cognitive or behavioural problems to address, set treatment goals, and lay out a treatment plan. None of this happened in my sessions. (I could go on and on, but I recommend you do your own reading and thinking on both modalities, if you are really interested in understanding the difference.)
And anyway, the therapist’s own advertising is full of guff about her training and expertise in Gestalt therapy, and doesn’t say a word about CBT. Is it really plausible that she just happened, in my particular case, to choose a different modality than her speciality? If so, why? By what process did she determine that CBT was the correct choice?
By no process, because it’s all butt-saving horseshit. The therapist and committee know that CBT has more mainstream acceptance than Gestalt therapy, therefore it’s more “OK” if that’s what was being done to me.
The last paragraph on page 11 is really strange. Read it very carefully and see what you think. It seems to be saying that even if the therapist was doing Gestalt therapy, it’s not a problem because the Committee is “not aware” of any information etc that says it is a problem. (The paragraph also says that I did not provide them with any such information. Um, yeah, I did, but someone censored it. Nice ethical operation they’re running over there.) So, the Committee’s ignorance gets the therapist off the hook. If the committee members haven’t happened to have heard anything against a type of therapy, then it’s OK to use that therapy? Is that how it works? Yikes. I would have thought that all Agency members have an ethical responsibility to keep up to date on the literature and know which therapies have been validated and which haven’t.
But let’s go through the points one by one.
(…the Committee is not aware of any information, standard of practice or other authority, upon which [it could be found that]…)
—Gestalt therapy is a “highly questionable form of therapy”
I thought the information in my footnotes did a pretty good job of explaining why it’s questionable. It based on the assumption that clients are lying or deluded about their own situation and that therapists can freely speculate on what the “real” problem is, i.e., make shit up. And that therapists can pressure and harangue clients into admitting to that they are lying or deluded. And that a client feeling worse is a sign that therapy is working. Jesus Christ. That’s not questionable?
—Gestalt therapy is a therapeutic modality inappropriate to the goals or purposes sought therapy with the therapist – “anticipatory grief”, anger in relation to recent workplace bullying, and deterioration of a new relationship
If the Committee members weren’t so ignorant, they would know that Gestalt therapy has never been validated for anything. Ever. The most you will find is some anecdotal and unverified reports of it really working out for some clients. (This is true for many psychotherapeutic modalities, because there is no consensus on how to validate therapies. The whole thing is a mess.) Gestaltists in particular are very resistant to any kind of validation or evaluation of the therapy. They claim Gestalt is too unique to be tested. I think they just don’t want to outed as charlatans. Anyway, some basic research shows that there haven’t been any refereed articles about Gestalt in any of the major psychology/psychotherapy journals in decades. It’s been totally abandoned by academic researchers, and it was never that popular with them to begin with.
—the therapist was required to disclose to the client, and seek her consent to every therapeutic aspect or modality she might employ in providing therapy to the client, even if that was possible
Well, yeah, actually, the therapist IS required to seek consent for every aspect or modality. It’s right there in the Agency’s own standard of practice, and the relevant section is quoted on the previous page. Principle III, Interpretation 3.1. The stuff about providing clients with “accurate and complete” information about services. For fuck’s sake, people, at least TRY to pretend to give a shit about your own supposed ethics.
This part just drives me up the wall. Informed consent is just not that fucking hard of a concept to get your mind around. It’s not called “uninformed consent”. If you haven’t discussed it with the client, the client is not informed, therefore, you do not have informed consent. If you are withholding information about treatment from the client, you do not have informed consent. Not sure where you stand? Talk to the client about it.
—the services provided by the therapist…were irrelevant or otherwise not in conformity with the Agency’s standards
Pair that up with the earlier part (…the Committee is not aware of any information, standard of practice or other authority, upon which [it could be found that]…) and see if that makes any sense. “Irrelevant” strikes me as an odd word to use. I never said that anything the therapist did was “irrelevant”. If you figure out what the committee is saying here, please let me know.
Sixth, and last, is the matter of the therapist’s qualifications. The committee is apparently willing to accept evidence of having been a student at the Gestalt Institute back in 1996 as proof of being a faculty member of the Institute in 2011. Funny – in the 1990s I was awarded two degrees by two different universities but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t allow me to claim that I teach at either of them. (Actually I was a teaching assistant at one, but the degree isn’t proof of it.) The committee is also willing to ignore evidence that the Gestalt Institute no longer exists. It has no website, no phone number, no mailing address, no course curriculum. So, isn’t it time for the therapist to stop making that claim? She is at best a former faculty member. I mean, jeez, this sort of dishonesty on a resume could get you fired with many employers, but the Agency lets it slide. What does that say about their ethics?
Also, the “Gestalt Psychotherapy Association” no longer exists either, but the Agency accepts the therapist’s membership in it as evidence of the therapist’s status at the institute. That’s like accepting evidence of East German citizenship as proof of Yugoslavian citizenship.
OK, how to put this all in a nutshell? If you choose a therapist who is a member of this Agency, know that they are allowed to:
-do whatever type of therapy they want without checking to see if you agree to it
-lie about their qualifications
Nice. I wonder why they want me to keep quiet about all this?