‘It Was Devastating’: What Happens When Therapy Makes Things Worse?


From The Guardian: “There is now a widespread acceptance that therapy can change lives: a 2020 survey from YouGov and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) found that 86% of people believe it’s better to talk about your problems than take medication. Yet there is very little mainstream discussion about transgressive and abusive therapists, and even less about well-meaning therapists who are inadvertently damaging. In such a unique and emotional relationship, how can you tell when a therapist has crossed the line? What should you do when something goes wrong?

Glenys Parry is an emeritus professor of psychological services research at the University of Sheffield, and the author of a number of papers about therapy risks. ‘I think the most common ones are therapists getting out of their depth, working with a complexity and severity of problems that they are really not trained to do,’ she says. Some therapists can be too rigid or don’t listen enough. ‘Another reason therapy can be harmful is that the therapist is actually psychotoxic – this is where a therapist’s behaviour directly harms a client’s mental health or wellbeing, for example by undermining their confidence or self-esteem, or fostering unhealthy dependency.'”

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  1. “‘Another reason therapy can be harmful is that the therapist is actually psychotoxic – this is where a therapist’s behaviour directly harms a client’s mental health or wellbeing, for example by undermining their confidence or self-esteem, or fostering unhealthy dependency.’”

    Isn’t this the truth of all the scientifically “invalid” DSM “bible” stigmatizers of the psychological industries’ today? Who defame people, to their loved ones, with their “invalid” DSM disorders? Then force the psychiatric industry’s drugs, that create the symptoms of their DSM disorders, onto their clients?

    I think it is. At least my experience is that most “mental health” workers today are actually “psychotoxic.” No doubt, because their DSM “bible” is “invalid,” yet they still believe in it.

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  2. I wrote earlier and I do not think this is just coincidence: the word, “therapist” can easily be broken down in the words: “the rapist.” This is why I consider all therapy, especially, in relationship to psychology/psychiatry as dangerous and harmful. It seems that when some “therapists” realizing they are doing harm, they retire early or find a different job. Some feel trapped and stick it out until they can retire. Some secretly enjoy their power over others. The last group is “psychotoxic.” The “trapped” is in danger of becoming “psychotoxic.” Many of these “therapists” really thought they were doing good and helping people by picking such a career. The good people who did enter this career realize they were duped and leave. The others just become more and more “psychotoxic” and who pays the price—the vulnerable, gullible who think they believe they are being helped when they are actually being harmed by some now dangerous people in a now evil world—psych world. Thank you.

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    • Straight up facts. My psychotherapist did a number on my brain & now I have so much more healing to do. I haven’t even been able to think for myself, let alone feel like myself. She manipulated me with her slow speech patterns & gentle, sweet voice. I question every thought I have now & can’t even tell if it’s mine or not. She saw me as her pet project, but she fragmented my mind even further than before. Hope we can all find healing.

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  3. From the “Draft Manifesto for a Social Materialist Psychology of Distress (published in the Journal of Critical Psychology, 2012)

    When therapy succeeds it seems to be primarily a matter of two kinds of influence: on the one hand relationality (ordinary human compassion and understanding); on the other, coincidence with social and material and circumstances and resources.

    In the therapy literature is it well established that the clients who do best are generally young, attractive, verbal, intelligent and successful – YAVIS. By contrast, the people whose needs are described as ‘complex’ and requiring long-term treatment are usually the poorest. Where people have (or can obtain) more resources then they will have more scope to act upon whatever insights they might have gained.

    It is also well-established in this literature that so-called ‘non-specific factors’ are a consistent predictor of good outcomes: in other words, that the therapist and client are able to establish a good relationship. Indeed, unlike professional therapists, service users frequently declare the most ordinary aspects of therapy the most helpful: listening, understanding, respectfulness.

    Despite this, therapy is mostly presented as a matter of technique. CBT, psychoanalysis, and almost all other schools of therapy appear as specialist technologies of subjectivity, skilled interpersonal practices founded on specific assumptions, locked in place by particular theories and evidence bases. In a thoroughly commodified society it is perhaps understandable that some practitioners will want to have branded, marketable products, just as in a professionalised culture some will want to identify themselves as bearers of highly specialised knowledge and skills. Like everyone else, therapists must earn a living, so it is only to be expected that interest should influence how they present themselves and their work. Nevertheless, doing so distracts attention from the actual causes of distress by bolstering the belief that it is a mysterious state amenable only to professional help; it disables friends and family, who may feel that they could not possibly understand; and it negates the contribution of community, solidarity and trust. The presentation of therapy as specialised technique cheapens and oversells psychology itself; leads to resources being wasted comparing the marginal differences between this brand and that; and deflects effort and attention from the very real opportunities for psychological research and insight that are supplied by the highly privileged situation of the therapeutic encounter.

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