Monday, January 24, 2022

Comments by cynical.nihilist

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  • Thanks for sharing your experiences and observations. As someone who has tried psychotherapy, I couldn’t agree more regarding your observations concerning the fundamental problems with therapy. If you want to use psychobabble, you could say that your decision to terminating the session with your therapist when they continued to rudely interrupt you was you being “assertive” and having “firm boundaries”. 😉

    I agree with your observation that mental health professionals have become the de facto “designated helpers” in our society — to the point that, at least in some circles, the “proper” response to an acquaintance confiding in their problems is to promptly refer them to a therapist — and perhaps classify them seeking a sympathetic ear as “emotional dumping”. Anyone other than a “professional” is not “qualified” to provide “help” — even if this help merely entails listening to someone and maybe giving them your perspective.

    What is disregarded is that psychotherapy exists as a sociocultural institution, incorporated the belief of a certain society at a given time — and having a tremendous degree of similarity to religious institutions. The somewhat amusing fact that your psychotherapist was utilizing notions from “mindfulness practice”, like observing one’s pain as a neutral observer — with the idea that such “equanimous” observation would magically give rise to “wisdom”, and thereby “liberate” you from your suffering — attests to the fact that therapy closely follows cultural trends. What is ignored is that these ideas originally arose from specific cultural and religious traditions — and that the widespread “cultural appropriation” of certain religious concepts in the context of psychotherapy, without first considering whether a particular psychotherapeutic paradigm is appropriate, can lead to significant harm. While mindfulness-based therapy might make sense for a client suffering from addiction, impulsivity, or severe emotional lability, applying this to someone suffering from an abusive relationship might be entirely inappropriate — and only further harm the victim.

    If the idea behind therapy is “relearning” how to live — or “reparenting” oneself — expecting a 30-50 minute session, once-a-week, to accomplish such a goal is an extremely tall order. A student learning to play a musical instrument or learn a foreign language cannot expect to make any appreciable progress if they only have lessons once weekly, for less than an hour — unless the teacher provides ample homework for daily learning. If the goal is to simply have someone who will listen, then talking to a shelter cat or dog will probably provide someone with the full and undivided attention of another living creature — without a fee or co-pay — or even the hassle of cleaning up after the animal.

    If you’re a therapist providing a fee-based service, the least you can do is listen to the customer when the customer explicitly tells you that what you’re doing is not helpful. The fundamental problem — I suspect — lies in psychotherapy being a fee-based service, while simultaneously retaining its original function of “policing behaviour” — and mental health professionals still being charged with maintaining “safety” by “managing” the “crazies”. This is why the therapist is the eternal “expert” — while a client expressing reasonable dissatisfaction with the services provided is merely being “attention-seeking” or help rejecting” — and invariably afflicted with “poor insight and judgment”.