This is a personal post by the Editor of this magazine. He was “in therapy” for a number of years. Typically for psychotherapy this started when he was in a somewhat vulnerable state. (Therapeutic advertising is aimed at catching people when they are a bit down). It continued until he finally realised it was doing no good at all. Mainly he was “in therapy” with someone called Leon Redler who was a one-time follower of the maverick sixties psychiatrist R. D. Laing. He also “saw” Dr. Redler’s “highly recommended” colleague – a counsellor and therapist based in a small provincial city in England.
The links are to PDFs.
The Philadelphia Association
At some point in most peoples’ lives they realise that there is a kind of gloss or propaganda about virtue and ethics but, underneath the skin, most of what goes on – at least in official or commercial pronouncements – is governed by manipulation and exploitation, by expediency and cynicism in one form or another. We breathe a sigh and progress with our lives.
Nonetheless when personal relationships are tainted by cynicism and abuse we may end up feeling hurt. At this point we are susceptible to the sales pitch of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, implicitly or explicitly, assures us that it is above cynicism and abuse. (Even if this claim is not made explicitly it is absolutely implicit in the claim to be able to stand above relationships and ‘adjudicate’; the claim to be the one in whom the hurt can safely confide). The hurt and abused turn, in their gullibility, to this apparent beacon of humanism. Here, they believe, is someone, who is not one of the abusers – a helper. Someone who really embodies the ideals of truth and integrity and selflessness.
But it turns out that psychotherapy is no less cynical, and probably much more so than most industries who rely heavily on advertising to sell their wares, persuading people that their unnecessary products have some wonderful beneficial qualities. As Jeffrey Masson points out, it is simply not possible that therapists can believe their own claims about psychotherapy. They must know that the whole show is kept alive by constantly ignoring or pushing to the backs of their minds all the evidence that there is no special ‘healing’ taking place in the consulting room, that their theories are a disorganised hotchpotch of contradictory folk tales, that they have no special knowledge or abilities and that therefore their claim to some special role as a healer is fraudulent. (Furthermore, most therapists will on a day to day basis find that they have to avoid, for example, analysing their own “slips” or “counter-transference” too much – in case they find, again, that the validity of their claim to be occupying a professional role falls apart).
This is the ultimate betrayal. A betrayal at a whole level above the ordinary manipulations and cynicism of the advertising industry. Therapists tell their customers – who come to them because they have been hurt by cynicism and abuse – that they are pure as the driven snow. They tell their clients something like: “I know you have been abused before by all these cynical abusers but I am different. I am a therapist. I am trustworthy. I never act in an adroit or less than honest way for my own benefit. I really do have your best interests at heart”. And it is a marketing spin no less dishonest than anything a supermarket retailer can dream up. And worse for being set at the level of humanity. A supermarket retail negates truth as it relates to (say) claims of (apparently competing) brands of washing powder. A therapist negates truth at the level of human relationships.
This is a review of Paul Maloney’s book criticising the Therapy Industry. Maloney is a practising clinical psychologist. His criticisms of therapy are those of someone who is engaged in clinical practice in the NHS. This grounding makes for a different kind of criticism than the kind based on cultural analysis, for example, that of Jeffrey Masson. For example; unlike Masson Maloney is quite willing to take up and examine the (inevitable) ‘studies’ which have found that ‘therapy works’ (See Chapter 4). He criticizes these from the point of view of clinical psychology.
Continue reading “Review: The Therapy Industry – Paul Maloney”
If you study the messaging of large US companies towards their customers it soon becomes apparent that one strategy they adopt is to avoid presenting the consumer with choice points. This is because they know that it is at choice points that they lose customers.
For example; Google Adwords does not tell its customers that their account balance is empty and they need to top-up; they tell their users that “funds are depleted and Ads not running” (or words to that effect). It is a subtle point. But one possible interpretation of this and similar messaging is that the aim of this kind of messaging is to avoid giving the customer a chance to think “do I really want to continue with Google (or Amazon – or whoever it is) – perhaps I should try something different”. So; the messaging (it appears) subtly avoids reminding the user that they have a choice. They want to make it seem as obvious that you will continue with their service.
Despite all the talk about ‘consumer choice’ – which is supposed to be linked to ‘freedom’ in reality the the large companies do everything they can to create dependency and addiction to their services – spitting in the face of ‘choice’.
(And the same of course with ‘democracy’ but that is another story).
Therapy – which is itself an invention of American consumerism – practices this tactic to the hilt. They know that people generally make choices based on a negative perception. You drop a friend for the same reason that you drop a supplier; because they have done something or said something to you which grates. People rarely simply ‘up and leave’ a relationship of any kind. When people do leave it is in response to a negative stimulus. By avoiding as much as possible every saying or doing anything, by never, if they can help it, revealing anything about their own personalities, therapists are practising this game of ‘avoiding presenting the consumer with choice points’. The same game that Amazon and Google play…