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Have you ever gotten any sort of psychotherapy or counseling from a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Or do you know anyone who has? Did you, or the person you know, benefit from it?
I’ve participated or observed family and friends in counseling with a licensed psychologist and in every case I have not seen any significant change or improvement.
I went to a psychologist three times during different points in my life. As a prerequisite for admission into a boys’ home at age 15, I had to be evaluated by a psychologist. Many years later, I sought counseling after a particularly painful breakup from a girlfriend. My last attempt was for career counseling after I left my corporate job. I got absolutely no benefit from any of these counseling sessions.
The psychotherapist who counseled my relative positioned herself in a way that put a wedge between this person and her spouse. It was an amazing thing to witness. It reminded me of the tactics two scheming high school girls would play on their rivals and boys who ditched them for other girls. The result of this counseling was constant fighting between the husband and wife.
I know a person who has been regularly seeing a psychotherapist for decades! He even got a master’s degree in psychology and has worked in the field for many years. Even with all his education, countless psychotherapy sessions, innumerable medication trials, and work experience he has the same pessimistic attitude that he had when he started.
Let me make it clear that I am not saying that all psychotherapists are bad, but rather that the profession needs some reworking and updating. I believe that most psychologists enter the field with the right intentions. In other words, I believe their sincere desire is to help people. The challenge lies in the outdated tools and methods they are taught and use. In addition, many of them are drawn into the field because of severe emotional problems they have but have never successfully overcome.
I know this is true because I not only participated and observed family and friends in counseling; I have had periodic access into lives of those who were treating them. In almost every case, the psychotherapist was having as many problems in their own lives as those they were treating.
Believe it or not, I had a strong desire to become a psychologist shortly after I left the boys’ home. I think that I was screwed up enough to qualify. Just kidding! 😀
My Qualifications & Point of View
Before I go any further, I want to make you aware of my qualifications and point of view.
What I am about to present is based on my personal experiences, observations, and knowledge acquired from investigative news reports, leading magazine articles, and documentaries. Each of these things has led me to form the opinions presented in this article.
Although I’ve had a lifetime of exposure to matters related to psychology, psychiatry, and addiction treatment services, I do not consider myself to be an expert. I have no degrees, licenses, or certificates in the mental health field. My formal education in this area is limited to a few undergraduate psychology classes.
I am only a person with an opinion and a passion to tell people about what I believe to be a very flawed industry. The industry I am referring to includes psychologists (psychotherapists), psychiatrists, alcohol & drug addiction treatment services, and especially pharmaceutical companies.
To those of you in this industry, except pharmaceutical company decision makers, this is not directed at you personally. I am sure that most of you have rock solid intentions and integrity. My issue is with the antiquated traditions, education, and practices that you are indoctrinated on and required to use through licensing agreements and pressures within your community.
I would imagine that the cultural pressures within the mental health services community are much more profound than what I experienced in the corporate world. Its traditions, academic indoctrination, government regulations, codes, and licensing agreements bind and restrict you. I understand why these things are in place –- to protect the public. Who’s ever in charge of this protection needs to either shape up or ship out.
What I would like to see is expansion, innovation, and radical change. I’d also like to see a no-holds-barred investigation into the propaganda activities of pharmaceutical companies and its impact on your community, patients, and the public.
To those of you who have had life-changing success through psychotherapy and/or psychiatric medications (antidepressants, etc) you are one of the lucky ones as far as I am concerned. But please keep your eyes wide open and don’t ignore material that does not support what you are doing. Have the courage to look at both sides square in the eyes. Incidentally, the life-changing success that I am talking about is not merely a return to normalcy. I am talking about transformative changes that put you firmly on course toward the life you desire.
The solutions that I propose are very simple, I know. But based on my experiences and observations they are better in many cases than psychotherapy and taking psychiatric medications.
Education & Training of Psychotherapists
I don’t know the exact college curriculum for someone seeking a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in clinical psychology, but I’d imagine it’s something like this based on my experience in college, as a patient, and as a friend of several people who are working in the field.
They first learn about the history of psychology and leading pioneers in the field. Then they learn about hundreds of different disorders, their symptoms, and treatment options. Finally, they learn about diagnostic and counseling methods.
During the Master’s and Ph.D. phase, the classes go into more depth and they have a more demanding workload. They attend lectures given by psychologists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, and I would presume a few guest lectures by pharmaceutical company representatives. Then they pick an area of particular interest and write a thesis or dissertation based on research within strict academic guidelines. This means that they must adhere to established academic and psychological traditions, principles, and practices.
Finally, they must complete an internship under the supervision of a licensed psychotherapist. During the internship, they are assigned patients and conduct psychotherapy sessions. The licensed psychologist provides them with guidance on each patient and closely monitors their progress.
Somewhere along the way, they must pass some demanding licensing exams. A psychiatrist must also attend medical school.
So you can see that their education and training did not necessarily include any special instruction on advanced personal development techniques, New Thought/New Age principles, holistic medicine, nutritional sciences, or lectures by any leading self-improvement experts.
Their qualifications for probing and manipulating (with medications) your psyche consists of reading a prescribed list of textbooks, listening to lectures by psychology professors (some of whom have never been in practice as a licensed psychotherapist), writing papers, taking college and licensing exams, and completing an internship. None of these “publicly” identifies, measures, or qualifies their ability as a psychotherapist. That’s up to each patient to determine.
My point is this. If you seek counseling from a psychologist, don’t look to them as having all the answers. They don’t, even though some of them may act as though they do. Don’t give them that power. In fact, you should not give any doctor that power — medical, dental, or surgical. Be skeptical like you would if you were entering into an important business agreement.
Focus of Psychotherapists
Based on the growing number of disorders that psychologists pride themselves in naming, their emphasis appears to be on identifying problems over finding solutions. I liken their identification of a new disorder to that of an archeologist who makes a discovery on some aspect of human prehistory and then names it after his or her self.
It has been my experience and observation that psychologists spend a lot of their energy on identifying disorders in their patients. Then their solution is psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy), which can take years! There are many different styles of psychotherapy and many of them are named after their creators.
There are some big egos in the field of psychology. I think that this is fueled by low self-esteem and the belief that they have the ultimate answers for escaping emotional pain and achieving happiness. They do not. No one does.
There are some big egos in the personal development field as well. But I feel it’s not as prevalent because many don’t have an “advanced academic degree (MA, Ph.D.) and a “license” (state board) to unjustifiably boost it out of control.
No person (no matter how educated), article, book, or seminar has the answers for your happiness and fulfillment. These sources can provide useful ideas and valuable information, but it’s up to each person to find what works for them.
Once the pharmaceutical companies find out about a newly named disorder, they go through their arsenal of drugs to find one that is applicable to the “condition” or they create one. Then they spend millions advertising the disorder and their miracle drug for curing it.
Have you ever noticed the extensive list of “possible” side effects that drug companies cleverly place in their commercials? (They reveal this information to protect themselves legally. It’s a disclaimer!) With the joyful images and pleasing music, it is easy to miss them. If this has happened to you, that’s exactly what they wanted.
Considering the number of “possible” side effects, if you’re a patient it’s important to be cautious in “your” decision on whether to take them.
Treatment is a non-solution. Talking about problems and probing all the possible causes is a mission without end. No one can unravel the mysteries of life.
Going through all the misfortunes of a person’s life only leads to blame, excuses, and scapegoats. This activity moves a person further and further away from accepting responsibility for the conditions in their life.
Psychotherapy teaches a person how to think about, talk about, analyze, and diagnose their problems. A person who has spent a lot of time in therapy is easy to recognize. They talk about their problems with extraordinary openness and they diagnose “disorders” in other people with great ease.
When you give problems your attention, they grow, become more rooted in your mind, and then they branch out into other areas of your life. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy and manifestation of the problems.
Drugs are another “solution” offered by psychologists and prescribed by psychiatrists — and often by physicians as well. Instead of learning how to create and maintain your own mental states, you learn how to depend on a drug to do it for you artificially.
A drug, like an antidepressant, with an extensive list of side effects, can hardly be considered a fix. They are a patch at best. The main objective of antidepressants is to increase the output of certain chemicals in your brain so that you feel better. One of the most important of these chemicals is serotonin, which you may have become familiar with through drug company commercials.
There are many ways you can affect your brain chemistry on your own without drugs both positively and negatively. Your thoughts, what you eat, what you drink, and the amount of exercise you get can change your brain chemistry.
If you have prolonged negative thoughts, your brain chemistry will be negatively affected and you will feel depressed or at least lethargic. If you drink a lot of alcohol (which is a drug), your brain chemistry will be altered and you’ll experience melancholy during withdrawal. If you eat a large amount of sugary food, your brain chemistry will be changed and you’ll feel lethargic and possibly depressed.
On the other hand, if you maintain an optimistic attitude, avoid alcohol and sugar, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly, you will change your brain chemistry in a way that makes you feel great! With drugs, you (and your body) will never learn how to do this on your own.
I understand that there are cases when a person’s brain or another organ(s) is malfunctioning or they are in a traumatic situation — like a life-changing accident, surgery, or cancer — and drugs are required to control their mood and/or behavior. But the majority of people who take these drugs don’t need them and most certainly don’t need them permanently.
These drugs are grossly overprescribed. Why? The drug companies brainwash the public through their massive advertising campaigns that their drugs will eliminate their problems and make them feel wonderful!
Many of the so-called “disorders” that psychologists label people with are normal human conditions that have been around hundreds or even thousands of years. Today we live in a complex society that produces many complicated life experiences, but our basic needs are the same as they have always been. In truth, there is little difference between people throughout the ages in what we feel and need.
Attaching a negative label to a person, especially a young person, can have a damaging effect. The negative label only serves to plant and grow the supposed disorder in the individual.
Sometime during my first two years of college, I took a psychology class with the person I mentioned earlier. By the end of the class, we both felt that we or someone we knew had some of the symptoms listed for several of the disorders we had learned about. If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you know exactly what I am talking about. It’s so easy to look at a list of symptoms for a particular disorder and recall how you or someone close to you behaved in a similar way.
I contend that many alleged “disorders” are really just normal human reactions during and after difficult and unusual situations. It’s not a clinical depression when a person loses a loved one, a pet, a job, or a home, it’s just the blues. It is just a normal and very human sadness, anger, and anxiety due to the loss. To be completely unaffected by a significant loss would be inhuman and maybe even worthy of being called a disorder.
I am sure most people could read through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS) that clinicians and other professionals use and identify a few “disorders” that could in some way apply to them now or in the past. Psychologists and psychiatrists would probably identify a higher than average number for themselves. (Half kidding!) 🙂
My point is this. We’re imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. Most of us are NOT mentally deficient and not in need of psychotherapy or psychiatric medications. We just need to give ourselves a good swift kick in the butt every once in a while and we need a good friend to talk to from time to time. I see the academy award-winning movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” as a metaphor for this point.
The key is to identify present and future solutions for creating the life you want. The most important aspect of these is developing the ability to keep your thoughts on what you want and not on the things you don’t want. The things you don’t want are the sad and disempowering feelings that come when you think about and talk about past hurtful events, mistakes, and all the current conditions in your life that you are unhappy about. How much energy are you going to have to change your life if you focus your attention on all of these disempowering things?
Another more important aspect of thinking and talking about what you don’t want is the natural law of attracting what you place your attention on. You’ve heard the old saying, “Be careful of what you wish for because you might get it.” When you think about your problems and other things you don’t want, you are in effect wishing and even praying for them. This is known as the Law of Attraction. You attract into your life whatever you give your attention to. Incidentally, the LoA is an ancient law described in all the great religions of the world.
This is where many psychologists or psychiatrists who may be reading this are going to get aggravated. This would make them angry because the Law of Attraction takes the exact opposite approach in solving psychological problems. Psychotherapy looks at the past for causes and solutions. The LoA looks at the present and future as the solution.
The LoA is concerned with deciding what you want in the future and then living as though you have it today in order to generate the energy both internally and externally (The Universe, God, or whatever you believe) in order to bring it to you.
The premise of the LoA is that the thoughts you have in the present create your future. It’s really that simple.
If you have difficulty getting your head around the LoA just take a serious look at your thought patterns and the corresponding results you’ve had in your life. When your thoughts were of failure and painful outcomes that’s probably what you got. Correct? The same is true when you had thoughts and feelings of excitement about the things you wanted. They often came true. Right?
Here’s a couple of simple examples. If you’ve ever had the experience of stepping into a batter’s box and hitting a home run, what were you thinking about just before and during that experience? You were probably picturing yourself hitting the baseball out of the park, were you not?
If you’ve ever had the experience of giving a speech that got a standing ovation, what thoughts were you having just prior and during it? You were most likely picturing yourself giving a great speech and walking off the stage triumphantly. The standing ovation was just icing on the cake.
It may be useful to talk through a painful event in your past with a family member, close friend, or a pay-per-session professional acquaintance (partly kidding – psychotherapist) if neither of the first two are viable options. But by no means should this practice be viewed as the solution to your problems. Because it isn’t and never will be. It should be an event and NOT an ongoing process.
In situations where extreme emotional trauma has occurred or when a person is behaving in a bizarre manner where harm to themselves or others is possible, then seeking help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or physician (call the police in emergency situations) is advisable. Be sure to do the work necessary to find a reputable one, however. And be sure to take control of the treatment.
No matter how much you try to explain, no one is ever going to completely understand your unique life or have the right answers needed to make it what you want and need. There is one person who does have the perfect answers though. You! Just learn to pay attention to and trust your intuition (or gut feelings). Those who care about you can offer ideas and suggestions, but only you hold the key to your own nirvana. Facing this truth is the first step in accepting responsibility for your life.
You’ll never figure it all out. It’s impossible to put all the pieces back together again on an event or activities that occurred years ago. More often than not it becomes a fault-finding mission and not a solution seeking one. If a psychotherapist is involved, it will also be a diagnostic mission for identifying all the “disorders” in you and in each of the players in your life. See how complicated and unproductive it can get.
Rather than focusing on problems created in the past, you should be concentrating on finding solutions in the present. In other words, there are no solutions in the past. There are only solutions in the present and future.
The first step is to face the truth about your current situation. This may very difficult and require a great amount of courage. This process starts with accepting 100 percent responsibility for everything that is in your life today. Everything!
Next, you need to pick out the most important things you need to work on in order to create the life you want. Some of these items may be specific. Like “I need to stop drinking or quit using drugs.” Or they may be less definitive, like “I need to develop more courage or self-confidence.” Start with one or two of the most important things, and once successful, go on to the next one.
Then you need to decide on what action steps are needed to reach your goals. These are not to be seen as action steps to solve your problems, but rather action steps to create the life you desire. Writing them out helps to clarify them and it adds a sense of commitment.
The last step is to generate the feelings within yourself as though you’ve already accomplished your goals. To put it simply, you need to get excited about where you’re headed. You need to become the person you envision in the future right now! This will keep your thoughts in present and on what you want. This will, in turn, give you the motivation and energy you need to reach your goals.
I just watched an outstanding documentary entitled, “Food Matters.” It talks about the crucial role diet plays in physical and mental health. It also describes how pharmaceutical companies operate. I highly recommend it.
Last night I watched another terrific documentary entitled, “You Can Heal Your Life” starring Louise Hay. Several medical and psychiatric professionals talk about how a major change in their thinking (Law of Attraction) healed them physically and/or psychologically. I highly recommend it.
A book by renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD entitled, “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” was enthusiastically recommended to me the other day. In it, Dr. Ratey talks about how exercise is truly the best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer’s.
I recently started hearing a radio commercial about a new disorder. Its name and purpose are so absurd it’s laughable. It’s called (I’m chuckling as I type.) “Shift Work Disorder.” More than half of the commercial is about all the truly frightening “possible” side effects.
Update 4A: This commercial stopped about six months later.
Just watched a documentary entitled, American Addict. It talks about how Americans represent 5% of the world population but consume 50% of its pharmaceuticals and 80% of its prescription narcotics. Why/How? Powerful drug company marketing, sales, promotional, PR, and (congressional) lobby machines. Although this documentary was released a couple of years after this article was published, it supports several of the key points I made.
Here’s the full list of documentaries I recommend.
To your mental muscle.