BLOG POST Winter 2017

DANGER – ‘THERAPISTS AT WORK!’

For lots of people, feelings and sentiments are messy, embarrassing, and best avoided. When emotions are running high then it’s usually easier to send for the ‘ologists’ than to deal with the sufferers at first hand. That’s why the general public relies on therapists to mop up all that emotional ‘goo’. dangerAs a result, modern day counsellors and psychotherapists are all too often used as society’s emotional refuse collectors.

It’s bad enough that society thinks that these modern day, therapeutic ‘Fairy Godmothers’ can magic away unwanted psychological pain. What’s even worse is that all too many counsellors and psychotherapists actually believe it too. For example, whenever there is a particularly tragic event, a murder in a school say, or perhaps a terrorist attack, the news services all solemnly announce that counsellors are in attendance. Now any properly trained psychologist or psychotherapist knows that not only is such an immediate on-site presence irrelevant, but that it can actually be harmful. The problem is that all too few therapists are properly trained. So in they go, ‘saving the world’, smugly blissful in their ignorance. There are other appropriate psychological interventions that do help in the immediate aftermath of emergency situations. These include psychotherapeutic ‘First Aid’ and psychological trauma triage. Unfortunately, very few counsellors and psychotherapists have even heard of these techniques much less ever learned how to use them.

However, this is not the only area in which the ill-trained majority of the Talking Therapy World’s practitioners rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s because to them, counselling and psychotherapy are always ‘good things’. Therefore, the therapy trade’s practitioners, with their allegedly non-judgemental, multi-cultural, ethos, must be generally beneficial to their customers, (or so they claim). So, whatever the problem, there go the therapists bringing their own special brand of succour to the emotionally wounded, (or so they think). As ever, the road to hell, including psychotherapy’s own version of hell, is paved with good intentions.

However, what most therapists don’t realise is that far from being socially neutral, judgementally neutral, and value-free, the practice of counselling and psychotherapy over the last 50 years or so has actually been an affirmation of a specific socio-political attitude that is still prevalent amongst an intellectually liberal elite in western society. This is the self-centric, self-actualising, way of being that underpins a ‘me, me, me’ view of the self and the world that has been prevalent amongst the ‘right-on’ generation from the 50s onwards. Counselling’s great guru, Carl Rogers certainly has such a lot to answer for.

This ‘me first’ generation, the so-called ‘baby boomers’, found it intellectually convenient to invent a way of ordering society, (and supposedly curing its emotional ‘ailments’), that fitted in with their own belief systems, (or prejudices). They also invented their own Orwellian ‘Newspeak’, (Political Correctness), to supress any alternative viewpoints. So, in this allegedly freer modern society, it seems that only approved of ideas are permissible. Alternative viewpoints should not even be listened to. Far from being intellectual libertarians, today’s super-sensitive right-thinkers happily no-platform the opposition in order to save their own delicate beings from being offended.

So, you don’t think all us super-empathetic, super caring, therapists can be bigoted like that? We can’t be biased or dogmatic? Just go along to any group of counsellors or psychotherapists talking about their work. You will see what I call ‘the noddies’. They will all be nodding approvingly at any statement that fits in with their group-think and looking uncomfortable should any renegades question any of their core beliefs. The fact is that all too many of practitioners in the talking therapies are dangerously undereducated. Most of their training consists of being inculcated with a lot of professional ‘does and don’ts’. Unfortunately, therapist education is mostly normative. It is very rarely formative. Critical thinking is not encouraged. How could it be? After all, most of their instructors don’t even begin to understand the concept of academic criticality and they recoil at even the idea of scientific methodology. How could they? They too are the products of inadequate training.

Is there a way out of this intellectual backwater, at least as far as the talking therapies are concerned? Well yes, but first the psychotherapeutic professions must go through the same healing process that they encourage in their customers. Firstly, deal with denial. Admit that all too many practitioners are currently inadequate for the task. Secondly, determine what is wrong. In my view the core problem is the sheer educational inadequacy of therapist training and therapist trainers. Put bluntly, in the purist sense of the word, all too many of them are educationally defective and intellectually undeveloped. Thirdly, make some serious changes. Doing that, I believe, means establishing some new and upgraded professional standards. These should include establishing a minimum educational requirement of BSc, (not BA), level training for counsellors and an MSc, (not MA), level training for psychotherapists. There should also be a recognised post-qualification licensing procedure.

Of course, my proposals for upgrading counselling and psychotherapy’s professional standards are all ‘pie in the sky’ at present. So what can Joe and Jill Public do about finding a properly trained and qualified therapist? How can they find somebody who actually knows what they are doing? I’ll tell you all about that in my Spring Blog.