Saturday, February 25, 2017

When Therapy Fails

It’s been three and a half months already. You would think that people would have gotten over it. Gotten over the shock of the new. Apparently, such is not the case.

The Los Angeles Times reports that therapy patients are still filling up their therapy hours talking about Donald Trump. They are exposing their deepest feelings, their most irrational emotions to therapists who apparently have no idea about how to help them.

Some patients, the Times reports, are Trump supporters who fear exposing that hidden truth to the world. Given the virulence of the reaction against Trump, anyone who voted for Trump is immediately ostracized. It shows you that many of the anti-Trump voters do not respect dissent and will only accept the results of a democratic election when it affirms their own beliefs. If it does not they will want the courts and the bureaucracy to annul the election results.

One emphasizes this point, because one has rarely seen it discussed. Those who are complaining about the undemocratic electoral college should ask themselves whether they would respect the results of a national referendum, a democratic vote about: abortion rights, same-sex marriage or transgender locker rooms.

Today’s story of therapy failures comes to us from the LA Times:

In her 35 years as a therapist, Arlene Drake has never heard so many clients talking about the same issue. Week after week, they complain of panic attacks and insomnia because of President Trump. They’re too anxious to concentrate at work. One woman’s fear turned into intense, physical pain.

“It’s just a nightmare,” said Drake, who practices in West L.A.

I do not want to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if your patients are still suffering from the same issue after more than three months, you should ask yourself what you are doing wrong. Or better, why you are not helping them.

Drake believes that she has made a great leap forward because now she has reached the point of personal development where she can share her own anti-trumpian feelings with her patients. So what? Apparently, it is not doing anyone very much good. They keep going on and on about Trump.

Having induced their patients to live in a bubble, these therapists are powerless to deal with the real world. They taught their patients to wallow in their emotions and to make their lives into living theatre and now they discover that these skills are of little use when dealing with reality.

If it was just the patients, it would be one thing. But, these therapists find reality to be a dark and alien place, a place whose workings do not follow the narratives they have been peddling. If all they can ask themselves is whether they should feel their patients’ pain… it’s no wonder that the patients are not getting better.

To have a serious discussion about a political matter or a business matter or a professional matter a therapist should have at his command a certain number of facts, a certain quantity of information and perhaps even an opinion. And then he should be able to offer something of an analysis of the facts. As for the opinion, the third leg of this triad, it is the least relevant leg.

One suspects that these therapists do not have enough information to have formed anything but a superficial opinion. They are opinionated, no more and no less.

Since they are spending their time plumbing the depths of people’s souls they do not bother to examine reality. If they want to have good information at their command they should follow the advice of Noam Chomsky and read the business press—the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Economist. At least there, Chomsky said, you will find truthful information.

As for political analysis, most therapists probably do not have very much familiarity with it. Especially when it is not larded over with opinion. The business press, especially The Economist offers a great deal of it. If you want to know what analysis looks like, read Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal or George Friedman on the site Geopolitical Futures. Analysis should give you the state of the game, the possible moves by the different players and the possible outcomes. It does not tell a story. News analysis has nothing to do with psychoanalysis.

If it’s just about politics, it would be one thing. But most of the people who consult with therapists have lives. They exist in the real world. They have jobs, careers and businesses. They have children and families. And they often have trouble navigating the different currents in their lives.

For a therapist to be helpful, he will need to know something, often a great deal, about the real world, about the world his patients inhabit. If their work on patients’ Trump anxiety tells us anything, it says that today's therapists blissfully ignore the reality of their patients’ lives.  

They teach the art of storytelling. Read through any of the Ask Polly columns in New York Magazine and you will see a flood of emotion woven together in a mindless narrative. There is no way you can take what Polly offers and use it to get your bearings in the world of politics and economy.

Today’s therapy patients know how to feel and they know how to feel their feelings. They even know to feel the feelings of other people. And yet, they do not know how to conduct their lives, more rationally and more constructively and more productively.

Therapists who have undergone years of advanced training in order to learn how to say: How does that make you feel? have nothing to offer to their patients. They have no sense of reality and no sense of how to discuss reality. Their patients are paying the price.


trigger warning said...

SS: "Their patients are paying the price."

I know what you mean, but, literally speaking, only 13% of patients are paying for service. According to HHS, over 50% of total fees are paid by the Federal govt (Medicaid, Medicare, etc.) and the states:

So, in effect, you and I pay for their failures. That's very generous of us!

Anonymous said...

These people have been reading propaganda and have no skills in minimal research. Fake news is working.

Anonymous said...

I think therapy would be much more effective if, when patients took to the feigned fainting couch, the care givers were taught how to say, "Yeah, so?" instead of "How does that make you feel?"