Saturday, December 9, 2017

Really Bad Therapy

Hats off to New York Magazine. The magazine that balances  the psychobabble of Ask Polly with excellent reports about the latest in social psychology—in its Science of Us rubric—has caught on to the fact that certain therapists are not doing their jobs. Many of those who are doing their jobs are not doing them very well. Some of them are positively appalling. All of the patients are women.

And yet, therapists have power in the media. Many stories about therapy seem to have been written by the therapists’ own PR firms.  The horror stories seem to have been filed away as anomalous.

Now, New York Magazine has collected some stories about bad things that happen in therapy. We are brimming with gratitude and happily report a few of them… for your edification.

The first therapist kept talking about herself. I suspect that she was Polly’s therapist:

I swear my therapist was only there to talk about herself. Every time I visited her, she would tell me about her ‘friend.’ It was obviously about her. And then there was the time that she was inspired by my silly fashion and bought the same sweater I always wore to our sessions. Of course, I never would have known this if she hadn’t shown up to our meeting wearing it — while I had mine on, too!”

Another tried to play matchmaker. She set up one patient with another patient—generally a very bad idea. But, the male patient in question seems to have learned courtship by Harvey Weinstein.  Somehow the therapist did not know. Or else, she did not care:

My therapist set me up with another one of her patients, who was a writer. He wrote about the porn industry and lived, literally, in a closet. For our first date, he met me at work. I had to swing by my place to change before we went out. So I went to the bathroom to freshen up, and when I came out, he was lying naked on my bed. I had known him for five minutes. At first, I was confused as to why my therapist would set me up with such a schmuck, so I confronted her about it. She laughed it off, and then she immediately wanted me to pay my bill.

Another therapist was a Hillary Clinton supporter who was obsessed with Donald Trump. That’s all she wanted to talk about:

Around the election last year, my old therapist asked me every session if I was a Republican. When I reminded her that I was not, she would go on to talk to me about all her clients who she thinks supports Trump. Obsessed with Trump all day, all night. That is all she talked about. One day, we got into it. I went to her to talk about my stress at home, but she kept asking me about Hillary. I was a huge Hillary fan. So was she. Then she made the biggest mistake. She told me that an educated, rich, white politician (Hillary) had suffered more than any woman in the world. She said Hillary had endured the most as a woman … ever! I said, ‘More than enslaved black women?’ She said yes. I was like, Girl, bye. My next session was scheduled for the day after the election. Hillary lost. I was upset, but knew I couldn’t listen to her whine about Donald Trump for the next four to eight years. So I rescheduled my appointment. She fired me as a patient, saying I no-showed. Whatever.

And then there’s the therapist who should be sued or prosecuted—I am not sure which:

I sent him an email that I had to quit him out of the interest of time. He responded with the most threatening letter a mother could imagine; using all my personal secrets against me and even threatening to have my kids taken away from me because, he said, this decision to quit him made me seem very unstable to him. It felt like he was holding me hostage. I was nervous every day for months that someone was going to come to my house and take my kids. It’s been about a year now and he’s never done anything — but even talking about the situation freaks me out immensely.

As for the notion that therapists, for having themselves undergone therapy, are of superior mental health and emotional stability… what can I say that would make them look worse than they make themselves look?


trigger warning said...

Shoulda hired ELIZA.

Ares Olympus said...

I'm not categorically against "really bad therapy" but it ought to be a lot cheaper in that case. I recall in Peanuts comics, Lucy only charged $0.05. With inflation, I'm open to bringing that up to $15/hour.

Really the whole idea of getting paid to try to help people is morally confusing to me. Probably the model for ministers is better, getting a modest fixed salary, and then you don't have to fight for clients, but can help where you believe you can help, and be networked sufficiently to redirect people elsewhere when you can't.

Sam L. said...

Bad therapists! BAD!!!!!

whitney said...

I find it hard to believe that any college educated person would be willing to go to a therapist. If you were in college, then you probably knew people who are getting psychology degrees. Why would you want to talk to those people. I'm sure there were exceptions but there was definitely a rule