Can Therapy Become an Addiction?

When you are in therapy there is a pretty good chance that at some point you will find yourself wondering if therapy has become more of an addiction than an actual therapeutic experience. If you have already found yourself in this situation, don’t worry, you are not crazy because you are not alone.

I have been feeling this way more than once and there are many others who find themselves wondering about the same thing. The problem is not so much the feeling itself, which is actually based in reality, but the fact that it is utterly invalidated by the therapists most of the time.

Try an experiment and tell your therapist honestly that you keep seeing them mostly because you have become addicted to the process as opposed to getting motivated by your progress. If your therapist acts genuinely surprised, curious to know more about this and eager to understand why you are feeling that way, consider yourself very lucky. Because most therapists don’t do that.

There is a number of typical responses you might get from a therapist to such a feedback.

One is that they might tell you that therapy is not a smooth and rosy walk when you just feel happier and happier with each step. They won’t say that literally, but the meaning would be pretty much the same. This idea goes along the lines of the other one that says “sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.” This response completely misses the point that the addiction to therapy you are experiencing has nothing to do with the work you wanted to do when you started therapy.

Another popular response is that it is normal to have a certain degree of dependency on the therapist and on the process. I am of a strong opinion that it is not normal, but this is the subject for a separate article. This view is claimed to be supported by the attachment theory, but it is not. It is just a faulty conclusion based on logical fallacies the profession made from a legitimate, scientifically validated theory.

And, my favorite reaction from a therapist, is gaslighting when the concern you have raised is turned on you and explained to you as the product of your sick imagination that you have developed as a result of previous traumatic experiences. This one is the toughest to swallow because it is not only dismissive and invalidating but also abusive because it essentially makes you feel horrible about yourself, unable to trust your own experience and, most importantly, gets the therapist off the hook.

If you have received one of those three responses and now you doubt your own reality of feeling addicted to therapy, please don’t. Don’t doubt it. This is the case when you can trust your own experience 100% and when I can confidently say that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc. then you know what it is.

When therapy really works, you feel it. You get eye-opening insights, feel more empowered and hopeful, and, most importantly, you get energy and motivation to take actions that bring changes into your life. This may not feel like a constant continuous elevation. Sometimes you may feel worse because of uncovering some deep sitting pain you didn’t even know existed. It is a normal part of the process. But even then you still feel supported by the therapist and get important guidance and encouragement from them.

When therapy works you NEVER come back to see the therapist just for the sake of seeing them and being in their office, just because this is the place where you can say things you can’t say in other places, just because there is no one else in your life who’d at least try to understand you and listen to you, just because it allows you to function on some basic level, just because otherwise you might commit suicide…

If you keep seeing your therapist for any of the above reasons, then it is no longer a therapy, it has turned into a “fix” that, like any addictive substance, helps you stay afloat but doesn’t solve your problems.

Yes, therapy can and in many instances DOES become an addiction. Given how it is generally conducted, it would be surprising if it didn’t turn out that way for many people.

The general format is to receive weekly sessions, which means you get conditioned to being in the same place, often at the same time, with the same person for the same purpose of talking about yourself and what goes on in your life. It’s easy to see how this regularity would form a habit and an attachment to therapy experience, especially since this experience is designed to give you an opportunity and a relatively safe space to talk about the most personal things you usually don’t talk about and there is someone there who is willing to listen to you for a certain length of time.

Let’s face it, regardless of how therapy is conducted, there is a part of this experience that fulfills our fundamental human need to be listened to, to be given some space to express our emotional needs and to understand ourselves, the need that normally doesn’t get fulfilled even on a very basic level in our crazy world that lacks compassion, empathy and consciousness.

We need to have a place and times where and when we are seen and heard and regarded as important, where and when our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, ideas and experiences matter. And we need someone to be at that place in those times to see and to hear us and to let us know one way or another that our feelings, thoughts and experiences are important and that we are important.

As long as this basic need is being fulfilled, at least to some extend, or as long as the illusion that this need is being fulfilled is maintained, one, most likely, will keep coming back to the same place, at the same time, to the same person to get their emotional food they can’t get anywhere else.

So, what is the solution for preventing therapy from becoming an addiction? There isn’t just one simple answer to this question. A set of changes has to be enacted to reform the system fundamentally in order to eliminate the conditions which give birth to such addiction and on which it thrives.

It is my strong belief that talk “therapy” has to be called for what it actually is, which is counseling or consulting, in order to get rid of the illusion that this practice is a equivalent to any traditional or non-traditional medical practices. The medical part of mental health should be defined and practiced differently from it’s “talking” a.k.a consulting part and, subsequently, the practitioners should undergo different types of training.

The current format of practicing that allows seeing the same practitioner long term, sometimes for years or decades (!), has to go. I know this suggestion will evoke waves of outrage from both therapists, who see clients long term, and their clients, at least some of them, because both groups feel pretty comfortable with the current arrangement, each one for different reasons. But the arrangement is unhealthy, as comfortable as it may feel, and one of the major factors contributing into therapy becoming addiction.

The above proposals and other solutions are discussed throughout Therapy Consumer Guide.

14 thoughts on “Can Therapy Become an Addiction?”

  1. I’m not sure I would call the phenomenon an addiction, though I do believe it to be an unhealthy compulsion.

    From my own experience, there are many dangers in long-term psycho-therapy. One of the biggest is the re-creation of unhealthy relational dynamics and, therefore, especially with a strong tranference, deeper entrenchment of them.

    If the therapist plays the other side of an interpersonal dynamic that caused developmental harm, it is likely to feel deeply familiar, which can make it almost impossible for a client to recognise how unhealthy the situation has become. That feeling of “rightness” in replaying dysfuntional family dynamics seems to overpower logical thinking.

    I don’t think this is usually conscious on the part of the therapist. I suspect they too are often ‘replaying’ a situation from their own lives. The problem is that the therapist is in a position of power, and is therefore more able to, possibly unknowingly, manipulate the pay-offs in their own favour, and in doing so, intensify the one-down position and powerlessness in the client. They hold most of the rewards and punishments. It is far too easy to engineer a situation of unconsciously undermining the client’s autonomy and integrity, and in return reaping praise and admiration through the anxiety that is created in the client.

    This positive feedback from the client can probably set-up a two-way compulsion. It also may hinder any serious reflection on the part of the therapist about their conduct, and about whether the therapy is truly beneficial for the client.

    Intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful means of shaping behaviour. I should imagine that, when combined with intermittent punishment in the form of disapproval, withholding, and discounting, a ‘perfect storm’ of dependency can be established, in which the client becomes ever-more reliant on feedback from a therapist who has become compromised by his or her own self-interest. The client unconsciously shapes their responses to maintain the relationship, and loses more and more of their authenticity, autonomy and self-confidence in the process.

    I became less confident, less trusting of my own judgment, and less able to assert myself, and therefore less able to hold to my own truth, in fact, less able to discern what that truth was, as I became more enmeshed in the world-view, feelings, and desires of my therapist.

    I was unaware of this, and I believe she was too.

    Unfortunately, this ‘enfeeblement’ also affected my other relationships. I became more of a door-mat, and and even less able to recognise boundary violations. I believe that my seeing and understanding the dynamic in other relationships threatened the therapy relationship, on both sides.

    1. Hi ex-client,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I feel comfortable to call the phenomena an addiction because that’s how I’ve experienced it and I’ve heard other people say that it has been their experience as well. These things are highly subjective. There is no objective criteria to give them one generic definition. Some people experience those dynamics as compulsion/obsession. Others experience them as addiction. And others feel that they are all of the above. I,probably, belong to the last group. Whatever your experience was in therapy that is how it was for you. For some others the experience might have been different. I don’t want to argue over definitions because they are ultimately not important. What is important is that the dynamics that often develop in therapy, no matter how you define them, are unhealthy and destructive, as you mentioned in your analysis, which I find very accurate.

      I agree that intermittent reinforcement, both positive and negative, in the relationship that is so power imbalanced is a major tool of psychological control, which I define as abuse. It creates an unhealthy dependency which increases the already existing big power imbalance and makes it massive.

      I also agree that the controlling behavior on the part of the therapist is unconscious and fulfills the therapist’s personal needs that are also unconscious such as the need for approval, admiration, the need to gain the sense of self-importance and so on. While it’s important to recognize that abusive therapists behave unconsciously, it is more important to me to underscore that their lack of self-awareness and self-reflection doesn’t make them any less responsible for what they do, because the fact that they behave unconsciously doesn’t make their behavior any less harmful and morally reprehensible. I am sure my abusive therapists genuinely believed that they acted in my best interests. But who cares what they believed if the effect of their actions were traumatic? If a professional cannot achieve the level of self-awareness that allows them to practice ethically they shouldn’t be in this business. Way too often I hear people who stick with abusive therapists say “but he(she) doesn’t mean to hurt me” which becomes an excuse for not standing up for themselves.

      This theme is big and complex. It has many layers and contributing factors, many of which I hope to explore gradually on this website.

      Thanks again for the comment and I am sorry you are one of those who have been harmed in therapy.

      1. I agree the precise definition doesn’t really matter.

        I was astonished, horrified, by how quickly and completely my therapist turned on me when I began to question my therapy. In the beginning my questions were related to just a couple of minor matters, and I wanted her to explain what was going on. I couldn’t have anticipated the overreaction that ensued from such mild feedback. I’m glad I was able to see finally see the red flags as the situation unfolded.

        I was also astounded to see her adopt a pseudo-victim position when I persisted in wanting to have input into my own therapy. This was someone I trusted and admired, someone who was quick to jump on me when she felt I was being oversensitive or arrogant, behaving like a aggrieved child.

        When I was in therapy, I believed her intolerance for ‘self-indulgence’ reflected self-discipline and courage in how she lived her life. I’m coming to see her holding me to at times, ridiculously high standards of moral and psychological rectitude as being part of what entrapped me. I was, and could never be, good enough as I authentically was. The bar would always be too high for any mortal, so I was always stuck in trying and failing to live up to her expectations, and being shamed into further submission and appeasement.

        1. What you are describing is such a common scenario of the therapist who is unwilling to engage in a simple common sense conversation about what does and doesn’t work for the client, let alone to acknowledge that some of their methods may be either ineffective or harmful. Any feedback that seems even remotely critical, any doubting or questioning of their methods is taken personally. The stunning thing about this is that those are people who are supposed to be wiser, more mature and more enlightened than the average lay person and yet they react to even the slightest criticism like insecure little children and are unable to turn it into a productive adult discussion.

          My experience was similar to yours in the sense that none of my therapists was willing to consider my feedback and to make our work truly collaborative. They reacted somewhat differently though. Their reaction to my questions and concerns was mostly classic gaslighting when they suggested that all my thoughts, impressions and opinions were just projections of my past experiences with other people, which essentially meant that my views of their methods had very little basis in reality but were rather “symptoms” of my mental conditions. I didn’t necessarily need them to automatically accept my views and my request to do the work differently, but I did need them to have enough respect for me as a human being to engage in a serious discussion about what worked for me and what didn’t. After all, when something doesn’t work it just doesn’t regardless of the reasons. Whether the “projections” of my past or something else was the reason why the method A or B didn’t work, the reality was that it didn’t work and the only way to deal with that reality was to accept it. It is very ironic to believe that telling the person that their mental condition is the obstacle to working with their mental condition would somehow make a difference, but apparently many professionals don’t see an irony in it.

          My last therapist reacted more angrily to my feedback and played the victim rather than gaslighting me which is similar to your experience. But he didn’t go to the extent you are describing.

  2. Marina,

    So many of your thoughts are similar to what I have experienced during and after a devastating and harmful analytic treatment.

    Regarding addictive treatment, and therefore counterproductive or harmful treatment, one experience that has helped me to clarify between that vs healthy treatment is that in my bad therapy it had gotten to the point where it was nearly impossible for me to make a decision without consulting with my analyst first. I brought it up to her and told her how upsetting that was and that I was concerned about it. It seemed very off to me. She said it was okay. That was generally her response to my concerns. “That’s okay”, she would say. Except that she was wrong, it was never okay. She also employed the 3 kinds of responses you describe. I had become dependent on her, which was never a goal of mine. I kept going back because she would tell me that “one day” I would feel better. That was the carrot she dangled in front of me. Who doesn’t want to get better?! Of course we come back! We try to make the best of it. The treatment had also become interminable.

    In contrast, with my current therapist, I know I can depend on him if I need to, but I am not dependent on him. If he suddenly disappeared, make no mistake, it would be very difficult and painful. But it would be difficult because I make progress with him, and I want that. I like the progress, and the consistency fortifies it. And also I am making up for lost time. So it’s not purely comfort like before. I love moving forward towards my goals. When I do bring up concerns, we have a real dialog, a conversation. It is light years away from my previous experience. The treatment I have now is what I had always thought it was supposed to be. Since I had bad examples growing up of a healthy relationship, I thought the experience with that first analyst was how it was supposed to be. I had no positive reference point, and no reason to doubt her since she seemed kind generally. My convictions and intuition told me something was off, but as time went on, the confrontational and controlling way she worked eroded that, which contributed to the whole cycle. The happier I was with my thoughts when I arrived, the more I knew she would tell me that my thoughts were incorrect. I could count on it happening. It was uncanny.

    Similarly to the experience and comment by “ex-client”, when I finally tried to address the issues more assertively and asked for some accountability, she became quietly rageful and her comments became vindictive. If initially her harmful treatment and her unmanaged issues of control or frustration were unconscious, in the end I believe it shifted, and she knew exactly what she was doing. She said that she made mistakes but would not discuss them, and then shut down. I do not think she could tolerate any of the questions of her treatment that I had posed during the years. As she had put it once, she was “the analyst”. That implied a hierarchy. It implied that she felt she knew better, that my thoughts are second to hers, and therefore the relationship is conditional. So it is not a wonder that her methods were a failure. The foundation she implied was a fake. As I see her now, I think she had a great deal invested in being right rather than being helpful. In contrast, my current therapy works because my therapist sees me as a peer and treats me that way. It is quite remarkable and it took me awhile to trust that I was not going to be diminished. I kept expecting it because of my previous experience. It has never happened with him. And it made me see that progress can occur without being put down. No therapist should ever humiliate a client.

    Regarding progress, like you relate, it should not be a strain to locate. It is not magical or mysterious. There is no transformative catharsis or epiphany awaiting, whereby once achieved, everything falls into place. It is difficult and slow, but with my current therapist there was a fairly immediate shift. Small changes, maybe minute, but present and fairly consistent nevertheless. My experience has shown me that you know when it is working; we should trust our gut.

    1. Hi G,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences in therapy, both positive and negative.

      The first therapist/analyst you described is such a classic character. Defensiveness, insecurity, the need to be right and to be “in charge” of the relationship are common traits of many therapists, especially those who work from psychodynamic/psychoanalytic perspective.

      I am glad the current therapist you are seeing is fulfilling your needs.

      I’ve never been lucky to get the therapist and the therapy I needed despite having tried many times. Unlike your current therapy, the version of “peer” relationship with my last therapist didn’t work for me as well. He prided himself in being “equal” with clients and being open to “learning” from them, but I experienced that “equality” approach as exploitation of me, my time and my money. To be his trying to be my “peer” looked like he wasn’t doing the work he was supposed to be doing for which I was paying him. He made excessive, unnecessary self-disclosures, whenever he could he talked about his own feelings, opinions and beliefs on different matters instead of focusing on what I needed to work on, he would throw compliments at me in regards to my natural gifts, which felt good on one hand but on the other hand it didn’t help me address my inner struggles, he would always agree with whatever I said and supported whatever I did in my life, which also felt counter-productive because I wanted an honest exploration that would help me understand myself better instead of just building up my ego. He always tried to pull our sessions in the direction of a social chat of two friends rather than the work done in the context of professional service. At the time, I couldn’t see it as problematic because it felt good, but later I realized that I was just being exploited. For the money I was paying, I should’ve been getting service, not a paid friendship. His style of being my “peer” was fulfilling his own needs more than mine.

      I don’t look at the relationship between therapist and client in terms of comparison of the hierarchical vs. peer model. I don’t accept either one. I see myself as equal to the therapist who provides service to me in the sense that I expect them to treat me as an adult and as a consumer who has the right to give her input in how she is served and her input has to be considered. That’s all. A provider-consumer relationship, in my view, is very distinct and can’t be defined or described either as hierarchical or peer-like. It’s professional and it’s a business relationship in its essence, even though this type of business is humanitarian and personal. When the understanding of its professional, business nature is lost or pushed aside, this can be potentially problematic. It doesn’t always become a problem depending on how clients look at it but it may.

      1. Thank you for responding Marina.
        I think I understand what you are describing with your experience with “peer” guy. Descriptions of working methods is tricky because a therapist can call their own particular style anything they want, but it does not make it necessarily so unfortunately. I experienced similar interactions with my bad analyst as you did. I paid so much money for sessions I was told were helping, but it was merely chatting. I think you are saying that the business model is more defined, and familiar too, so it makes more sense to use it as a guide. In a way it has more respect inherent in it since we know what is expected, whereas in therapy, in any model, a bad therapist has too many options to blur the lines. If the relationship is business, then the therapist is aware of why you are there, rather than it becoming a fruitless and interminable mess. Somewhere between fixing someones car and teaching someone to play piano. There need to be some limits, considerations.

        A friend saw a therapist years ago. When he started, they agreed they would not go longer than 6 months. He was lucky in that she helped him; the time structure set a framework too. Another friend was helped tremendously by her therapist. They did EMDR. When she was ready, she told her therapist that she would be ending treatment, that it was her last session. Perhaps she should have given more notice. The therapist wanted to talk about it the following week. And I can understand that. But my friend said no, there is nothing to talk about. She had a husband and two kids to take care of and she could not afford another session, so it was time to go. She had to make a choice. It was not a personal thing, it was practical, business.

        It seems like your therapist did not get it, and relied on compliments to build you up when he was at a loss of how to help you. Compliments and encouragement are great to hear, but it is not why we are there ultimately. It’s too easy! We can get that from friends. It becomes exploitation when it is not what you need and you are throwing away money, you are so right. I think he took advantage of your willingness to work hard even though he was slacking off. The conclusion you came to ultimately, that the ego boosting was nice in the beginning but he was not facilitating the progress you needed, it was his job to see that.

        I told my current therapist, at the very beginning, not to handle me with kid gloves. I didn’t want to be coddled. I had years of that. Like you, I was there to work.
        In a way, he picked me. I went to a training institute. The intake interviewer was very good and I told her that I needed to feel, not analyze. My therapist read my intake and felt he could help me with that. He wanted to help me with that.
        In sessions, when I would veer away into endless blabbing, which I had been encouraged to do by my previous classical analyst, he would gently get me back on track. He would know the moment that I disconnected emotionally (and actually so did I, but I needed his input) and he would guide me back. I had never experienced that before.

        I did not know that those were common traits of many therapists.
        ( insecurity, need to control). It is hard to comprehend.

        1. G, this is exactly what I meant when I was referring to a business model. I meant it had more clarity and, therefore, more honesty and accountability by design. By the way, this is why many therapists don’t like speaking of their work in business terms explaining that by therapy’s highly personal nature. But to me a personal nature of therapy service only means that the material the client reveals is personal, it doesn’t mean their relationship with the therapist has to become personal because of that. For some reason, many people, therapists and clients alike ( I am talking about clients who get overly attached to their therapists) think that it’s impossible for a therapist to express humanity, to show respect, compassion, empathy and kindness if they look at their work as business only, which is not true at all. In my years of practice I never had the need to delude clients about the nature of my relationships with them, I never needed to promote the idea of “intimacy” in a therapist-client relationship in order to treat clients with respect and kindness. What on earth does one have to do with the other? Why do clients need to develop “intimacy” with their therapists in order for therapists to express the best of their humanity? A therapist’s humanity is just a big part of who they are and, consequently, becomes a big part of their work. Why do my relationship with clients need to be “intimate” in order for me to express a simple human concern when they are in crisis or when they are in a destructive situation? Why do we need to become “close”, “intimate” a.k.a personal with each other in order for me to treat them with basic respect? Aren’t therapists capable of being kind, respectful and empathetic unless their relationships with clients becomes personal? If the answer is yes, then therapy is something everyone should avoid because with that kind of assumption the whole enterprise becomes destructive and harmful. I know the answer should be no because I’ve encountered therapists who were perfectly capable of maintaining the humanitarian nature of their business while still maintaining it as a business. I myself was perfectly capable of doing that. In fact, it wasn’t difficult at all. All it takes is being honest about what you are doing.

          Your examples of two friends of yours who were helped by their therapists illustrate a very important point that I’ve made many times. Both people in your story were helped because the time of therapy was limited.

          In the first case, both the therapist and the client knew in advance that their time was limited which forced them to structure the work and to stay focused on clear goals, which is SO important. I can’t underestimate the importance of staying clear and focused in therapy because, in my experience, in most cases where therapy becomes not only ineffective but damaging a clear focus on goals was not present, as well as staying grounded in the reality of where the client was at the moment.

          In the second case, the person terminated when they felt they were done, which is perfectly reasonable. It is also perfectly legitimate for the client not to schedule additional session to process termination. When the decision has been already made there is really nothing to discuss, especially when the client stated that they were helped and that they received everything they needed. If they were dissatisfied, as a therapist, I think, I would want to know what went wrong so I could improve and not run into the same problem with other clients, but I don’t need to force them to come to yet another session to discuss that. I can just have a brief questionnaire in my intake package along with the informed consent and other documents. When they decide that they are done they could voluntarily to fill out the questionnaire at home if they feel compelled to do so and mail it to me so I could consider their feedback. I think, many clients wouldn’t mind doing that. As a client, I wouldn’t.

          It’s great that your therapist seems to be willing to accommodate your needs. It may have something to do with the fact that he is a part of that training institute where you had an intake. Therapists tend to be more responsive to clients’ needs when they work for an agency/organization they have to report to and that monitors them as opposed to when they are “free artists” in their private practices with no oversight.

          1. That is an important distinction you make…. you are stating with a passion that humanity must be the basis of the relationship without it being subordinate or attached to any other part of the relationship. One would think it would be a no brainer. Yet unfortunately it is not the case. Without respect, without humanity as a foundation, there is no treatment. And I think the ability to have a true discussion and genuine honest conversation about any issues that come up is crucial in maintaining that the relationship is primed for progress, rather than addiction or dependency.
            I agree with your thoughts on the importance of goals. The idea of unbridled talk and endless therapy has no point.
            Striving to reach that goal helps everyone in the long run to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and do better. It is reassuring to hear your thoughts about this as they seem very mindful of the relationship in real time, rather than privileging ideology or preconceived truths.

          2. You grasped the essence of what I was trying to say precisely, but you did it much more eloquently 🙂 A general good will toward another human being should be a foundation of any relationship not dependent on the degree of emotional closeness or anything else, so it should definitely be a foundation of a professional relationship between the therapist and the client. In fact, in therapy this should even be more of the case since the nature of therapy is essentially humanitarian.

            Just as a note, I’ll be taking vacation starting tomorrow until May 2d and during that time I won’t be maintaining the website, so don’t be offended if you post a comment and don’t see it online. You are welcome to keep sending comments but I will be able to approve and post them only after May 2d. The same goes for private communications sent to me via the contact form.

            In the meantime, you guys be well and thank you both for an interesting discussion. I hope you’ll continue to be engaged in discussions on Therapy Consumer Guide. Your insights, opinions and experiences are very important to me so thank you for posting them.

  3. I would like to find a specialist to consult with about the problems I have – to talk about blocks and barriers, and possible means of working through them. To talk about strategies and to discuss progress and to feel encouraged and supported in my healing.

    It seems strange to me now that my therapist almost never asked any questions about my feelings or about the situations and life circumstances that preceded them. She declared as fact, what she believed to be happening in me, in my relationships, and in my life with precious little information. I never felt able to explore anything with her. Her God-like omniscience got in the way.

    I wasn’t able to set my own therapy goals. I was told what I should value, need and want from my life, and what she believed was and was not an issue for me. It was so disempowering and crazy-making to be in that situation. To be told I felt what I didn’t, wanted what I didn’t, how to think and what to believe. This didn’t happen all at once, it was a progressive disease.

    As a result, I have come to feel very uncomfortable about the idea of any therapist sharing personal opinions or feelings related to their own life and worldview. Therapy should not be a way of ‘holding court’. I ended up as a courtier and paid for the ‘privilege’. It was increasingly disempowering and harmful.

    Your’e right, Marina. It doesn’t matter if my former therapist had insight into her behaviour, at the time. I’d have more respect if she had the integrity to be honest with herself.

    1. Ex-client, I cannot tell you how much I can relate to what you are saying about the need for a specialist to consult with, a REAL professional who understands that their role is actually quite modest and that it doesn’t include imposing their own values and opinions on clients and that their presence in the consulting room has to be much smaller than the space they usually take. That is what is so-called professional neutrality a.k.a objectivity supposed to be about, at least that’s how I see it. It seems with many therapists that their occupation for them is more about building up their self-importance than it is about doing the actual work, a big part of which is taking yourself out of the way as much as possible and becoming a listening and reflecting agent/facilitator of the client’s process thus creating favorable conditions for the client to self-explore.

      Just to be clear, I don’t mind when a therapist shares their knowledge and insights. After all, it is a consultation which presumes that they do possess some body of knowledge that a client doesn’t have, otherwise people would only talk to friends. I would be interested to know their impressions, perceptions of my situations, intuitive hunches and such. But the information has to be OFFERED to me as opposed to forced on me as an undeniable fact that I have to accept or else I’d be told that my problematic relationship with my mother or some other past experiences are the reason I don’t have the blind trust in the therapist’s expertise. In other words, I don’t mind the feedback from the therapist when my right to reject it any time it doesn’t resonate with me is respected. I accept that there might be certain dimensions of my situation that are more visible to the objective observer, especially the one with psychology background (that’s why I am consulting with them), but I don’t accept that that person has the ability to understand me in my entirety better than I am able to understand myself and it would be quite arrogant of them to think otherwise. Like you said, if someone sees you for a very limited time once a week, isn’t close to you, doesn’t have to interact with you daily like your family, how do they have the nerve to behave as if they are in a position to lecture you about how to live your life? This takes a special kind of arrogance and ignorance which is what’s usually call a God’s complex.

      And, as far as therapists being honest about their flaws and shortcomings, that’s another professional “disease”. It would’ve spared me much pain and suffering if any of them was able to say sincerely “I am sorry. I was wrong” and made efforts to repair the damage done by their actions and the broken trust.

      1. I don’t mind when a therapist shares their knowledge and insights. After all, it is a consultation which presumes that they do possess some body of knowledge that a client doesn’t have, otherwise people would only talk to friends. I would be interested to know their impressions, perceptions of my situations, intuitive hunches and such. But the information has to be OFFERED to me as opposed to forced on me as an undeniable fact that I have to accept or else…

        I completely agree. I was struggling to find words to say this. I am the expert on my own feelings and life experiences, I know more about them than anyone on earth. It doesn’t mean I don’t have blindspots, or that I have perfect understanding, which would be impossible anyway. I would welcome having the kinds of information you describe offered as suggestions in a spirit of respectful collaboration, of opening up rather than shutting down.

        It is far too easy for therapists to behave as colonisers rather than consultants, and to enlist clients in betraying their own truths and their own legitimate interests in a therapist-directed fiction casting themselves as hero and sage. In long-term therapy especially, the result can be profoundly harmful.

        1. You may be surprised to learn that in my educational program there was a big emphasis on respecting the client’s experience and regarding the client as the expert on their life experiences. We were specifically advised not to advice. Some psychotherapy approaches such as humanistic and post-modern are entirely based on the idea that people don’t need to be “cured”, as they are not broken, but rather given the necessary conditions for safe and free self-exploration. I naively trusted that when I join the mental health system workforce I’d be encouraged and guided by my mentors and supervisors to apply those wise principles in my work. I had a rude awakening when the reality turned out to be quite different..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *