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Beware of Psychotherapy

By Marty Nemko

Many of my 2,400 clients at some point had psychotherapy. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is quite a risky venture. Yes, some people have found it well worth the time and money, but many others seem to not to have been helped, and often actually made worse.

Here’s one way that can come about. Too many therapists, consciously or unconsciously, create client dependency—after all, shrinks make more money the longer the client keeps coming. They usually do this subtly. By empathizing with the client’s complaints about their past and present life and encouraging them to express their feelings, clients are encouraged to wallow, even be narcissistic. Therapy also tends to externalize blame— So many therapists say things like, “It’s understandable that you haven’t succeeded. It’s your (choose one: father’s, mother’s, brother’s, sister’s, husband’s, wife’s, abuser’s) fault.” It feels good to feel support for complaining, so people often stay in therapy, not because they’re getting better, but because it feels good. Or they gain insight into themselves, but their life is no better.

US News You Can Use: If you’re unhappy, before trying psychotherapy, I’d try any of the following: journaling, talking to a well-adjusted, smart friend, and most important, stop looking back at your problems. As I mentioned in another post, my father had been in a Nazi concentration camp and lost virtually his entire family to the Nazis. One day I asked, “Dad, how come you never seem bitter?” He answered, “The Nazis took five years of my life. I’m not going to give them one minute more. Never look back, always look forward.” He was a well-adjusted and successful person and never had a moment of therapy. I believe you are far more likely to heal yourself if you simply remember, “Never look back; always look forward.”

If you insist on seeing a therapist, the most effective ones use a short-term approach called “cognitive/behavioral” or “rational emotive.” Seek out that kind of therapist.

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