Tales abound in the popular press about the ‘problems’ of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and psychiatry. The latest appeared on Sunday in the New York Times and is a rather remarkable story of a woman who has spent 45 years seeing a succession of therapists and yet feels angry that she has not yet been ‘cured’. In yesterday’s Time Magazine there was a review and response to the article too.
There’s no excuse for a therapist who allows a client to become dependent on them. It is precisely to prevent this kind of abuse that most professional psychotherapy bodies insist on practitioners having a substantial amount of supervision. There will always be the odd one or two who still persist and that is why most professional psychotherapy bodies have a code of conduct and a formal process for investigating complaints.
However, there is also (as the articles above make clear) substantial evidence that talking therapies, especially in the short term, provide significant relief from the symptoms of some states of mental dis-ease – particularly depression and anxiety.
We don’t have the opportunity to assess the state of the client whose case appears in the NYT magazine. We can’t ask why she didn’t question the benefit or otherwise of the therapy far sooner. We don’t know why she believed that it would ‘cure’ her or why no-one put her straight on what kinds of improvement in her condition she might expect to experience.
We need to remember that many people do not have anyone who has the skills to listen to them, to help them understand the world around them, to help them put into context the myriad of day-to-day events that distress them. Without such a confidant, their own mind can distort their thinking and mislead their judgment. That’s why, since the earliest civilisations there have been people in society who have served this purpose. Arthur has his Merlin. Anna O had her Freud. Merkin had her analysts.
Psychotherapists, whether in private practice, provided by the state, working in serious mental health areas with disabled and dysfunctional patients or operating from the Boardroom with very capable and highly functional senior executives, perform that function. They are the confidant that those people would struggle to find elsewhere in their lives. (http://www.the-confidant.info)
Perhaps it would be a little more mature for us to stop looking for spectacular examples of failure and instead to look at the many long term instances of simple satisfaction that clients get from having that one person who helps them get through life. As the articles both explain, Freud did not suggest that psychoanalysis was a cure, he said it turned ‘hysterical misery into common unhappiness’ – to anyone experiencing the former, the latter is a blessed relief.
The leaders’ confidant, working behind the scenes, helping them to see situations, organisations, themselves, and other people, differently
businesscoaching.org.uk – inter-faith.net – thefutureofwork.org – corporate-alumni.info