Therapy for Change or Ego?

Lonely?

You bet! So is most everyone else, even people with partners. And no need to be jealous of the relationship they have, since they likely don’t have the fulfilling romance you imagine they do.

Sad?

Of course! Lonely is depressing!

Anxious these days? Or any days navigating our modern world?

Sure you are. As if the cascading effects of Covid aren’t enough, there’s always our divisive politics, global warming, the growing wealth gap, care and feeding of ourselves and our kids, and all the digital crap we are bombarded with daily.

If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, now may be the time to talk to a licensed therapist,” Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medalist says to camera, like he’s talking directly to YOU.

Mr. Phelps is selling online therapy, which has exploded in popularity with the isolation of the Covid19 pandemic. Before Michael got on board as their official spokesman, online therapy was slowly, quietly growing. As more celebs put their mental health in the spotlight, as Phelps has done with his own emotional struggles, the more acceptable seeking “mental help” becomes [for those who can afford it].

It’ just as easy as joining a video call, or texting with a friend,” Phelps continues. “Except it’s with a licensed professional therapist trained to listen and offer support, all from the comfort of your home.

Mr. Phelps is recommending that instead of calling a family member or friend, for free, who will likely listen and be supportive, you can PAY someone you don’t know, who does not know you, starting at $150 an hour or more, for a 50 minute online chat.

I get that many people don’t have ‘friends’ they can call up and talk about what matters to them. If this is you, the question is WHY?

There are social clubs, volunteering opportunities, gyms, classes, sports that you can engage in to meet others. Sure, that’s work, hard work, and it’s much easier to binge watch Netflix to help you forget you feel lonely. If you choose to pay for a therapist than deal with the work and compromise that comes with real relationships, well, it’s no wonder you’re lonely. And I won’t play therapist here and waste your time ‘exploring’ your lack of motivation, or apologize for telling you the truth. For most of us, there’s no real reason to be lonely. It is your choice to cultivate relationships with people who share your interests, both in-person and online, instead of paying someone to stoke your ego 50 min once a week for $150 plus, as this is what therapists are trained to do.

The best explanation on the value of modern therapy I’ve ever heard was from a friend who’d recently graduated from a prestigious university with his Doctorate in Psychology: “Going to therapy is like getting a mental massage.

The entire process of one-on-one therapy is fatally flawed.

Marriage and Family Counselors to doctorate-level psychologists are trained to be your advocate. It is their job to build trust between you. If they were constantly giving you real, hard truths about yourself, you wouldn’t want to keep paying them to hold you accountable for all of your choices. Most therapists are schooled in “understanding.” They’re taught to be an empathetic listener, more sympathetic than action driven. Listening to you whine, or, as they profess: “helping you figure it out for yourself,” makes it easier for them to care less about helping you fix your issues, than having you continue to pay them week upon week, month over month, year after year.

There is a fundamental conflict of interest at the core of the therapeutic process. It is easier to keep a client than get a new one! Anyone in business will tell you this adage is the truth. And therapy is a business, and a profitable one at that, if the therapist can get and retain clients. They are hoping for a long-term relationship, where you feel as if you have a friend in them over the years, maybe at times, the only true friend you feel you have. But this is likely a lie you tell yourself instead of working at garnering and nurturing relationships, and doing the work of changing your behavior to obtain the life you’d like.

We lie to ourselves often, and therapists don’t feel it’s their job to call you out, even though doing so could save you tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly years of your life’s time. Psychology 101: PEOPLE LIE. To ourselves a LOT, and to each other. We rationalize, justify, and flat out lie to look kind, smart, moral, wise, or to get what we want. And if you are telling yourself you do not lie, you are in fact lying to yourself.

In 1:1 sessions, the therapist is only hearing one point of view— the client’s. They have no idea what the real truth is compared to what they are being told. And as I’ve established, PEOPLE LIE. Since the therapist can not see your actions outside their office, and has no contact or even interest in your life beyond that same office, they have no idea what is actually happening for you, only what you choose to tell them. And we all paint a bias picture of events, and even feelings, to resist changing.

Transference is not a one way trip. Psychoanalysis describes the term as a client expressing feelings toward the therapist that appear to be based on the patient’s past feelings about someone else. But therapists are humans too. They often project their personal feelings onto their clients.

Age 13 forward, I’ve intermittently seen approximately 15+ different “therapists” when my life felt too sad for too long. Some I kept paying for several years. Clearly they weren’t helping me to feel any happier, or I’d have learned how to have more joy in my life, therefore eliminating the need to continue paying them.

A marriage counselor I saw first on my own, then brought my husband in, who saw her separately at times as well, nearly had us divorcing. We came to her to help us preserve our marriage. She was an advocate for me when I saw her, and my husband’s advocate when he saw her, essentially pitting us against each other. Sessions with my husband were all about working out our fiery righteous indignation that she’d sparked. We saw her weekly, sometimes more for 3 years, and finally quit her, instead of each other.

Every therapist I’ve seen I’ve asked for the same feedback—to show me the point of view I am not seeing; to consistently point out when I’m wrong, or lying to myself, and then help me find a path to change my destructive behaviors leading me to outcomes that will not make me happy. They’ve all been very understanding, sympathetic in the extreme when I explain any given event, what I felt and why I reacted as I did, but most of them have failed to give me insight I’ve yet to consider, or found particularly useful when applied in real life.

How many reading this blog have been in therapy for years at a stretch, spending thousands, possibly tens of thousands annually? How many collective hours of your life have you spent in therapy?

You’ve gotta wonder how well it’s really working…

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