Embracing love, friendship, health, hugs, compassion, and a therapy-free life.
“One of the greatest barriers to connection is … we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.” ― Brene Brown
Listening and being supportive is something we all can and ought to do for each other, our friends, partners, neighbors, communities — for free. Let’s try to move society in this more hopeful, loving, and respectful direction.
To encourage respect and compassion for humanity by:
Promoting transparency about psychotherapy and the quality of research surrounding it, so that people have the opportunity to make informed decisions about how they spend their time and money, and have the opportunity to give meaningful informed consent knowing the state of the evidence.
Helping to create a world in which listening and being supportive is something that we *all* do for each other, our friends, loved ones, neighbors, communities — for free. We *all* have the ability to do our part to make this world a more compassionate and sane place to be. When we try to relegate humane support to paid workers (such as the psychotherapy industrial complex with labels and incentive structures that conflict with lasting health and flourishing), we chip away at the humanity of us all. We are all in this together, and we can do better. Let’s try to move society in this more hopeful, loving, and respectful direction.
1. Honesty and transparency are required for meaningful informed consent, which is required for ethical treatment.
2. Many psychotherapists routinely fail to disclose their methodologies, efficacy/failure rates, and safety/adverse event information, and thus fail to meet basic transparency and informed consent requirements for ethical treatment.
3. Psychotherapy research claiming a positive effect to date fails to meet standards of robust scientific clinical research. (Those studies that have attempted more rigor — using active control groups — tend to show that psychotherapy is no better than the far less expensive sham alternative.)
4. Anecdotes/case studies are not a valid substitute for science. Psychologists, of all people, should understand the psychological biases that permeate anecdotes/case studies; the scientific method is needed to overcome this.
5. Psychotherapy dishonestly pretends to be something it’s not, i.e., science-based healthcare.
6. Until therapists can reliably pinpoint what methodologies or what types of interactions change the brain or affect people in what ways (both short-term and long-term), it is irresponsible for them to go on messing with people’s minds under the misleading cloak of science or ‘healthcare.’
7. Psychotherapy is not harmless. It can waste precious time and financial resources, cause emotional harm and suicide, create false memories, create pathological personal narratives, increase trauma, damage personal relationships, and leave clients worse off than they were before therapy.
8. The burden of proof in healthcare is on proponents of a treatment to show that it is effective and safe enough for public consumption despite possible risks of harm, not on critics to prove that it is ineffective and/or unsafe. (Compare: If a person believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then the burden of proof is on her to prove that it exists, not on disbelievers to prove that it doesn’t exist.)
9. In order for psychotherapy to begin to have a role that approaches science-based healthcare, it will have to define its endpoints in measurable terms and then pass mature, rigorous well-designed, replicated randomized clinical trials with active control groups that control for expectations, and can rule out placebo effects, confirmation bias, allegiance effects, etc.
10. If psychotherapists prefer to consider their practice a non-evidence-based holistic art-form, so be it. But that should exclude them from making any claims to be part of the healthcare system, and should not be paid for with taxpayer dollars or insurance premiums. And, of course, it is the ethical obligation of such practitioners to disclose the non-evidence-based status to all of their clients.
11. For cases in which serious mental illness is not at stake, people may be well advised to redirect the time and effort they would put into building a trusting relationship with a paid therapist into strengthening or cultivating a relationship with authentic friends/loved ones. If we are to accept any of the academic positive psychology research, it’s gratitude, warm memories of the past, and warm relationships that are the source of happiness. (For cases in which serious mental illness is at stake, we need an alternative to the current psychotherapy industry model; will have more on that at a later date, TBD).
* In response to the possible objection that it’s hard for some people to find friends that they can be open with: It is also hard to find a good therapist that is the right fit, has an acceptable price/schedule, won’t cause harm, etc. And in the long run, a real friend that you can be intimate with will likely be of much more value than a paid one, and is probably worth the effort. Further, therapists are fond of saying that therapy doesn’t “work” unless the client puts in the work, so it’s work either way.
* In response to the possible objection that real friends may lack the life expertise of a therapist: If you’re looking for expert knowledge, then classes or books might be a better bet. There’s no evidence to suggest that the personal lives of therapists are any more healthy and happy than your average educated friend. In fact, there are indicators that many therapists may have more mental issues and worse relationships than their non-therapist counterparts. If they can’t practice what they believe in in their own lives, or if practicing what they believe in isn’t helping them in their own lives, then it may be fair to conclude that they are not experts after all. They’re likely missing something. Furthermore, therapists, like any human being, are full of subconscious biases that influence their inquiries and insights, sometimes in unhelpful or harmful ways. Perhaps it’s time to give up on the mythical idea of a life expert; the emperor is naked.
* In response to the possible objection that real friends may not lead to greater self-awareness: There’s no evidence to suggest that talking to a therapist for an hour a week leads to any greater self-awareness than talking to an empathic friend, meditating, reflecting on your feelings, talking to a pet, or journaling for an hour a week. Bonus: if you choose the latter options, you’ll have more money left to spend on activities with friends and loved ones.
To be continued …
Feel free to send me a note. I’d love to hear from you.