1. Taking solace in paid relationships with asymmetrical power and asymmetrical vulnerability dynamics is a symptom, not a cure (for client and therapist alike).

2. Psychotherapy has not managed to beat an active placebo in any well-designed scientific studies, and it is expensive, time-consuming, and can cause emotional harm.

3.  One of the most useful things in a quack’s toolbox is the myth that you may have to get worse before you get better. Take this potion — it might make you nauseous, but then you’ll feel better after. Try this psychotherapy — it might bring up painful feelings, but then you’ll feel better after. Then when/if people finally return to their pre-intervention baseline, they feel such relief (or they feel such a need to rationalize what they have done to themselves) that they self-report they are much better. And voila! Results! There is no scientific grounding for the method of getting “results,” of course, but sadly this does not stop the scam artist.

4.  It’s in the interest of the advertising and psychotherapy industries to make us feel insecure about ourselves, our relationships, our sex lives, etc. (to create “unmet needs”) in order to sell products and services that they’ve caused us to believe we need. Consciously or subconsciously, they are incentivized to create the very problems that they then claim they can help us solve. This practice is expected in advertising, but is particularly gruesome in the psychotherapy industry, as they exploit consumers’ trust and prey on them when they’re most vulnerable.

5.  Providing “therapy” in the psychotherapy industry amounts to having someone expose themselves, poking in their wounds, then leaving when time is up.

The burden of proof is on the therapy industry to demonstrate the value of this emotional rape procedure. It’s hardly surprising that they’ve thus far failed to do so in accordance with reliable scientific methodological standards.

6.  One way that therapy damages our ability to thrive in natural relationships is that it creates confused signals and blurred lines between authentic mutual relationships and paid service relationships. We’re told to trust the therapist with our most intimate private thoughts from day one, but in authentic relationships we must learn to build trust together through give-and-take over time. We’re told that that therapist cares about us, but then we’re kicked out after 50 minutes and asked for a check. We’re told that the therapist is a “professional” who can assign stigmatizing labels/assessments/diagnoses, but then told that an empathic alliance with her is a source of healing. No human being should have to sort through this kind of a mind game. Let’s stop promoting these mixed signals as healthcare. Let’s acknowledge it for the confusing mess it is (gaslighting), and turn our attention to developing and nurturing loving relationships with people who can love us back in a wholehearted, vulnerable, and equal way.

7.  If we are to take “first do no harm” seriously, and to understand the history of science and medicine, and how knowledge progresses over time, then we see that it’s often better/safer to do nothing than to attempt unproven and potentially harmful interventions such as lobotomies and psychotherapy.

8. The psychotherapy industry does not have evidence-based standards in place to protect consumers from harm. Psychotherapists approach their business by trying therapies out on the public (without informing them that they’re being subjected to unproven treatments) prior to collecting data from randomized controlled trials. And then they keep their preferred therapies on the market for as long as they can get away with it until a number of people are harmed and a media scandal pressures them to update their practice. Some examples from the history of psychotherapy that have followed this pattern include attachment therapy, repressed memory therapy / recovered memory therapy, critical incident stress de-briefing therapy, gay conversion therapy, and APA-backed military torture. To this day, the psychotherapy industry continues to respond to scandal rather than data. This sordid cycle in the history of psychotherapy — treat –> harm –> scandal –> update practice –> treat –> harm –> scandal –> update practice . . .  will continue until we hold the industry to higher standards, adopt “first do no harm” ethics, and require that all treatments be thoroughly investigated in well-designed, replicable randomized controlled trials to establish long-term safety prior to exposing the public to them.

9.  There are many parallels between rape and therapy:  One person is pressured to get emotionally naked, while the other person (who stays covered and in control) pokes at her, and then the poker gets rid of the victim after 45 minutes when she is done — on her own terms regardless of the naked victim’s needs or desires. The one in control, the (the)rapist, sets the terms.

There are also many parallels in the aftermath:  The shame and stigma for the victim, and the desire of society to look away, deny, and blame the victim (e.g., saying she was dressed like a slut, or she was crazy and resistant) makes it nearly impossible for victims to receive any justice or to ever win a law suit or complaint board review. The deck is stacked against the victims, and the perpetrators nearly always get away with it. From the victims’ perspectives, going back to relive the horror and losing privacy is often too great a cost, so they stay silent. The system needs an overhaul (towards a consensual symmetrical peer model) if it is to become safe for consumers, if consumers are to have any rights or dignity.

10.  One of the saddest consequences of the psychotherapy industry is the effect it may have upon children who didn’t choose to go to therapy. When these children reflect on the experience (as children or after they are grown up), they are left trying to make sense of why their parents took them to see an adult stranger who asked them private questions and judged them. They may be left with the thought that something is wrong with them, or that their parents thought that they were crazy or bad. The long-term impact may be devastating.


“As one mother told me: “The insidious part is, you can start losing faith in your child. You go down this road …” Your child’s teacher tells you your child is not showing appropriate emotional regulation. You’re directed toward psychological evaluations and therapists. They have a hammer. Your kid becomes the nail. “The saddest, most soul-crushing thing is the negative self-image. We think kids don’t understand what’s happening, but they do. There’s this quiet reinforcement that something is wrong with them. That’s the thing that’ll kill.””

11.  “If you won’t take responsibility when things go badly, you give up the right to take credit when things go well.”

This quote about responsibility applies to psychotherapists, who are fond of taking credit whenever their clients happen to do well (even if they had nothing to do with it), and of blaming the victim/client whenever things go badly (e.g., the client was “resistant,’ “defensive,” “not ready for change,” etc.).

12.  “While psychologists say “trust me,” they question and often discourage one’s trust and reliance on family and friends. As a substitute they offer artificial empathy, cultivated warmth and phony genuineness, through which they can persuade people to see life the way they see it, and to live their lives in a psychologically ordered fashion. Years ago, psychotherapy was described as “the purchase of friendship.” What people need today is less of this synthetic experience and more genuine relationships, which, however imperfect these may be, are reciprocal rather than purchased.”  – Tana Dineen

13.  As we examine mental health care policy in the US, let’s make sure that whatever policies we recommend are based on valid evidence, and not anecdotes or wishes to feel like we’re doing something. Let’s look at evidence from well-designed randomized controlled trials with long-term follow up data, for example, and not observational studies with cherry-picked outcome measures. Let’s look at the lessons from the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study. Let’s try to understand and test the impact of therapy culture. It is hard to measure the quality of a human life, but there are a few objective outcome measures we could focus on, like suicide, homicide, and crime rates.

14.  Here is a handy test that can help to determine whether a relationship between adults is ethical or not:
“Would it be okay for me to go out for lunch with this person and tell them what I did last weekend?”
If not, then there may be some distancing/dehumanizing boundaries and manipulative power tactics going on.

As therapy is currently structured in the US, therapists could not pass this test with respect to their clients. To the extent that a professional or other adult relationship erects such artificial boundaries and depends on such codified power asymmetries, it’s hard to see how anything ‘therapeutic’ could come of it. Even in professional boss-employee relations, there is (or ought to be) recognition of the human-to-human side of the relationship, and bosses certainly can and are often encouraged to let their guards down, show their vulnerabilities, show their human side, ask for input and feedback from their employees, collaborate, share resources and connections, network, etc.

15.  Many people report that their therapists behaved badly when they tried to terminate their therapy. It would be interesting to conduct a study to ascertain what percentage of client-initiated terminations result in some type of inappropriate angry reaction or dire predictions from the therapist. Anecdotally, it seems extremely common. One hypothesis is that therapists are drawn to the profession as a result of their difficulty with mutual relationships. They desire intimacy, but cannot handle the risks of mutual vulnerability in a mutual give-and-take relationship. Thus they turn to an avenue where they feel they can get close to people, but remain in control, safe from exposure and rejection. When it doesn’t go according to the narrow script they’re comfortable with, they flip out, become angry and defensive, and use any verbal weapons they can in attempt to regain their control.

More tidbits to come. In the meantime, please feel free to add a new tidbit in the comments. Thanks!




2 thoughts on “Tidbits”

  1. interesting comments re the harms of psychotherapy. As a recently trained therapist, what you write resonate with me. I have major concerns about the practice. I don’t agree with everything you write though, but for sure its a one sided abusive relationship that fosters dependency and money does get in the way. My own training paid no attention to our shadow.

    My main concern though is you don’t seem to declare who you are. Or am i missing something here?

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