Why Therapy Often Sucks

Therapy often sucks. Therapy Often Sucks

Therapists, while they may have fancy credentials, often do not take the time to become expert at any particular technique. The result is they slosh around with you a little bit in a number of unfocused ways, and you go noplace, slowly.

Therapy Is a Skill Set

Therapy does not differ from other skill sets. You can go to a tennis coach, or you can go to a good tennis coach. You can also go to a fantastic tennis coach. Tennis coaches range in their skill levels, as to other kinds of teachers such as music instructors, yoga teachers, and so on. One thing that really great teachers and coaches have in common is that they have invested the time and energy to master a particular approach to teaching, and that that approach is actually effective.

Systems of Psychotherapy Really Differ

Psychotherapy systems range widely in terms of their level of ambition and scope, their complexity and sophistication, their degree of scientific evidence base, and their degree of rootedness in an ongoing tradition. One way to assess these aspects of therapies is to use a Google or another search engine, or Wikipedia, to learn more about the therapy you are considering getting. Has it been around awhile? Do scientific studies support its use? If so, how many, and how large are these studies? Have newspaper articles been written about it that describe how it is different and new? Or, in the case of older therapies, is there a rich and diverse set of books and other resources available about it?

One not-so-good sign would be that there are only a couple of books and no scientific studies associated with a form of therapy. This would mean it’s basically someone’s pet project and they are experimenting on you, often backed by an enthusiastic, small group of followers who are “true believers” in something that has little scientific support behind it.

Another not-wonderful sign is that a therapist calls themselves “eclectic” or fails to define their therapy approach at all. These can be signs that they have not invested the time and energy to master any particular form of therapy, and you might be better off talking to your Aunt or a friend. Better still, find a good therapist who has done her/his homework and put in their time and sweat.

Relationship With Your Therapist Is Important

Finally, it’s worth recalling that the single best predictor of outcome in therapy is the quality of the therapeutic “alliance,” or relationship between client and therapist. If you feel good about your therapist, that’s likely to predict a better outcome of therapy. Ideally you have both a therapist with expertise in an effective form of therapy, some degree of specialization in your problem area, and you have a good feeling about them interpersonally. When all three of those are in place, and you yourself are ready to do some hard work, you have a great chance at making progress in therapy.

So, have you found therapy to be unhelpful in the past?

Do you have some preconceived notions about therapy in general?

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Joseph Rhinewine, PhD. People collaborate with me to live life fully: with principle, passion and vigor. My expertise is providing and teaching Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based, experiential and relational behavior therapy. I also apply Acceptance and Commitment processes to coaching those who wish to take their lives to a new level.

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