I really sympathise with anyone trying to choose a therapist. So many things that could go wrong – you could waste your money, look a fool, and get no better. And such a deep longing for everything to go right, for connection, self-respect and freedom from fear. But to get those, you’ve got all those advertisements to choose between, all those therapies with conflicting claims to sort out.
So before you can get help, you need help in getting help. That’s this blog!
I’m going to spend a lot of time explaining what different therapies can and can’t do, how to read therapy advertising, and how to choose a therapist.
Here we go.
Like most therapists, I write my own advertising. It’s a job I hate. You have to tread such a narrow tightrope. On the one hand, you have to write strong, marketing text which sells, or you don’t get any clients. On the other hand, you have to have total integrity and make sure every word is absolutely true – for everyone who might read it. In that case you can end up writing quite a boring website.
A lot of therapy advertising on the internet is to say the least, not boring. It is often hard-sell, full of big bold claims.
When we are in trouble, we all of us have the wish to be children again. We want to be looked after and have it all taken care of by a wise, strong, caring parent or therapist. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is only human. It does mean, though, that what people with a problem want to hear is the voice of an all-powerful parent, a booming confidence that “I can solve your problems.”
Plenty of therapists play up to this; it’s great marketing. For example, here are some screenshots from an actual website in the UK. You may think these are the tabloid end of the market. But this psychotherapist works in Harley St and charges £185-00 for a one hour session, £950-00 for a full day intensive session.
Great advertising! – sounds like a great therapist who knows what needs to be done, and gets on and does it it. No messing around, he just solves those problems for you, right there on the spot.
But it’s totally misleading. To me, no experienced or wise therapist should ever make claims like “Whatever your problem, we can resolve it, fast!” This is ridiculous. Many problems can be rapidly resolved. But not all. Some issues involves deeply seeded traumas which it can take a lot of work over a long period to resolve. And some people have been very, very hurt by life. Have a look on the Yahoo Answers website for “depression” and similar keywords. You’ll find many people there who are in great pain and whose lives are in a huge mess. I’d call it not just misleading, but cruel, to suggest to these people that “whatever the problem, we can resolve it, Fast.”
Nor is it realistic to claim to “effortlessly regain Balance and Live the lifestyle you desire,” “Easily and Effortlessly eliminate Fears, Phobias and Emotional issues, regardless of the time you have held onto these limiting associations and thoughts” or “Instantly reduce the stress in your life.” [My added emphasis.]
There is again some truth, looked at from a particular direction. People do think that when they’ve had problems for a long time, they’ll have them for a long time more and getting rid of them takes endless analysis. They don’t realise just how very helpful modern brief therapy can be. An affordable, sometimes even very short, course of sessions with a good and experienced therapist can often work “miracles” – it can achieve the radical shift of perspective which brings big changes. But not always. Some people are in a place in their life where progress can only be slow. They may be very hurt or very ashamed and have trouble opening up. Or they may want things to be different, but not yet be willing to experiment and take risks and think differently.
I am not necessarily accusing this psychotherapist of being consciously misleading. He may believe what he is saying, for reasons I’ll talk about in other posts. But
“effortlessly … Live the lifestyle you desire;”
… it’s just ridiculous.
So, RULE ONE IN CHOOSING A THERAPIST:-
Beware of adverts containing words like effortlessly, instantly, regardless of difficulties, complete fast resolution which imply that all problems can be resolved like that. That is totally and completely unreal. There is no therapy and no therapist in the world capable of that.