Grey days for therapy junkies

Share
Related Topics
AUGUST. For most of us, the living is easy. But for a significant number this is a tricky time, an angsty month. It's the season when therapists, shrinks and their ilk take off to Tuscany, Cork or Cape Cod. The result? All those fears of abandonment and rejection their clients learnt at their parents' knees come back to haunt them. Angry? They're absolutely livid at being left behind. This is midsummer madness with a vengeance.

Therapy is the emotional crutch of our time, yet it is one of the age's greatest ironies that never have so many seemed so wretched, just when the pursuit of happiness has become life's main goal. Once the call might have been: how can I be good? Or: how can I be delivered from evil? Now, how can I be happy is the battle-cry. Just how dangerous a search this is, when it takes you to the therapist's couch, is all too apparent in August. The utter dependency of the client becomes plain as soon as the disciple of Freud, or the Jungian or the Gestalt specialist, leaves them to it and heads for his or her gite.

No wonder clients are distressed by their absence. For many, to be in therapy is to stare into the abyss. They cannot know what will emerge from an exploration of their inner world, nor what the consequence will be. They select a stranger to hear their most intimate thoughts, their terrible memories and shocking desires, and have no idea what that stranger will do with them. And then, just as they fear the worst, along comes someone seemingly proffering them the empathy for which they have longed, the kindness they may rarely have been shown, the discretion to share the confidences they long to express.

Emotional entanglement is an inevitable part of the talking cure, but sometimes what began as an attempt to come to terms with the past becomes instead, not a way out of a prison, but a lengthy sentence in itself. Most therapies require at least two years of your time, yet talk to clients and you find some of them still on the couch after 10, 15 or even 20 years. One man recently recounted how he was still in therapy after 35 years. Another has told of his therapist's insistence that he should increase his sessions to daily encounters, plus ensure that his girlfriends also go into therapy, combined with couples counselling for the two of them.

Even the seemingly benign therapist can inhibit real progress and instead encourage the kookiest of behaviour. Friends have told me of times when their therapist has made them feel so fearful of being boring that they have felt pressured into creating a fantasy life. Rather than listen to suppressed yawns or realise that their therapist has fallen asleep during the long silences, they have created new dramas in their life.

While plenty of people emerge from therapy at ease with the world and themselves, others seem to doubt that they can ever live without it. The weekly session - in extreme cases of analysis the daily one - has become the mindgame equivalent of chasing the dragon of heroin. You submit totally to the all-consuming fix, without which you cannot conceive of existence. Nobody is there to stop the patient falling into this addictive trap, or to point out that drug therapy is not necessarily a bad thing just because the therapist eschews it, or to urge a second opinion.

It is no wonder that therapists can fail to draw a line under treatment, or can abuse their power. For those self-employed and in private practice, there is no incentive to draw a line under any treatment; this, after all, is their living. As Sandor Ferenczi, a friend of Freud's from 1906 to 1933, wrote, the founder of pyschoanalysis believed that the only thing patients were good for was to help the analyst make a living.

It would be too naive to assume that family or friends can be a real alternative to people falling into the clutches of therapists. After all, we may be the very cause of their pain, and an outsider may be the only provider of the balm they need to soothe their troubled minds. But in this month of August, as clients rail against the therapists that have left them behind, we should ponder for a moment on the power bestowed on the shrinks, and how easily they can abuse it.

It is not naive for us to demand that therapy, analysis, counselling and all manner of psychological trades should be better policed. In opposition, Labour voiced its interest in creating a regulatory framework to weed out the abusive and incompetent practitioners. Now, despite the drafting of a Bill for statutory registration by the British Psychological Society, nothing has happened, and no parliamentary time has been set aside.

Confusion prevails, the vulnerable continue to fret through August, and many will go into the coming autumn and winter with the tantalising dream of being set free from their past, only to remain chained to their therapist.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Upper KS2 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Upper KS2 Primary Teacher...

KS1 Float Teacher

£90 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay : Randstad Education Southampton: ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Trainee Recruitmen...

KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

In Sickness and in Health: It’s been lonely in bed without my sleep soulmate

Rebecca Armstrong
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv  

Why do we stand by and watch Putin?

Ian Birrell
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor