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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Big deal: Changing what we eat must be a better option than cutting into people’s stomachs  

Gastric bands are as useful as a plaster on a severed artery

Zoë Harcombe
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?