Grey days for therapy junkies

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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week