A Former Therapist’s Critique of Psychotherapy: Daniel Mackler Speaks

Over the last several years, I’d say maybe
5-6 years, perhaps even more, I found myself being emailed a lot or in person
being asked by people all sorts of questions about psychotherapy.
And the questions ranged from, “Could I talk to you a little
bit about my therapist?” “I don’t know if my therapist is good.
How do I figure that out?” “I don’t know if I like my therapist.” “Could you help me find a better therapist?” “How do I assess the quality
of a psychotherapist?” “Could you refer me to a therapist?” And many people have wanted me to be
their therapist. As it happens, I actually haven’t even been a therapist for the last 4 years.
I closed my practice in the beginning of 2010. But I was a therapist before that
for a little bit over 10 years and learned a lot about the field.
And in the course of my work also met a ton of psychotherapists and also had a very
interesting experience of talking with a lot of my clients who I worked with
about their past psychotherapists. And one other way that I gained a lot of
experience about psychotherapy was I’ve been in therapy a few times myself.
And so I feel like I have a pretty broad range of knowledge about the field.
And in general I’d say I’m fairly critical of it. Not entirely of psychotherapy,
but pretty strongly critical in general. So now it may be worthwhile to try to put
some of these ideas into the spoken word and see what comes out. When someone
says, “I think I need psychotherapy. Could you refer me to a therapist?”
I’m often very hesitant to do it. And the first thing is I don’t necessarily
believe that anybody needs psychotherapy. That’s been something very important
for me personally and watching others. Often people say to other people, “Oh,
you need psychotherapy.” And often people can start to believe it
themselves, “I must need therapy.” But I think the real thing people need is…
is they need to grow, they need to evolve, they need to heal their ancient traumas,
they need to work through whatever issues they are going through.
They need to… often share their ideas with other people and have a sense of connection.
And sometimes psychotherapy can be helpful with that but it is certainly
by no means the only option. And often psychotherapy doesn’t even
help with that. The main reason, I think, is because most
psychotherapists in my opinion are just not that good. And… I think something that the psychotherapy
field, the psychology field, has tried to portray itself as is… scientific. And… What I’ve come to realize over time
that it’s not really scientific. You can apply the scientific method to a lot
of the things about psychotherapy but it’s not really a hard science at all. In university I studied biology. And biology
even gets criticized for not really being the hardest of sciences,
it’s not like physics or math or chemistry. But psychology is even a step beyond. So what are psychotherapists then if they
are not scientists? And the two ways I would frame my answer that is… first, that psychotherapists are healers and second, they’re artists. Both of those things require some
deep, innate talent. Also there’s a skill level, you can get
better at it or you can get worse at it– as many, I think, psychotherapists
do, they get worse… as they grow in time — or don’t
grow in time. But I think it’s like… when I think
of painters… it’s like… There’s some painters that have just a brilliant
talent and they can improve with that talent. And there’s some painters that just don’t
have much talent. A sort of an irony. I see walking
around the streets of New York City where I live, often I see
discarded art on the street. And probably about 99% of the art I see
discarded on the street, just literally thrown out on the street for the garbagemen
to take away, is student art. It’s art by people who don’t have
an incredible amount of talent. They’re just sort of practicing
but it’s kind of mushy. It’s kind of how I think
of most psychotherapists. They are really not actually even
students in the best sense of the word. They are just not very good.
So for that reason I’m very, very hesitant to refer people to a therapist. Because
therapists have so much power just inherent in the role of psychotherapy, in the privacy
of it, in the intimacy of the relationship, in the fact that the therapist doesn’t
necessarily reveal as much about himself as the client does, and that the client is paying the person money.
It sets up a really strong power dynamic. And the result of that is
the therapist has a lot of power. That power can be used to help somebody
heal or it could really hurt people. I’ve seen a fair amount of both.
I would say in my personal experience… I got a lot out of therapy but not from the
therapists — but from just learning about the experience. And a lot of it for me was later
as a therapist I learned what not to do. What not to do with people. So I think
that in and of itself was valuable. Because even negative experience — and I’d
say my psychotherapy experiences in general were very negative —
they themselves didn’t catalyze growth, but I made use of them.
They were negative. And I don’t feel I didn’t walk away from my relationships
with my therapist saying, “I respect that therapist, that
person really helped me grow.” I got that in many other ways, primarily
through self-therapy. And ultimately that… again for me it brings up the
question of what is the point of psychotherapy. It took me several years to figure this out
working with clients. What I ultimately came to is, the point
is not necessarily to help people resolve specific problems, but to help people gain the
tools to figure out how to help themselves grow. In so many words I could say,
the goal of psychotherapy is to help people learn how to do self-therapy.
So what I would say to the people I worked with often was, “It’s not that you are necessarily here to ultimately finish your growth process.
What I think you’re here to do is to learn what we’re doing in this relationship, to
learn what I am doing for you and helping you do, and take that…
and take whatever it is what I’m doing and figure out how to do it yourself. And get
rid of me. Render me irrelevant. Make me moot.” And that’s a real challenge. Now, some people say, “Oh, you need a dyadic
relationship. You need two people, a dyad, to be able to make therapy work.”
I don’t think so. I think therapy can be done entirely internally,
within oneself. And it’s not even so much that I think it: I know it… because I’ve
done it! And I feel I’ve gotten really good at it. And I’ve watched other people get good at it. And I’ve seen some people
who just were… inherently… …just somehow very good at it.
And I think a lot of times people like that don’t need psychotherapy.
That is a big part of why, for me, I have not felt any urge to go back to psychotherapy.
I haven’t been in any sort of relationship with a therapist since 2001,
since the very beginning of 2001. I just, again, feel no desire to go back.
But that’s not to say it’s not helpful to people. For some people it could be incredibly helpful– as a learning tool, as part of their
learning process. So, if somebody does want to go to therapy,
how do they find a good therapist? And if they have a therapist, how do they
know if their therapist is any good? Psychotherapy is such a — what I’ve come
to realize — is a really mysterious field. I remember when I first became a therapist…
even though I’d been in therapy for… …some time… I didn’t have a ton
of experience as a client. All I did know was the therapist I was with,
and that was a very limited amount of experience. And I knew a lot of therapists but I didn’t
know actually what really happened in any broad range of psychotherapy sessions. And becoming a therapist it’s like, “I’m becoming this thing that I really
actually don’t know that much about.” I think most therapists, what they do, is they become a lot like their own therapists.
They use their own psychotherapist that they’ve had as their
role model for how to be a therapist. I didn’t really like my therapist that much so in a way I didn’t have that as a role model.
You could say that’s a disadvantage. But I actually look at it as a real advantage…
because what happened for me, is I realized, “I have to be very creative.
And I have to go to fundamental questions to figure out what is therapy.”
And… it took me a while. So how does someone find a good therapist?
And how does one assess their quality? Considering it’s such a mysterious field.
And when I first became a therapist, what I did, is I went out and got a ton of books.
So I was reading a ton about therapy. Now when I go to a therapist’s office…
I visited a friend the other night who is a private practice therapist. I was in his office and I was looking
at all the books. And it’s interesting, because a lot of therapists have similar books.
They have their Freud, they have their Jung, whatever else. There’s lots of other books.
But I really particularly wanted books that had case studies on psychotherapy, written
by psychotherapists. And I also find it very helpful if I find
books written by clients about their therapy– or former clients. But honestly
I didn’t find too many that were that good. And also it’s like…
I was always suspicious of therapists who wrote about their clients because it’s a
confidential relationship. So it’s sort of like, “Why are they writing about their clients?”
Or, if they are changing a lot of the stuff that happened in the therapy to protect their
client’s confidentiality or anonymity, it was sort of like, “Well, is this realistically
what happened?” And also I think a fair number of the therapists
who write about what happened in therapy that basically they shed some light on what’s happening in that
internal relationship, are fairly grandiose and they are writing about it to make
themselves look pretty good. So it’s kind of a distorted picture. So in a way,
a lot of the knowledge I collected was trying to filter out their grandiosity.
But at first it kind of helped I guess to read about it. I read books like…
Irvin Yalom’s stuff… I did try reading Freud, but I couldn’t get anything out of it.
It was like… I don’t think he was a good therapist to be honest. Most of these people… I just question if they were any good. So, what would I tell
someone who wants to find a therapist? The first thing, let’s say they want a referral
from me… because I get asked for referrals all the time all around the world. Sometimes
the person who emails me is kind of lucky. Often it helps if they are in a major world
city because there tend to be more therapists there. And from more therapists you can get a pool, you can pick better ones. But often…
I just simply don’t have anybody. And something I’ve learned is
I really don’t like to refer anyone to a therapist unless I feel they are really,
really excellent. I don’t want to refer to mediocre therapists. I think most therapists
are at best kind of mediocre. Something else that I’ve realized
is psychotherapy, certainly psychiatry tries to model itself after the medical
profession. Which… OK, psychiatry really I don’t think is medical. But a lot of the
medical field is basically kind of scientific. What I found is… Let’s say if you have cancer
and you go to an oncologist for your cancer, you can kind of assume they have
a certain level of quality. So most cancer doctors are pretty good. Then there’s
a small percentage that might be fantastically excellent, just a step above. And there’s
probably a fairly small percentage that are pretty bad. But mostly
it’s kind of like on a curve. Most of them are pretty good. Well, I don’t find the same
in the psychotherapy field. What I find, most are pretty bad, some are
kind of mediocre and there’s a small number that are really good. And I feel like…
I say this to people… I just don’t want to refer
unless I know I’m referring to someone who’s really excellent. And there’s
just not a lot. A handful that I know that I really have confidence in. And yes, there are
therapists I think who could be excellent with a certain type of people, with a certain
type of issues and maybe not others. But there’s also a part of me that feels that really
good psychotherapists should basically be able to work with anybody, any kind of problem. Because
the real problems that people have are human problems, they are all kind of trauma-based, so… they just play out in different ways. A lot of therapists like to focus on different
manifestations of trauma based problems but to me I think a really good therapist
is gonna get to the root of the trauma. And however it plays out is not as important… as what really happened to cause the problems.
So a good therapist is gonna have a great understanding of trauma, be very,
very trauma sensitive, also be very, very respectful of someone’s childhood experiences
and very curious about their childhood experiences also. Because most of
the stuff that people have as problems– I can go even go so far as to say, basically,
at some level, all of the problems that people really have in life — fundamentally
come from their childhood experience. …Because that defined them as a person
and guided them on their life path. Yes, of course, people can have problems that
play out in all sorts of adult ways, but ultimately it’s the childhood stuff. So
for me to feel really confident about a therapist, I wanna know if they get this childhood
stuff and are really interested in it. And what’s surprising is a lot of therapists,
sometimes even whole schools of therapy, just aren’t interested in childhood stuff.
And what’s sad also is, I’ve seen a lot of clients, talked to certainly no lack of people who say, “I don’t wanna go to therapy to deal
with my childhood stuff. That happened, that’s over.
I wanna deal with the here and now.” And to some degree, yes, you could
say there’s some validity to it because– I certainly worked with a lot of people, they got a lot of mileage out of really
dealing with the here and now. And even in my own self-therapy a lot of my
growth process is in the here and now. But I think the most important thing
for me is to really understand– yes, the here and now, but what created
the here and now. And that’s really understanding history,
understanding a person’s history, understanding where they came from, what
happened to them, what guided their life. [assessing the quality of your therapist] How do you figure out if your
therapist is any good? So let’s say, I don’t have a
good referral. Because I’d say… 95% of the time when someone gets in touch
with me or emails me wanting a referral, I say, “I honestly don’t have anybody.” It’s not
like, “Oh, look on your insurance panel or look on the Yellow Pages or the phone book
or just get a referral from some friend.” Chances are the therapist is not gonna
be good. So how do you figure that out? How do you assess that? I think what
a lot of people do is they… …they look at surface things about the therapist.
One easy, easy thing to do is to say, how old is the therapist? And the general
idea I think that most people have is an older therapist is going to be
wiser and more experienced and thus a better therapist. And a younger therapist
is gonna be less experienced, know less, be a less quality therapist.
And some of this may be true. OK, in general let’s say older people
have more life experience. That old thing about “Oh, white hair!” White hair is like
a real key, it helps, it’s sort of an indicator of a better therapist. But that’s silly because I think, one thing,
is a lot of older people are just stagnant. They stopped growing.
They stagnated a long, long time ago. And as therapists they just learned
patterns. They learned basically simple patterns for dealing with problems, but they are not really engaging the most creative part of themselves in the therapy work, and often they are not even engaging that really creative part in their own lives. They are
kind of dead. They are stuck. And… that tends often to be a lot of therapists
who are older. They just kind of gave up on their own lives, they are not good therapists
and they are good to avoid. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s true, because I
know some older therapists who are extremely creative and really insightful and very artistic and
gifted as therapists. I also know some younger therapists who are fairly stagnant.
They died a long time ago emotionally. They may only be 30 years old, but they’re
very much following patterns, they are not really thinking for themselves,
they are not very creative. So I don’t think age is by any means a good indicator.
But yes, I think life experience is important. I would want a therapist who has
a fair amount of life experience. But on the other hand, you get someone who’s
25 years old who has a lot of life experience. And I’ve seen that just in my travels
in the world, in meeting people. Sometimes I meet people who are early in their
twenties who just have a lot of insight. And also for someone who’s 25 years old you
could say, “Oh, he’s very young. How could they have a lot of life experience?”
But a really open-minded creative person can pack a huge amount of life experience
into a fairly short time. And also 25 years is 25 years of being alive on
Earth. Also another advantage of a younger therapist is that they are actually
closer in age to their childhood. So often… I mean, not often,
but it’s certainly possible that being closer in age to their
childhood could make them more attuned to issues around childhood
trauma. Often the case but sometimes not. Sometimes older people are just more
distant from their childhood experience. So that could be one plus for younger
people, but again I don’t think age is really the key. Because when I think
about when I really refer to a therapist and have seen them… seen their quality, it’s
not contingent on their age, it’s contingent on some other thing in their
creativity, in their spirit, in their general sense of aliveness, in
their fighting for themselves. The therapist who really fights
for himself or herself and is very creative and alive is inevitably gonna transfer
that into their therapy relationships. So that would be one thing. Also…it’s kind of
silly, maybe it sounds cliché but something I find is… I just think a better therapist — one can argue
it back, but I will give my arguments in a minute why I don’t think
the arguments back are true– in general the therapists that I just like
better as people, I just find them more likeable– I think are just better therapists. Now, one
could say, “Oh, maybe that’s just because I like them better, I think they are better, but it
has nothing to do with their inherent quality as a therapist.” But I would also say,
“Well, I don’t know. I think it’s just who do I like?” I like people who are more alive, I like people
who are more free, I like people who are more open-minded, who are more creative,
who are more courageous, who take challenges better. I’m just inherently
drawn to that kind of personality. And I think that kind of personality is just
a better therapist– people who are thinking really outside the box. And… so… in general I’m really…
I’m not drawn to a huge number of people. It is interesting that a
decent number of people who are closer to me in my life actually are therapists
or counsellors or coaches or something like that. And it’s not necessarily
that I’m drawn to them because we share the similar profession but instead
because they came into that profession because they had a healing gift in their own
lives and they realized they can transfer it to others. And I’m just drawn to people who
have a healing-oriented frame and also have that sort of altruistic spirit of
wanting to help other people. And… good therapists have that. They actually
really deeply desire to help people. Now, how does one figure that out? Let’s say
you are a client in psychotherapy and you’re wondering, “Is my
therapist any good or not? Is my therapist one of these
wildly creative alive people?” And, I think, for many people
it can be hard to tell. I think a lot of people who end up
going into psychotherapy, especially early on, are kind of depressed or very shut
down in various ways themselves and don’t necessarily… or just kind of
inexperienced in dealing with being open about healing in some ways. And so
it can be hard to assess. Like, how do you figure out that someone else
is alive and really growing and spirited, and creative and really there for you?
How do you… how do you know this? …Especially in a psychotherapy field where you
are supposed to go in there and just talk all about yourself? …If you are supposed
to talk about yourself how are you supposed to figure out who the other person
is if they are just sitting there? One thing is, I challenge that idea that
you are supposed to just go into therapy and talk about yourself. I’d say, if you
really… And this is a lot of what I would say to people and do say to people when they
email me, “Is my therapist good or not? How do I figure that out?” I’d be like,
“Ask them! Ask them questions! Why are you asking me?” It’s OK, you can ask
me, but I’d just say… I put it back on you. You go and ask them. It’s like… That’s
something I’ve come to. I have great respect for the clients I had who came in and just
grilled me. Asked me tons and tons and tons of questions, personal questions, asked me
questions about my philosophy, asked me questions about my conception of
psychology, asked me questions very quickly, “What do you think of me?”
they would ask me. “What do you think about my problems? What
do you think would be best to help me?” They would sometimes read my website
and grill me on it– ask me, “Why did you say this? When you
say it, do you think it applies to me? Do you think I’m a bad parent? Do you
think my parents are screwed up? Do you think I should leave my parents?”
And put really hard questions to me. I think that’s a very good quick way.
Well, not necessarily quick because it takes a while sometimes.
But a good, certainly a great way to figure out the quality of your therapist
is to ask them and see what they say. It’s kind of like that old statement “Question
authority,” but I like… I like my addition to it: “Question authority and if they really deserve having any sort of authority,
they’re gonna answer you, and answer you in a really respectful, good way.” And
I think the way that a therapist answers is gonna tell you a lot about them…
and also the way you feel when they answer. Like, for me, if I’m gonna question
a therapist and they’re gonna answer me in a way that leaves me feeling like, “Ummmm…
That answer didn’t sit right with me.” Or, if they just disrespected me, or
they gave an answer that was weird and bizarre. Or, if I just felt kind of icky or
maybe I felt judged for even asking it. Those are generally pretty bad signs
about the quality of the psychotherapist. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily
gonna answer you the way you want. Maybe they’ll answer in a way that
makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it leaves you thinking… Or maybe
it’s just like… Maybe even it can be annoying. But I think… it takes a while
sometimes to process their responses. But just the
process of asking them a lot of questions can be very, very useful to get down
to the bottom line about their quality. Something that I’ve also found as a person who’s
received a lot of these emails from people asking about assessing the quality of their
therapist is they would ask me… Or they would say stuff like,
“I do this and my therapist responded in this way that makes me
kind of weird and uncomfortable. What do you think about that?”
They wanted my feedback. It’s almost like they are emailing
me as a consultant. Like… They are having bad feelings about this and
they want me to give my feedback on it. In a way they are asking me sort of as a
therapist. Like a second therapist. Like a second opinion. One thing
I found — it’s not necessarily always true but I found it’s often true —
is that when people send me these questions about their discomfort
with their therapist, things that they maybe even don’t feel comfortable asking
their therapist or maybe they’ve tried and didn’t get good responses…
Just the fact that they are reaching out to me and feeling real discomfort with their
therapist and asking me, what do I think? Like looking for that kind of mirroring thing,
you know, “Sounds like your therapist is kind of screwed up.” Just the fact that
they are asking me is usually a pretty bad sign for their therapy.
And I think… But I think it’s very hard and I personally experienced
this myself in therapy… is that the way that psychotherapy is often
set up, the way the structure of the relationship is set up, it often makes it very difficult
for the client to really challenge and criticize their therapist and
walk away feeling self-esteem– and feeling like they can trust
their own point of view. Because often the way that the therapy
is set up and the way the psychology field is set up is that when a person
goes to therapy they’re going to an “expert” who knows the
answers and a person who is not the expert who is “naïve,” who doesn’t really know
that much is asking this “expert.” And the “expert” is saying, “This is the answer.” And the person who’s asking says,
“I don’t know the answer. Please tell me the answer.” And so
what happens is when the person starts criticizing the therapist and saying,
“Listen, I don’t think you are very good, I don’t like it when you do this,
you make me uncomfortable.” Or, “I really question this or this or this you’re doing.”
The therapist, who is positioned as an expert, says, “No, you’re
wrong, that’s not true.” And it can leave the person feeling
very insecure, and often people get trapped in psychotherapy relationships. They don’t
know how to break out of their relationship with their therapist and so they often — I’ve
seen this and it happened to me too — they want their therapist’s approval
for having criticisms of the therapist. And more often than not
they are not gonna get it. That’s why I think a lot of
psychotherapy relationships… …when people figure out they are not going well… they often don’t end very nicely.
Often it’s not the nicest break-up. They don’t usually leave feeling like, “Wow,
you know my therapist sucked but they really were very, very, very mature and helped me
end this therapy relationship and left me feeling really good about the ending.” Often when people end with their therapist,
they don’t really like the therapist so much anymore. It’s kind of an ugly ending.
It’s kind of like a nasty break up where the therapist doesn’t really give very
much approval to the person and kind of says, “Well, you are too immature. You are not
ready for this kind of psychotherapy.” Or, “You have your own personal blocks.”
And they do a lot of, “It’s your problem, it’s your problem.” And I think that
therapists do that to protect themselves because the therapist feels in that
position of expert and doesn’t want to feel like they don’t know what they are doing. They’ve
defined their identity, in this professional sense. And they are not gonna be very vulnerable. So, that’s another thing that I’ve
seen about good therapists. Two qualities that I see that are pretty
related are: good therapists in my experience have both a vulnerability and a humility.
I like the definition of humility as being “teachable” — they are open to learn. So the
therapist is not coming in as the poobah expert. They are coming in as someone
who’s participating in a process but they maybe don’t know
that much about and they are suspending their judgment, and they are suspending
certain areas of their confidence so they can learn about this person
they are engaging with. And… I think often a humble person gives off a certain
energy. And it’s a special energy — that often the best psychotherapists don’t necessarily come
across as the most dogmatic experts. Now the vulnerability… Vulnerability is a word also that
gets a bad rap. Because vulnerability — “Oh, I’m vulnerable. I can’t handle anything.”
I think there’s actually a lot of strength in real vulnerability and that’s an openness
and a sensitivity and a willingness to be wrong and a willingness to put your heart out there.
For a therapist it could be a willingness to really love somebody and to cry
sometimes maybe… if it’s right and… to admit mistakes, to admit unsureness,
to be embarrassed, to say, “You know, I screwed up and I don’t think I was
right when I said that.” Or, “What I said last week has really bothered
me.” You know, I think good therapists are much more willing to do that and that
to me is that vulnerability. And it’s really connected to humility. I think
maybe they are even kind of the same thing. And I think often that’s harder for
young new therapists who are brand new because they are already
feeling a lot of insecurity about their role as therapist, they don’t necessarily know
what they’re doing, they’re new and so a lot of them defend against that newness
by being super-confident, super-sticking to the dogma, super-saying,
“I follow this school of thought. I am a Freudian therapist, I am (you know,
Carl Rogers) I’m a Rogerian therapist who follows person-centered work, I am a
Jungian, I’m this, I do CBT.” And they stick with that and they stick
with the dogma that their school of therapy is right and they are a qualified
practitioner of this school and they are right. And there’s not a lot of room for humility
or vulnerability in that. Especially with their clients. Maybe when
they go to whatever training program, they are going to, or they are
going to their supervisor, sometimes they could be a bit more vulnerable,
but often not with their clients. And I’ve seen that in the therapy field a lot —
that a lot of therapists from whom I’ve heard and observed with their clients are
just not that vulnerable, they don’t admit their fears and their errors.
And I think a lot of therapists, the more honest they are the more unsure,
insecure and vulnerable they are. Now, I think a lot of really bad therapists
are extremely confident. It’s kind of like cult leaders. They just know what they are doing
is right. They are very sure about it and they are not really
questioning themselves. And as the result of that is they are
actually way off on some things– and most of them are pretty
far off on a lot of things– they are not questioning themselves
and that makes them pretty dangerous. It’s kind of like parents in that way.
Parents… It’s pretty easy for a parent especially after they’ve had one or two kids or after
their kids start getting to a certain point, they become very, very confident
in their role as parent. They’ve become very rigid in their role, they know what’s right.
They’ve read parenting books, and… Anything that the child does that doesn’t
please them, they can blame the child. And they can keep themselves as the confident
one. “Well, my child is flipping out, you know, he’s having temper tantrums
at two years old. Well, he’s just going through the terrible
twos. That’s what two-year-olds do.” Or, “My child is a teenager and is doing all
this crazy stuff and acting out and drinking too much and being promiscuous
or dressing funny or listening to horrible music and being really nasty and
rebellious. Well that’s just teenage rebellion, that’s what teenagers do.” As opposed to with
a two-year-old, “You know, my kid’s going through this stuff at two years old
and is acting out. Well, maybe actually I’ve caused a lot of this. Or maybe there’s
something I need to look at myself.” So it’s easier just to put it on them.
Or the parent of a teenager doesn’t see how much they’re actually not seeing the child,
not loving them, not respecting them, not nurturing them — and inducing this
sort of massive rebellion from the teenager. And it’s easier to just blame the kid. Do
all sorts of stuff like that. I think therapists do that very, very much
and they even have all sorts of words and this mysterious vocabulary, “Oh, the
client is just experiencing transference.” And things like that. “They are projecting
onto me. They are having a reaction formation.” Or, “They are just displacing their stuff.”
And the therapist isn’t actually in any fundamental way questioning their own healthiness in this relationship… …or questioning that maybe
they are actually very screwed up and doing a lot of stuff that could be creating a lot of really negative stuff in their client. So…
But how does one figure that out? I think part of it would be again asking the
therapist… But, then, what if the therapist gives a sort of vague answer
that doesn’t leave one satisfied? And I think that happens a lot of the time.
I think that’s when it comes down to ultimately… a person has to trust their own instinct.
But that brings up a complication too. Because when you say to someone who is in
psychotherapy, “Trust your instincts,” what about when their instincts contradict
what their therapist is saying? One thing that often brings people into
psychotherapy in the first place is that they don’t trust their instincts that well.
And traumatized people often have a very hard time in various ways trusting
their own instincts. Because… …their instincts got beaten down. Their
trauma actually forced them, as a reaction to not having to feel so much pain,
to bury a lot of that stuff. So it’s very hard for people often to
trust their instincts in psychotherapy. I’ve seen people do it, I’ve seen a lot of
obvious cases that a therapist is overly horrible, especially when I was working in…
in public mental health clinics, that there were sometimes therapists
who were straight up horrible. Like extremely bad. And sometimes
you’d get a client who would get in… get, get placed with this therapist
and get assigned to them and the client was just actually far more
mature than the therapist. And the client would go, “Oh my God!
I can’t work with that person.” And they sometimes would quit after
one session or two or three sessions maybe. They just say, “I can’t work with that person.
I don’t know why that person’s a therapist. They are obviously more disturbed than
I am.” And most of the time I’d be like, “Yeah, it’s true.” I had people who would
sometimes get referred to me after this horrible therapist and they would tell me
this about their therapist, and I’d say, “Well, probably I’m not supposed to talk
bad about my colleagues but, well, I really don’t care because I feel like you
are my client, I’m here to work for you, I’m not here to protect my field and my bad
colleagues. That therapist was horrible. You got bad luck but also really good for
you for trusting your instinct and getting out.” But those are really extreme obvious cases.
What about if someone’s really going through a major personal internal
crisis and they’re going to therapy to deal with that crisis
and inherent in their crisis they feel extremely vulnerable, confused,
lost, unsure of themselves, very emotional, maybe self-hating, maybe even suicidal,
maybe even they’re having experiences that are so extreme that they would be called
“psychotic” or something like this. How is such a person supposed to trust their
instinct that a therapist is not very good? Especially let’s say if the therapist
pretends fairly well. They dress nicely, they have a nice shirt and tie on, they’ve
got a fancy office, they charge a lot of money, they have good credentials, they’ve got a
good degree, they… you know… they’re older, they’re well-groomed. It can be very hard
to say, “Wait a second. This person sucks!” Where maybe I from a distance and having
heard a lot about this therapist and being in the field and also just spending
so many thousands or tens of thousands of hours working in the field and thinking
about therapy, I could say confidently, “Yeah, that therapist looks the part,
charges the money, has the great degree, has the training but they’re the fucking pits.”
Whereas the person who’s in the vulnerable position who is in the less powerful position, who is really
vulnerable, might have a very, very hard time figuring it out. One recommendation there I would
say is do your own therapy simultaneously. Journal about this, journal about how you
feel, put down all your own fears on paper. And even for anybody, I think it’s a good
idea: if you’re in therapy, also simultaneously do your own self-therapy and make your own
self-therapy the most important thing in your therapeutic process. And have your
psychotherapy just be one adjunct part of your own self-therapy. I think that’s
really important. And what that requires is the person who’s going for help has to
take the lead in their own process of healing. And that just means you have to have a lot
of motivation. It’s a lot of work to do. And I think a lot of people… well… from
what I’ve observed… Like I think what I did… I didn’t even realize I was doing it when
I was in therapy but I’ve always felt my self-therapy process comes first,
but in some ways I may be kind of unusual– because I had a super-intense passion
to heal and to know myself. And I think other people’s passion goes in other
directions… and… so a lot of people want their therapy, in their psychotherapy with
a therapist, to be the primary thing in their healing process. I saw that with
clients a lot. They would come to therapy once a week and often they wouldn’t put a
huge amount of energy into thinking about their internal healing process and their self-therapy
process during the week and sometimes they would come in and had
not processed stuff in the week that they were outside the therapy office. I always encouraged
people to do it. And for me as a therapist it was most exciting to work with people who
were really engaged in their own self-therapy process because then I felt it lowered that
power dynamic and I felt like a had a real equal. And I felt there I was part of a
team where I had someone who was not just meeting me halfway but was using me the best way
they could — because I feel it’s wonderful when people can use a psychotherapist for their
growth process as opposed to expecting their therapist to do a lot of the
process and work for them. But… …Another way that someone can assess the
quality of their psychotherapist is to get outside opinions. People can ask their friends.
People can ask… Maybe then can even go to another therapist and bounce it off someone…
reach out to other people who might know better. The problem is a lot of people who end up going
to psychotherapy by the time they are in therapy they’ve kind of tapped out of their friendships
in this deep way. Their friends maybe don’t want to hear this stuff or maybe even their
family members don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to hear about that deep internal
stuff. And so a lot of times they are very alone in their psychotherapy process. There may
not be anybody to bounce these ideas off of. In that case I would say, if there’s nobody to
bounce these ideas off, if you can’t figure out if your therapist is good or not, then…
sometimes the only answer is to engage more deeply in self-therapy, to ask oneself the
question, to do… to somehow create or foment some sort of inner dialogue with oneself.
I think the easiest way at least for many people and certainly for myself has been
to journal. Just journal, get the ideas out. And really look at what you’re writing and
take it seriously. Take seriously your feelings. If you really feel your therapist is not that
good and your therapist is not giving you mirroring, is not saying, “You know…” ’cause
most therapists would never admit it, they’re not gonna say, “Yeah, you know,
I do suck. You’re really questioning me. And you’re really smart to question me
’cause I’m actually not that good.” I don’t know if I ever heard of
a therapist who has said that. That’s like… that’s the kind of thing that
a person has to come to on their own. Another thing is a person
can leave therapy for a while, see how they feel for a few weeks or months
or two months, or three months without therapy and then maybe go back and try it
again with a new fresh set of eyes. There are some basic things that I think
can separate good and bad therapists. One… is the whole question of medication. My experience… when a therapist starts suggesting
that people try medication or recommend or suggest they go to a psychiatrist, it’s
pretty much a sign that a therapist is not very good. Why is that? It’s… Because a really
good therapist can help a person work out their emotional problems and doesn’t say,
“Go outside and take some external substance which is gonna change you.” It’s like… aside
from the fact that medications have all sorts of dangerous and nasty side effects and
things like that, a good therapist can help someone find confidence from their
self within. They don’t need to necessarily refer someone outside to something else. But I think
on the other hand the things that a therapist can suggest that a person do can be very
useful, like: “Exercise. Go out. Eat healthier,” or maybe “Don’t party so much. Don’t try so
much drugs and alcohol. Get a good night’s sleep.” These are very practical things that
a therapist can suggest — but I also think any good friend can suggest this too and it’s
just sort of good knowledge about healthy living. But I think when a therapist starts pushing
the pills and suggesting that, it’s a sign, very quickly, that the therapist doesn’t know
what they’re doing, they’re out of their league, they’re insecure, they’re dealing with
something that is over their head. And they want the person to not feel so much,
to not behave the way that they’re behaving. And a lot of times from what I’ve seen is… a lot of therapists themselves are taking
psychiatric medication. They’re drugged themselves. Now, is it OK to ask the therapist that?
Ask them what their opinion is on medication, ask them if they take psychiatric medication
themselves, ask them if they’ve been on psychiatric medication or what their opinion about it
is, etc., etc., what their experience of it was? Yes! I think it’s great to ask.
I think it’s really, really important. And actually some of this I wish I knew more about
when I was in therapy because I probably would have asked more questions. Though when I did
ask questions I didn’t really get very many good answers. But I think a lot of therapists
do shy away from answering personal questions. And I think in a way there can be times where
it’s appropriate not necessarily to answer certain personal questions. Though I actually…
I really think about that more and more now. Having been away from being a psychotherapist
for 4 years, I’ll leave that one open. I’m not so sure about it. Because certainly during my 10 years of
being a therapist I became much more open… I became much more open to answering
personal questions as time when on. Early on I didn’t answer much. I wouldn’t answer stuff like am I gay
or straight, am I in a relationship, what’s my relationship with my parents like…
Maybe sometimes I would talk about some of those things but a lot of it I didn’t answer. And
part of it was that the people who were training me, my social work program, or my supervisors — ’cause I did a lot of years of supervision — that they really… pretty strongly encouraged
me not to talk about myself, not to share too much personal detail. Also I had psychotherapists
who basically showed nothing about themselves and I kind of followed suit. And over time
I came to realize that… …in many cases it was an error. I really wished I’d shared a lot more.
Toward the end I shared a lot more… …and… and I think… …look at me now, sharing stuff on
YouTube for general public consumption… But… I… I don’t know, there still may
be cases where it’s OK for a therapist not to answer personal questions, but if a
therapist is not gonna answer personal questions, to give a really good reason for it. And to
really be very gentle about it, and very kind and… …to try to be… still helpful to the client
because obviously if a client’s asking it’s for a very good reason. Maybe the reason
isn’t always apparent, maybe they’re asking for all sorts of other reasons but underneath
there’s always a good reason. So, I don’t know, I think if I was gonna be a therapist
again I’d be more open about answering personal stuff. But… but most importantly…
to handle it gently and respectfully. Because there’re all sorts of schools
of therapy that are like… …they’re basically therapist-protecting. The therapist should be a blank slate and
hide behind some sort of screen, let their client project their ideas onto them
and a lot of that… I’m not so into that. I think if I were a therapist again and certainly
toward the end of my psychotherapy experience I didn’t want people projecting that much
onto me. I wanted people to know me for me. Now what I always did say pretty much certainly
during my years of being a therapist and much more toward the end was… I was very open about my feelings
and my opinions about all sorts of stuff. And I was very open to giving feedback
about what I thought about clients and their situation and I was willing
to give spot assessments at any moment. If someone wanted
to know what I thought about them, or thought about them in a situation
or thought about them in a relationship… I would try to be respectful about it, very
gentle about it, but very direct and say it. So even if early on I wasn’t answering personal
questions I was very much there emotionally and present and… But even now, I think like,
“What do I really have to hide that much?” And I think part of it for a lot of therapists
who don’t share much personal stuff is they feel they’re gonna lose their boundaries. And
maybe they’ll lose their… sort of power in their therapeutic relationship. I’ve thought a lot about that. I think it’s one of the things that makes therapy really, really special… … is the boundaries. A therapist isn’t
a friend. They are not someone who’s just there for a casual relationship. They are there
for a very strong purpose — to help the client know themselves better, to evolve and to grow.
They are not there to meet their personal needs. That’s the whole point of the
therapist taking money. The therapist takes money in this relationship– that’s what they’re getting
out of it, they’re not there to get their emotional needs met, they are not there to
be loved, they are not there to be cared about, they are not there to be necessarily respected
entirely. They are there to help the other person grow and they are taking money. And…
it sounds kind of blunt but I think that there’s a wonderful sort of simplicity to it. It’s
not like with a friend. It’s like… if there’s a real mutuality, where it’s like…
in general I think it’s really nice if friends give as much as they receive on an emotional level
and they are there for each other, sort of one is there for one some time, the
other’s there for the other at other times. And I think psychotherapy’s not like that.
It’s always pretty clear who’s there for whom. And… and that’s something that I really
like. Now, there are some exceptions. I remember once I got a kidney stone descended right
in the middle of a psychotherapy session and I became violently ill and had to go to the
emergency room. And I was working with someone and the person I was working with… who actually,
funnily enough, was very… mistrustful of me for various reasons and we had a fairly
conflicted therapy relationship which actually was really good in a lot of ways ’cause we hung
in there for a long time and I really I think was very valuable. But this person actually
brought me to the emergency room and helped half-save my life. And… it was very strange…
I didn’t feel right charging for that therapy session and didn’t but… but it was like…
sort of a bizarre, odd thing. But I think in general it’s like no, I was not
there to have the clients meet my needs at all. That was very clear, wasn’t that? And I think by
making it so clearly defined what the boundaries of the relationship are– The client is there to
come on time, to show up, to do their work and to pay the money, to respect whatever
boundaries of the office situation we have, like you know can’t attack me, can’t physically
hurt me — things like that… but can be nasty to me, can insult me, can pick on me, can say
whatever they want, can say that I’m ugly or smell or whatever they want to say,
it’s all OK. Past that, my job is to be there for them. And I think
what can happen in that way is it can nurture a relationship
for the client where the client feels really safe, perhaps
for the first time in his or her life. Feels really safe to expose himself on an
emotional level, to really be himself. Be who he really is, as they say “warts and
all,” to really… not necessarily be a nice person, be an honest person, maybe a person who
shares about things that are really unpleasant or ugly or nasty or share about historical
things that are extremely painful, share about ideas that are not
necessarily socially acceptable. And that’s another thing that’s beautiful
about a psychotherapy relationship, which doesn’t necessarily happen
almost anywhere else in our lives is that the psychotherapy relationship
is inherently confidential, that what happens in there is private, like
details about the person are not being shared, details about the therapy — it’s a very
private beautiful thing that can happen. In that privacy all sorts
of special stuff can come out. It has that level of safety where… It’s really like what a good parent-child
relationship should have been, that the parent was really fully there, devoted to the child within the
parameters of that parent-child relationship. Why do we get traumatized? Because our parents
failed us in so many different ways, in ways that they shouldn’t have failed us and… they weren’t necessarily confidential,
they didn’t nurture us in the ways that we needed and…
So a psychotherapy relationship in some way does replicate a child-parent relationship, but
God, hopefully does it so, so much better! And since the client to one degree or
another is paying for this relationship, it should be a great nurturing relationship,
that’s what they’re buying, that’s the service that they’re buying. And here’s an interesting
thing that I’ve come to realize over time hearing about so many psychotherapy relationships — and having been in so many from
both sides of the fence — that… …yes, it’s a very valuable
service that a psychotherapist is providing, but just because a therapist charges more
doesn’t say anything about the quality of the therapy. And, not always true, but it’s
a general rule I’ve become fairly confident in– now, more than fairly confident, I’ve become
pretty darned confident saying, the lesser a therapist charges the better
the therapist, in so many cases. The really beautiful great therapists,
they charge the least amount of money that they can get away with charging
to actually survive. They are not trying to get rich off of this.
And the therapists that charge a lot of money– they’re shysters so often, they’re just trying
to take money, trying to get rich off this, they’re getting rich off the power of it.
And it’s very easy, again, for a therapist to fake it, look like they really know
what they’re doing when they really have no clue and they’re not very helpful, but because
they have the fancy office, and they look the part, they can charge a ton of money. I mean, I’ve seen therapists that charged
literally 10 times more than other therapists. Does that make them 10 times
better? More often than not, not at all, usually it’s quite the opposite. So another thing to be aware of,
for me, is that a good therapist– yes, they charge money, but they charge
as little as they can afford to charge. Now, another thing is it can be
very hard as a therapist to survive because if you wanna really not
charge very much money that means you’re gonna have to see more clients but that’s a problem because to really give your
heart and soul as a therapist to this job, it’s like… it takes a huge amount of energy.
One thing I heard early on as a therapist or certainly by the middle of my career is
that a full-time job for a psychotherapist is considered to be about… seeing about
20… doing about 20 client-hours a week. Let’s say 45 minutes’ sessions. It’s about… seeing about 20 people
a week, 20 sessions a week. That’s not even a 40-hour-a-week job, but
that’s considered full-time for a psychotherapist. If you gonna be really engaged, if you
gonna really give it your best, really devote yourself to being helpful
to people — 20 sessions a week. Well, most of my career I was doing
a heck of a lot more than that. In part… I think for
a few reasons. One, I was learning so much, it was so interesting. And also I wasn’t
really charging that much and I realized I had to charge more to be able to
make it, to survive, to pay my rent. So, let’s say… probably over 10 years on average I probably saw about 30 sessions…
I did about 30 sessions a week so saw about 30 people a week. But…
that really was too much for me. And… to some degree I kind of burned out, I
got physically exhausted, I was kind of sick, I think it was too much trauma, and also it’s a…
it’s a hard job, it’s a really hard job. I think if a therapist is really an artist at it,
to really be that emotionally open to people and their traumas– Because it is what I
found, when the therapy goes well, traumas are going to come
out, stuff is gonna come out, painful history is gonna come out,
feelings are gonna come out. And if the therapist is really gonna
be engaged in the process they’re going to be feeling a lot of stuff, too. They may not necessarily show it,
but they gonna be feeling a lot, it’s gonna affect their sleep, it’s
gonna affect their dreams, it’s gonna affect what they think about at night. I got told by a
lot of supervisors, early on in my therapy career, “You are not supposed to bring the
therapy home with you. When the day is done, you are supposed to go home and have your
evening, have your life.” And what I realized is they sucked! They
sucked as supervisors, they sucked as therapists ’cause
they weren’t really open, they weren’t letting me in and they
weren’t feeling what I was going through. So how were they supposed to know what I was
going through if they were not really feeling it? Our feelings as therapists are one of the main
things that allow us to do our work. So I think a good therapist can be feeling a huge
amount and if you’re gonna be feeling a lot of trauma sitting for 20 hours a week with
a lot of trauma that’s upwelling, it’s exhausting! This is a funny thing that I noticed as a
therapist — that clients would come in, they would have one session a week where they
express a lot feelings and a lot of trauma, and a lot of stuff came up — and at the end of
a session they would be exhausted and they would think about that session perhaps all
week long and come back a week later and go, “Ooh, I thought about that session all
week long and I’m still exhausted from the last week’s session but here we go again!”
And I’d think, “Wow, I did 30 sessions in the past week and maybe that session with
that client wasn’t even at the top ten of the most intense for me.” And yet for them
it was the most intense 45 minutes of their week. And often clients mirror that back to
me, they would say to me, “How in the world do you do
this all week without totally burning out?!” And I think for me part of it is that
I think I’d done a lot of my healing already so it didn’t confuse me as
much but it still did exhaust me. And eventually, yeah,
it did kind of burn me out. I had this thing called “vicarious traumatization”
by… like I was also traumatized by just being around so much upwelling trauma
and hearing so many painful, painful stories and feeling it and going through what
people were going through with them. And it was exhausting.
I think it’s been wonderful for me actually to be away from being a therapist for 4 years.
It’s been 4 years and a month now, 49 months that I’ve been away from it. Yes, I’ve still
been in the mental health field, yes, I’ve been making mental health
documentaries that are actually very critical of the mental health field. And that feels good ’cause I feel the
mental health field desperately needs to be criticized a lot more because in general it’s
just a horrible field the way it’s been set up: psychiatry in charge, it’s like all this
medication stuff, mental hospitals, diagnoses– it’s like yuck! And that’s another thing that I
wanted to say and I think I’ll close with this. Another quick way to assess a therapist
is to find out their opinion on diagnosis. In general and almost entirely in
specific diagnosis is stupid. The way that we do psychiatric diagnosis,
giving people these labels, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,”
“Major Depressive Disorder,” “Dysthymia,” “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” “Schizophrenia,
Subtype: Paranoid,” this and that, “Schizoaffective Disorder,” “Bipolar,
Rapid Cycling,” all this stuff. It’s so stupid, it’s like… These aren’t real diagnoses. So many
therapists really do believe in these diagnoses, that’s what we are trained to believe in school, we have to learn the DSM and many
times have to write down diagnosis and use them for billing. But when therapists
really get into believing diagnosis is something that is valid, they’re way,
way off. Way-way-way off. It’s like these specific psychiatric
diagnoses are trivial and stupid. On the other hand, can a therapist
make a diagnosis that doesn’t use psychiatric diagnosis? I would
say yes, but I don’t even like to use the word “diagnosis” ’cause it’s so medical.
I would say more of coming up with a picture. I like to think of it, especially in the
first session when we are supposed to be doing an “intake” as a therapist
and coming up with a person’s diagnosis and asking him all these questions–
I think of it more like an artist. Where I’m sitting there sketching.
And doing a sketch of the person’s life and their social life,
and their historical life and their childhood, and their family relationships and their personal
relationships and their interests and their… all sorts of things about them and coming
up with a really detailed sketch. But it’s a sketch, it’s not a painting. And
over time getting to know someone a lot better, it’s like filling in the details and not using
charcoal in your work, now, maybe using watercolors or, you know, oil paints, but really getting to
know the person that way and getting a three-dimensional picture of their life
and getting to understand them better. If you are willing to use the word
“diagnosis,” that would be my diagnosis– to really understand the real intimate,
three-dimensional picture of a person. And I think when you get a great artist, you
can get a really fantastic sketch very, very quickly. I’ve seen some Picasso sketches, oh my God, or Van Gogh sketches later in his career,
it’s like really good stuff, like getting the proportions right, the dimensions,
all this kind of stuff, it’s like — I’m not really an artist in that way but someone who could
really do a crisp, detailed, beautiful sketch about something. And I think a therapist can
do that too. Very, very quickly a good one. I think, bad therapists, often you can
give them all time in the world, you can give them months or years and they still
don’t even know really who they are sitting with and what’s going on with that person. And that’s been shocking to me as a
therapist when people came to me and said they were with a therapist for five
years and they described the therapy, and I realized, “God, that person didn’t even really
understand the person they were sitting with.” Probably in no small part because the therapist
didn’t even understand himself or herself… Their therapist was a nitwit. And unfortunately
with the psychotherapy field, it turns out a lot of nitwits, and a lot of the training
programs are stupid, a lot of the field, the different schools of therapy
are just stupid and based on dumb ideas and so you get the blind leading
the blind, so to speak– and the dumb training the dumb.
And the not very psychologically sophisticated training other people who maybe had a lot
of talent but got lost in some school. So again, I’m not big on any of these schools
of therapy. I’m not really into even training. On the other hand, how does one learn therapy?
Well maybe that would be a whole other discussion and a different thing. But anyway, meanwhile,
hope this has been kind of helpful…


  1. Scientific method with little empirical modulation of inherently subjective (self) reporting, perceptions, and interpretations sucks for the client: the arrogance and overconfidence comes from this.

    The unequal authority-driven power dynamics are potentially dangerous, especially with highly opinionated "artists". Too much pathology and a narrative of "you're so helpless and can't possibly know how to heal yourself…I went to school…and you?" is dangerous.

    I just finished my second know-it-all therapist; cocky, dressed to the nines (a form of boasting and attempt to front-load authority/expertise), stilted/snotty demeanor and half my age: degrees don't confer the experience-based wisdom of age.

    "Trust your feelings, Luke."

    Thanks for your insight.

  2. In my 12 years of experience working in behavioral health, I have noticed that most people in this profession get into it with the hopes of learning about themselves or a loved one. Then they find out that there are no simple answers and the more information you learn the more questions you have. And thise are the good ones, then you have the narcissists and sociopaths, who tend toward administration and leadership because they are often well organized and articulate. But I digress. Eventually, you either learn to work within the framework of the system to help as many people as you can, or you burn out and quit. Or both. I've burnt out, took some time and came back. But I entered the field not as a clinician, but as a patient, or peer, as my position is referred to. I decided that I wanted people seeking help to have better treatment than what I got. So I get to enter into this as both a professional and a person with lived experiences. A therapist can't do that. But I explain to people the purpose of a diagnosis, it's just a way of identifying a specific set of symptoms to develop effective treatment. But it's merelyba starting point as symptoms change, fluctuate, and come/go. Then I focus on health from a wellness perspective. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. That's how I manage my health, it works for me, and it works for many others.

  3. I found this interesting as being tossed around from person to person in the beginning I struggled with the damage that was being done. Finding someone good that didn't retraumatize me all the time was hard as I am not easy to work with given my ingrained self worth and stubborness cause of the damage that was done. It isn't one size fits all it should be done on a case by case basis. I most certainly don't like to be pigeon holed. I also think people are over diagnosed if you are looking for a particular thing you will find it or if you specializes in a particular area you will find that to. I have had to suffer the consequences of what happened in the beginning and will be scarred for life cause of it and it almost cost me my life. All practitioners should all be Trauma informed.

  4. Started off good, but went in a very poor direction. He focuses a LOT on childhood and "trauma" (if the word is so poorly defined, what does it mean anymore?). The problem is that research with decent methodology doesn't support being "trauma" focused OR focusing so much on childhood with everyone. It depends on the person. For some people, it all goes back to childhood. For some, it doesn't. For a truly skeptical, critical approach to psychotherapy, it might be better to check out William Epstein's book Psychotherapy as Religion. The situation is worse than this person, Daniel Mackler, claims. The trauma obsession is pseudoscience and even harmful (reduces people's sense of resilience). Be more skeptical than this guy in the video.

  5. A good psychotherapist is able to acknowledge their mistakes with honesty and integrity without feeling threatened by that. I haven't found any one that is genuinely capable of doing this! The client is generally blamed for whatever goes wrong… To be able to really help others requires that the therapist has dealt with their own issues – issues with pride, ego, limitations in understanding the client's needs, underestimating the client's capacity for healing despite their difficulties… Too many therapists are more interested in competing with others in getting more acknowledged and famous than others, it's a world contaminated with so many other issues that stand in the way of understanding and being useful to the person who suffers.

  6. i argued the art vs science thing in a couple of classes on the way to being a therapist …. I'd swear we were therapy twins. It's incredibly validating to hear your experience — I see much the same way, but end up feeling like, am I crazy, or the whole professional world? 🙂

  7. I have read famous failed cases as well as analyzing my own failed therapies to understand what does and doesn't help someone in pain– it's a really, REALLY good way to learn.

  8. First rule of any therapist is "Healer heal thyself",too many people I think choose a therapy education as a way of by passing their own unhealed wounds.It often becomes this super projection from their own unconscious unhealed trauma/wounds dysfunction.

  9. It sounds like it is all about love. Love for life and curiosity about all human experiences and expressions. Because of love the need to alleviate your own and all human sufferings. I wander how much self awareness mental heath professionals have, or they use all their time to escape from themself intu roles,titles, and shopping.


  11. I don't like talk therapy ….I like my friends but e,excuse and nutrition prayer music …healing

  12. Well,Deep …Truth Deliver with Honesty.
    I am a mature experienced in medical field.I Was a refugee from back home did not about.
    Communism is Nazi ,not been a member & monitor,deprived off basic rights.not learn English.
    So on my arrival in “Free “ Democracy I experienced the worse trauma,so many.
    Fitness,yoga ,Breathing,running,jogging,Byke kept me going.Empath Nature rich Top One more down hill & book for Psychotherapist.I heart her for 3 months.Publicly .Got I was sold.Though she is mature,experienced with 3 own children,.V wealthy ,good Huby ,background.
    I had 5 sessions ,were Absolutely Torture,bruises my brain too stagnant.Turn out she was healing from breast cancer .What ever,no excuse ,it added more trauma,Wasted my time,I express my disappointment I got refunded .I lost Trust.So I study my self the healing,I share You way .
    We could direct to self Healing,by finding issues from childhood.
    In my case not many do not experience & understand communism ,How they can Help???
    So I’m Sceptical,despite she was recommended,Nigth mare .

    Thank for Info. Appreciate You Integrity 🙏🏼

  13. When you put the power of your life in the hands of another human being -regardless of education -you give him full control of your life. Be ready for the pills,the main thing they are there to push them on you like a McDonald's employee up sells those xl fries.

  14. Healing ones own childhood traumas is the path to selfhood. The only way to find this path is to distance yourself from your family of origin .I affirm your belief on this. When in therapy I felt that instead of grocery stores on every corner, in San Francisco, (my favorite place),there should be a gestalt primal therapist clinic available to all who need some one to talk truth to and get honest feed back that helps them grow and teaches them compassionately about themselves. I believe also that environment is everything. Most therapists emphasize the early childhood environment only and do not acknowledge the clients current environment .Environments can make or break you.

  15. Therapists are just there to help impose doctors orders to take dumbing medication, pretend to listen. They should have analitic minds and good heart. But they have often the oposite. :). One criterion from me to choose therapist – you should feel better not worse after a meeting!

  16. Daniel
    I've had 4 different therapists over the course of about 6 years….(on the average about 2 years each)… And I would ask them what they think about something and their answer was ALWAYS "well what do YOU think" ..NOT ONE of them actually answered the question at all.

  17. I was having a first session with one once and I told him what I wanted in a therapist and he goes "ah…so you want the magical do-it-all therapist who can fix all your problems?" I was like "really, wow."

  18. I really love this guy's point of view
    It's actually one of the better videos I've ever seen on YouTube . ever!

  19. I appreciate your honesty in dealing with much of the bull** that comprises professional psychotherapy. I have been in psychology since the late 1960's and it has progressed as a science; however, we are nowhere near the level of precision and effectiveness that the "evidence based approach" proponents would have outsiders believe. The willingness to move into the pain of the patient/client/resident/consumer is integral to good care. It's clear that you have spent your time in the trenches, and I am encouraged to be a bit more honest by your honesty. Thanks, brother.

  20. I'm amazed by how much money some people are willing to throw away on so-called "therapy" before the even question whether it works or not. I'm guessing at least 50% of the time it doesn't work, yet some people don't even question it. I think "therapy" is bizarre in a way in terms of how it's often ineffective yet costs so much, and many people are willing to pay. It's almost scam in certain respects.

  21. I loved this! This is what taking St. John's s Worts did for me. I broke through depression my listening to what the herb was able to allow my body to communicate with me. That you practiced like this is beautiful.

  22. If we can do our own psychotherapy then why do we search someone to talk to? I think it kind of sucks to hold crap in and not have someone to divulge my deepest feelings to.

  23. As an experienced client.
    I know the dead eyes.
    The Dilbert types, both male and female.
    They have been very costly to me.

    I had a therapist who talked about himself 90%of the time.
    Not only that, he got rude when I tried to talk about myself.
    I would be funny if it was not so………..

  24. Reminds me a lot of James Hillman…he always lamented that psychotherapists deal with human stories but never actually study stories ie. Literature plays poetry.

  25. At minute 33 or 35–great points. Being energetic and motivated in the therapy process and engage in self therapy… even while continuing therapy…that’s the way.

  26. Best therapists I've had were all body based. I find talk therapies rather ineffective. Hakomi, Diamond Heart, HBLU, Somatic Experiencing. Those that only prescribe medication and talk about feelings in order to make you more well adjusted seem the sorst though others praise them. Cognitive behavioral therapies and imago or transpersonal seem the way to go. Developmental therapies that deal with trauma and how it imprints on us are essential. Primal therapy or hands on like sexological bodywork or pelvic heart integration can be very powerful. One thing is true analysis is paralysis!

  27. That was so fascinating to listen to. You seem like such a cool guy and very passionate about the field. I bet you were an awesome therapist

  28. My observation…many therapist persue a psychology career to justify or hide from thier own dysfunction. "Im a therapist..i know more than you." These are the distant, arrogant and condescending.

  29. Psychotherapy is pseudomedicine. A person is better off finding a regular person at a bar to ask advice on how to deal with their problems, if not their family or friends.

  30. Sounds to me like you would be a great therapist. You seem to have intuition and an understanding of the human process. Some of our fellow travelers could use that kind of support in their lives. I really enjoyed your perspective.

  31. You look a lot like the actor Ben Chaplin but a younger version of him. I really like the longer hair on you.

  32. The video needs two thumbs up about the cult leader/rock star aspect of some therapists. I think therapists have to have a healthy degree of vulnerability along with the client.

  33. Part of argument true to a point but then Daniel played people the same way psychotherapy does but only to a point , you will never find therapist or psychotherapist ever agree with any other therapist or psychotherapist of their field , and thats my experience.

  34. Freud wasn't a good therapist? Most therapists aren't good? I think you should challenge your own ideas. The therapist is not there to be your friend or attract you by their personality before you hear what they have to say. They're there to point out areas where you need to grow in and help you achieve that. What most people call a "bad therapist" is someone who makes you feel bad because they bring to light issues that you need to face. So instead they prefer someone who approves of their behavior and makes them feel "good".

  35. Thank you for all your work with so many people. …… I am working with my son trying to reach him through his difficulty. ….. Please help me learn how to be there for him ….. I need to know how to help him work through his traumatic past so he can heal

  36. I would really appreciate if anybody could give me some examples of what conclusions/ underlying causes etc that can be revealed during therapy.

  37. This is greatness. "My job is not to fix you, but to help you figure out how to fix yourself." I put quotes around that although that's not exactly what you said, but something pretty close. God bless you, good sir.

  38. Your version of psychotherapy is one among many. A less abstract recounting, with fewer theoretical constructs than is usual in psychoanalytic texts, is Sandor Grau's booklet [71 pages] "A Practirioner's Guide to What Works in Modern Psychotherapy". Many psychotherapies fail due to burden of theories, granted that no psychotherapy can exist without a theory.

  39. When I have made the argument to friends that psychotherapy isn't for everyone and it doesn't always work, I get responses like, "it will work if you want it to."

    That would be like if I said that the anti-seizure medication that works for ME doesn't work for someone else, I said, "it will work if you want it to, give it time." Then, they have ten more seizures while waiting for it to work because they were told.

    Nonsense! Just like the physical, mental health issues are unique to individuals, some treatments work while others do not.

  40. Daniel talks about a notion of therapist being an expert (a non-symmetrical relation therapist-client). It entirely depends on the school of therapy. Most humanistic approaches are non-directive and therapist is not regarded as expert. Also client flooding a therapist with questions just isn't part of the humanistic concept, which presumes client knows best(what is good for him). It's not that a humanistic therapist wouldnt give satisfactory answers because he's no good. It's a misconception. It's not about the therapist but about the client. Isn't a situation when client follows suggestions or uses the therapist as a role model opening up a problem of dependency? A very interesting material I just feel it's presented from a certain school's point of view.

  41. What an interesting, insightful view. This video made me believe in the psychologist I’m going to.

  42. I've had exposure to the field of psychiatry for decades, and I am here to tell you there is truly little of value in the field as a whole. There are some people, here and there, minorities, who have some kind of resolution to their problems, but most of what constitutes the entire field is worthless. I am of the belief this is because the entire nosological structure is flawed. My exposure began when my mother had her first psychotic break in 1978. She has an extremely severe psychiatric illness. Her first diagnosis in 1978 was paranoid schizophrenia, but that was simply an artifact of the times. She was later diagnosed with schizo-affective, bipolar type. I earned a graduate degree in Psychology in my 20s to try to understand, but I quickly found, nobody understood, and I was wasting my time. Therapists are like nuns. A lot of them are ugly, passive-aggressive people who do more harm than good. A few are brilliant, natural healers. But the field itself, the structure of knowledge in psychology? It's almost entirely worthless. After I abandoned psychology I entered the field of law, and quickly realized therapists were the most illogical, irrational thinkers. They fit the facts to their prejudices, rather than seeking the truth about individuals.


  44. Bio. is def. a hard science. Its criticism as a "soft science" is entirely by the ignorant. Bio follows all scientific principles in a hard manner as does physics and the rest. those who say otherwise are narcissistic towards their field.

  45. In my op. if the therapist is not really on a journey of self discovery with you, as in existential field, it may not be as good.

  46. I’ve just have a therapist, that I’ve come to tolerate enough to feel positive results, sleeping on me. I fired his ass and now I’m watching these videos to diminish the blow of this sudden loneliness…

  47. Daniel, it is very informative to see the army of therapists that you have known.  I agree that most people calling themselves psychotherapists are human dung taking money from saps and giving them dung in return.  No, I'm not going to give them a break.  They don't deserve it.  They deserve a foot in the hind end and a ticket to Mississippi where they can get a chance to pick cotton and make an honest living.

  48. Daniel, maybe from about 28 minutes into the video until at least 33 minutes into the video you are on the money 100%.  No doubt about it.

  49. The most confronting questions for a potential therapist:

    "Do you take some responsibility when your clients heal? Do you take some responsibility when your clients don't heal or deteriorate?"

  50. Great videos. You always leave me wanting more. Btw, I'm not a big fan of the DSM and diagnoses either. I think the DSM is sexist, and if you look up the contributors most are men, probably old ones. Experts, lol.

  51. I agree with you on the older therapists. My marriage counselor was a gray haired man. I'm now divorced – nuff said. 😛

  52. Thank you. You are an independent thinker. You have really helped me when I found myself questioning therapy after several bad experiences.

  53. does anyone know if Daniel Mackler did a video on learning therapy as he mentioned he miggt at the end of this video?

  54. Really interesting video. I feel that if you've no "Inate" talent you can still learn to do things to a fairly high degree, but I completely get what youre saying that with a field like psychitherapy some people do seem to have a 'knack' for these things. 100% agree that it's an art not a science. More a village eldar than a mechanic.

  55. Lot of people (unqualified) give therapy to others in an open setting doesn’t have to br in office environment.

  56. They want to beat your own thoughts and ideas on what works right out of you. Proof? Drug counselors all learn the same nonsense on how to stay sober and they barely have a 25% recovery rate of 5 years.

  57. As a psychotherapist, I found much of what Daniel Mackler had to say to be a disconcerting and a negative slant on psychotherapy. Therapy can help people who are "stuck" in life get unstuck. Therapy can help clients see their value and strengths as opposed to believing they are worthless and flawed. Therapy can help save lives and direct suicidal clients to inpatient treatment facilities and medication. Therapy can help passive people find a voice and become more assertive. Therapy can help couples work through their issues and learn how to gain maturity in their relationship. Therapy can help those with substance use disorder get treatment and remain sober. Therapy can help those with anger management issues discover their triggers to their anger. I could go on and on… . As the author of the book, When to Call a Therapist, I have outlined how to get connected to a therapist and that the relationship between the client and therapist is the single most important aspect of therapy. I list symptoms of the most common mental health issues people suffer from today. I discuss the stigma surrounding therapy. And I have written a chapter on abuse and neglect from childhood abuse through elder abuse. Even though every client and their situation different, a good therapist will learn from their clients and can apply that knowledge to others seeking help for the same problem. From my perspective, therapy (and in some cases medicine too) absolutely helps. Here's to all the hard-working therapists out there who have a positive influence on their clients each and every day.

  58. I'm finishing internship hours and this video is awesome. I have already been doing some of these things you are suggesting.

  59. Im new in this area and looking at getting into, but I call it Coming Home, counselling is self standing as in ,I don't feel we can make it scientific, as hard as they try. Its almost alien but its not. I feel its vibrational and different for every one. But one thing we have in common is that, We have removed ourselves from feeling and identity. We get so busy and forget to get to know ourselves. I find mirror work brilliant, confronting though, especially when you haven't don't it before or if it hasn't been done for awhile.(have you heard the saying, Im looking at the man in the mirror) I feel the more we look at our selves the more we will find ourselves but The more we look away from ourselves and keep busy in life, the harder it is to face our selves, so often its left alone and put in the too hard basket.
    Daniel is very good listening. Thankyou!

  60. Psychotherapists are sometimes healers and artists, because they have no objective science to base their organizing beliefs on, but let's be real. Sometimes, they are not healers and artists, sometimes they are in the same resonance, the same emotional/intellectual resonance, as the dogmatically religious. And when they come from that place, they effect good sometimes, but more often than that not, they don't, and they're not helpful. I don't come to this critique as a patient. I come as a former student, who entered the field because of my own seriously mentally ill mother, who was ineffectually treated by this modality in the 70s. (By the way, I have had an entirely different career for 20 years, paying much more than I would have earned.) I am extremely vigilant/critical of all purported psychotherapy. DBT helps people with Borderline Personality Disorder, we've been led to believe. That's nothing but Buddhism. What's wrong with this picture? Lots and lots, that I don't even have the space to go into. A true spiritual approach can be helpful, and a true biological approach can be helpful, but psychotherapy is neither of those things. It's a middling solution, targeted to the middling population. It only helps average people, with average IQs, life experiences, etc. Nobody else does it help, and therefore, it isn't a real healing solution.

  61. Do not forget, that forced psychiatry also acts. And then the "doctors" impose their "treatment" on the victims. The “patients” have no opportunity to err, nor refuse.

  62. I totally believe in your point of view about psychotherapist. I believe that the therapist needs to heal themselves before they can help others work out their emotional problems. I take pride in how I have been helping people heal the root cause of their issues that is embedded in their subconscious mind!!

  63. Me, those unshakable aesculapius completely destroyed! Still by child! They erased my essence, my genotype, my bone and flesh, my feelings, my memory and will. I was subjected to this level of destruction at which a person cannot re-main alive. And of course, I would certainly have died from such a "treatment" if they had not destroyed me even more. They destroyed me to such an extent that there was no one to die. They took away not only life, but also death. They turned me into an amoeba. And in this state I had to survive all my life. And this destruction of me in their satanic protocols, they designated as assistance ren-dered to me!!!

  64. Psychiatrists carry out violent “treatment”. I focus on such a phrase – "violent treatment." What does this mean? Treatment of a person from what he does not want to recover from! This is the deliverance of man from his own will. I sug-gest that everyone reading these lines imagine that him is being “cured” of his own feelings, desires, and beliefs. Than will result in such a "treatment"? What will remain of a person after such a "treatment" And such butchery, psychiatrists call treatment! This is much worse than mistakes and not enough professionalism of psychotherapists. I want to ask of participating in disputes topic. – Why you not discuss this side of psychiatric practice – coercion? After all, this carries a much worse evil and destruction.

  65. I reject almost all of the precepts of psychotherapy, 20 years after receiving my first degree. I don't agree with you that everything goes back to childhood, though. It goes even deeper. It goes back before birth, to the history of the soul. And things can manifest in fully physical, biological ways, that aren't about childhood abuse or poor parenting with those same roots that are not even about the person's current life childhood. On many things I agree with you on, such as the potential for authority abuse in the therapy/patient relationship, but it's so much bigger than childhood.

  66. Maybe it is my ADHD and I lost patience with the repetitive speech habits. But I was really hoping for practical advice on selecting or finding a good therapist for my current place in the process of getting better coping mechanisms and picking up the pieces of my life. I don't think this video was meant for someone like me.

  67. I am done with therapists. I will do the self therapy. I will not waste anymore time and taking risks with people that I do not know. My last therapist was the worst one yet. What I learned was to trust my instincts. My therapist actually made me watch YouTube videos during session about mindfulness. My therapist never let me talk! When I mentioned childhood stuff she said " You don't think we are going to talk about that do you?" Leave it to me, if there is a bad therapist out there I always find them.

  68. this is THE BEST video on yt i have found so far, about therapy crtique. i think there is a huuuge lack of evaluation, of feedback oops when it comes to therapy. i think the qaulity of most therapist is so bad. i have nothing bad really bad experience.

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