Counseling? There are no experts.
Updated: Jan 22, 2022
We live in the Age of Experts. We spend billions on "experts", probably two-thirds of it wasted money.
Recently, there have been warnings about "unqualified" counsellors online. "Unqualified", of course, means uncertified, as psychiatrists or clinical psychologists-- you know, the folks who gave us DSMIV and V and other forms of institutional madness. "Experts"!
There's the rub: MOST "certified" psychiatrists and psychologists are unqualified to the extent that they are part of an industry. There is no proof that in a majority of cases they do any better than just a good friend--certainly not for depression -- and a lot of evidence that they can sometimes at least make things worse. Shrink are experts in making money; not so much at helping people, or addressing the real ills of society.
Online counsellors may be better because it is easier to sort out the wheat from the chaff, as you will see at the end of this post.
Most people misunderstand psychotherapy or psychiatry, both of which are framed by the concept of “mental illness” and whatever society tells us is "normal" -- products of the industrial and postindustrial ages and the atomization of human relationships. In their own way, psychotherapy is a new religion, with its own priests. Naturally, it requires ordination, which requires study of scripture -- with DSM V, the Bible.
Let us keep in mind that Freud and Jung were not "certified". None of this stuff existed before the early 20th Century, nor in the form that we understand it today since 1970. In other words, our present understanding of “counseling” is less than a half century old and evolving fast. Not so long ago, being "gay" was a mental illness. And look up drapetomania sometime
Let us say you have a problem. The death of a loved one? Loss of a job or income and anxiety about the future? A traumatic event that has left with you with PTSD”? Problems with a lover or family member such as a mother of father? Divorce or breakup?
There’s a long list.
CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a new term for a centuries-old approach to problems, which used to be known variously as commonsense or reason, with a dash of imagination --which people have always applied in a crunch.
And "crunches" is where it really matters. As interventions.
For example, studies indicate that professional “interventions” can be effective in preventing PTSD—but rarely are==and a licensed shrink may not be your best choice.
Here is an excerpt from an academic article:
Consistent with our previous review, the current findings suggest that psychological intervention offered to all individuals exposed to a traumatic event irrespective of their symptoms cannot be recommended for routine use following traumatic events. Several interventions – CBT-T, cognitive therapy without exposure, EMDR, structured writing therapy, and internet-based guided self-help – provided evidence of efficacy in reducing traumatic stress symptoms, when targeted at symptomatic individuals
EMDR is well known. It stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing”
In the article’s words:
CBT-T was defined as any intervention that focused on the trauma using written, imaginal or in-vivo exposure therapy with or without cognitive therapy and other cognitive behavioural techniques.
Note the words “any intervention”.
CBT is nominally the province of a licensed therapist or doctor, depending on the "school" or therapy. But they can by used by anyone because they dependent on rational and also imaginative thought -- yours -- not the therapists'.
The ancient Greeks and Romans had their own versions—the just used different terms.
As a formal approach, CBT normally takes advantage of a variety of techniques including “imaging” which may include hypnosis or guided fantasy to harness imagination to establish new neural pathways in the brain reshaping our memories of an event. Indigenous peoples have had their analogues for this for thousands of years.
Journal writing is also used, which only became common with the invention of paper.
“In vivo exposure therapy” is simply identifying activities that make you nervous, rating their severity, and then doing them starting with the easiest first, for desensitization and re-orientation. Priests and religious figures have always been good at this.
Here’s what the Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in his journal:
‘You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength,’ and ‘Very little is needed for a happy life: it is within you, in your way of thinking.’
That is CBT in a nutshell. All that is new is really, really old.
Interventions by unlicensed counselors, including phone-in services and online services often work better than visits to a psychiatrist’s office or that of a clinical psychologist simply because “professionals”, if only because they are usually more immediately available. Timing matters in real world challenges.
Psychotherapy is an industry, hugely profitable to those who sell it.
Most licensed professionals have to build up clientele – and keep a client base. They want to keep you coming. How else can they buy that new BMW? Or afford their own therapist.
Yet, the vast majority of “psychological” problems are not "illnesses" or "disorders" tied to events and coping strategies that can be resolved – IF they are EVER going to be resolved in 12 weeks or less, without the need for medication. Neurological issues that affect the mind such as psychosis or bi-polar disorder are, of course, another matter.
“Professionals” are usually amateurs with a diploma who charge for what others do for free. In the case of psycho-pros, they see a lot of people--too many. Turn around is the thing .
Therapists are taught “clinical (affective) distance”, which means dulling their natural empathy and altruism. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is their Bible – an attempt to categorize “mental illnesses” as “disorders”. If you read it you will notice that almost everyone of your friends and family can be diagnosed as having a “disorder”. As I said, psychiatry has a lot in common with religions such as Christianity. We may not be all born in sin-- but we are born into "disorders".
There is lots and lots of “scientific” research to support this approach.
Look carefully, however, and you will see that this research, while “scientific” in methodology, designed to prove certain assumptions, it has, to date, not been able to validate even the basic efficacy of professional psychotherapy, which led to anti-psychiatry movement which began in the 60s and 70s.