Protect yourself from bad psychotherapy
To be truly effective, any psychological intervention needs to be based on a solid understanding of the real causes of emotional distress and to take into account the biological, psychological and social needs of each individual. Our approach is based on scientific research in the field of Neuropsychology and Human Givens Psychology.
It is a good idea to use the following checklist to protect yourself, or someone you know, from ineffective or even harmful types of counselling and psychotherapy.
An effective therapist will show the following characteristics:
They make you feel accepted, respected and understood, no matter how much distressed you are. You feel they are listening and focused on you (not on themselves).
They do not use jargon and ‘psychobabble’ and will explain to you how things can be better in a simple and clear way.
They understand depression and know how to lift it.
They are able to help you quickly and effectively with anxiety problems, including trauma or phobias.
They will use a range of different techniques adapted to your individual needs and preferences – we are all different and what would be good for one person may not work for another
They are prepared to give advice if needed and asked for, without being intrusive or judgemental
They don’t encourage you to dwell on past bad experiences. The past is important but ruminating over and over again about the same thing is not going to help you resolve your present problems.
They are supportive but will not tell you that you need to get too emotional in order to resolve your problems.
There are healthy boundaries in place, a treatment plan and goals to be accomplished.
They may assist you to develop your social skills so that your Emotional Needs can be better fulfilled
They will help you to use your own resources (which may be greater than you thought)
They may teach you to relax deeply
They may help you reframe your problems in new and more empowering ways
They may give you “homework” to accelerate the healing process and empower you in the future
They will not prolong the treatment more than the strictly necessary number of sessions
They will promote your independence and autonomy and will give you tools to deal with problems in the future.
They will encourage and accept your feedback on the treatment process.
They will make sure you feel better after every consultation.
Red flags you should be alert for
You feel as if you have to prove something
You feel the therapist is judging you or is in any way discriminatory
The therapist does not show their credentials
The conversation is more focused on the therapist than on you and your problems
The therapist has no boundaries and acts more like a friend than a professional
You do not get any results in a reasonable amount of time
You feel worse after the consultation
Your feedback or opinion is not taken into account.
How to tell the difference between effective, safe therapists and ‘pseudo therapists’
Study the contrasting lists below carefully
- Appeals to a knowledge of what really works in helping people
- Grounded in research-based practical human psychology and biology –
- Focuses on expanding client’s abilities to deal with the ‘real world’
- Primary focus on connecting to the future
- Focuses on client’s own resources
- Avoids creating a dependent relationship
- Minimalist involvement in client’s life, both in terms of number of sessions and overall ‘length of time’
- Motivation to help people and generate an adequate income by seeing more clients
- Attention needs to be met outside the field of therapy
- Appeals to trade associations or academic criteria for legitimacy
- Grounded in theory and ideology
- Focuses on theoretical, ideological secondary constructs of dubious worth, e.g. Oedipus complex, analysis of transference relationships, archetypes, self-actualisation, etc.
- Explores and amplifies the problematic feeling
- The primary focus is on an analysis of the past
- Focus on client pathology
- Creates a dependency relationship – may call it ‘transference’
- Maximum involvement in the client’s life with the self-serving notion that the longer the client is involved with therapy the greater the beneficial changes in the client
- Motivated by getting a maximum income from each client
- To reinforce a sense of self-importance, attention needs are met by working as a counsellor/therapist
Avoid damaging assumptions such as:
■ It is necessary to know the cause of a problem to resolve it
It is useful to know when a symptom of emotional disturbance started, how it started, or what caused it. However, it is not essential and it is often possible to resolve the problem without inquiring about this. You don’t need to know the stimulus that causes the problem so long as you can change the response
■ Interpretive therapy invariably helps clients
In fact, the opposite is true. Research shows that psychodynamic, so-called ‘insight’ approaches, are rarely useful for promoting change. (Real insight is necessary of course, but you may end up thinking you understand what is driving your behaviour, but that understanding doesn’t help you to change it. Knowing the poison does not mean you have the antidote for it. Indeed psychodynamic therapy (focused on digging into the past) is contraindicated for treating depression and anxiety disorders.1
■ Human character/personality is unchangeable
This, too, is not so.
Because each brain is forever in a state of flux, resculpting itself, modifying memories of experiences in order to equate them with new learnings from all our interactions with the environment.2
All of us have a set of particular ‘personalities’ that we use for each specific task, withdrawing it when the task is done, and then selecting another for another task. We do not behave or talk the same with a child as we do when paying the milkman or talking to our boss. Furthermore, we constantly change our character according to life’s experiences.
■ Do not assume that symptoms serve functions
It is possible that a symptom served a purpose when it started. However, with time, all problem behaviours tend to become habits, habitual patterns something you got familiarized with and thus tend to repeat it
■ Do not expect the therapist is going to resolve your problems for you
Both therapist and client have roles when searching for solutions in therapy. Good therapy creates a climate for change by creating an atmosphere of expectancy for success and by incorporating your objections and style into the treatment. Creates circumstances under which you can respond spontaneously and change. It is the patient who does the therapy. The counsellor only furnishes the conditions. That’s all. 3
Do you have any questions?
We are here to help
- Danton, W. Antonuccio, D. and DeNelsky, G. (1995). Depression: Psychotherapy is the best medicine. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 26, 574; & Danton, W.; Antonuccio, D. and Rosenthal, Z. (1997). No need to panic. The Therapist, vol 4, no 4.
- Robertson, I. (2000) Mind Sculpture. Bantam Press.
- Erickson, in Ritterman, 1985