Monday, August 22, 2016

Therapies And Therapists - Some Thoughts

Many people are in therapy. Why is this? The answer is [as I see it] that all people have emotional inadequacies, dysfunctions, and blocks and have not fully developed the many aspects of their personality. Those who are suffering and can't seem to get unstuck on their own, turn to therapy. This can be extremely helpful as it leads to a heightened self-awareness and hopefully more effective ways of dealing with people and life in general. 

The problem is that often people are in therapy and all it is doing is padding the bank account of the therapist. Not bad - sit in a room, listen to and talk with a person for 45 minutes to an hour [often interesting stuff!] and 250 dollars [sometimes more, sometimes less] in his account. No guarantees of change or anything. Just the time given and the "expertise" offered, suffice to receive the pay. 

The pitfall is that EVERY PERSON is a world unto his or herself. To REALLY understand a human being often means to BE that human being. Therapists are limited to their own world of perceptions and pre-conceived notions. No book of psychology ever discussed the particular person with whom they are presently dealing. There are many conditions [there is a very thick tome called DSM detailing the millions of different disorders] that are diagnosable and where treatments have been developed. But people aren't that simple and each case is different. And what happens when a person doesn't fit into any pre-defined category. It is up to the therapist to really understand the patient and this is no easy task. What is even harder is finding solutions to their problems. It is important to note that studies show that much of the success of the therapy depends less upon the mode of treatment and more on the trust that the patient has for the therapist. But there still must be a sound approach to tackling the issues.     

May people go from therapist to therapist for years and years and don't really find a way out of their difficulties. A large percentage of divorced couples went for therapy before divorcing. What does that say about the therapy?? Of course, some marriages are unsalvagable and weren't meant to be but many could have been saved if the therapist had been more competent. Many people regret their divorces years later. 

There is another critical point here: Therapists are people too. That means that are also filled with emotional inadequacies and it is very likely that the patient is more developed than the therapist himself. It is just that, as Chazal say, אין חבוש מתיר עצמו מבית האסורים - A prisoner can't extract himself from jail. Sometimes a different person is needed to help this person through the maze of his problems but this helper might very well be suffering from different emotional issues that the patient doesn't have. He indeed trained to help others but that doesn't make him or her a know it all, understand it all, completely put together, angel. 

Marriage counselors don't always have perfect marriages [in fact they never do. Whose marriage is perfect??]. Many of them divorce - some multiple times. Child psychologists often have serious problems with their own children. Many therapists themselves struggle with issues of low self esteem, depression and any number of the countless emotional afflictions that are so ubiquitous.   

So what is my point??

I thought you'd never ask....:-). 

My point is that anybody could benefit from therapy but with some necessary caveats:

1] Never lose your self respect. It might appear when you are sitting in the chair that you are filled with problems while the therapist has it all together. This is not accurate. If the therapist were open [which he shouldn't necessarily because he is there to help the other person and not to unburden himself or find solutions to his own problems - which is often why people go into psychology in the first place] you would discover how many problems he [or she] has and you could actually guide them in certain areas. 

2] The therapist should be careful not to judge or to assume that he "gets" the patient. There is always more to discover about a person [the human psyche is rooted in the soul which is infinite] and it requires a great deal of humility to admit that to oneself. We are all limited creatures. 

3] The therapist must also have respect and sensitivity to the patient. It is not easy to sit and expose oneself with all of his failings, neuroses, fears and emotional problems. But the patient also has talents and wonderful qualities [many as of yet untapped] that should not be ignored. A good therapist should believe that the person sitting in front of them might need help but he is nevertheless superior to the therapist himself in many ways. When Moshe was chosen by Hashem to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt he said שלח נא ביד תשלח which means [according to the Ramban] that there is nobody on the planet LESS WORTHY than he for the task. If Moshe thought everybody was somehow better than him, we can adopt the same attitude.

4] If it isn't working with this therapist and he was given a sufficient chance - move on. Someone else will have a different approach that might be more effective.

5] No therapist can change you. He can only facilitate change. The actual changing depends on the patient. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? One - but it has to WANT to change. 

6] There is nothing wrong or embarrassing with going to therapy. It just proves that you want to grow and improve the emotional quality of your life. Others are so physically oriented or so complacent and unaware that they don't realize how far they are from true emotional stability. 

7] Remember that the only one who TRULY understands you, can TRULY HELP YOU COMPLETELY, and TRULY loves you is the Ribbono Shel Olam. He doesn't take money, listens for as long as you speak, loves hearing from you and can change everything. Make Him your primary therapist. Learn His Torah and you will discover that [unless there is a serious mental illness] all of the answers are there. Dr. Pelcovitz says that his favorite "psychologist" is Rav Yerucham Levovitz of the Mir yeshiva. Mine is Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz [in his Sichas Mussar].

So by all means - get help. Many therapists are very competent and helpful and deserve great respect. But remember their limitations and remember where all true healing derives from - Above. 

These are some preliminary thoughts I scribbled down but I would be interested in expanding and learning from the thoughts and experiences of others.