Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First official rant

Officially, this is my first rant: I'm tired of cleaning up behind other professionals.

Some therapists are very good at some issues, and should stay out of other issues. Just because they have a license doesn't mean that they should offer their services in areas in which they have limited experience or no real education. And I don't want to hear that old salt about, "Gee, how else are they supposed to get experience, if they don't practice on whomever comes through their office door?" Oh, please. They can't just read a book and then decide that they're an expert. Or take one class and change their business card to reflect this new expertise.

Okay, so, how do you get experience doing something new? Take several classes AND read several books AND go to a few conferences, and if any of those learning experiences are credible, then the therapist should have the opportunity to participate in roleplays, watch roleplays, talk with actual professionals, and develop some skills. At a minimum, they should inform their new/prospective client that they have limited experience in that issue and not charge their new client(s)---or volunteer at a community clinic and receive supervision while volunteering.

Why do I care? Because I'm tired of cleaning up behind so-called professionals, who may not do harm (unless you consider lost years in one's life harm), but don't do any good either. And, then, there are those who actually do harm by establishing expectations of what therapy is and will be. Case in point, the woman who came to me after three previous therapy experiences: the first therapist used to pour a drink for the both of them while they had session (did I mention that she was an alcoholic?); the second one spent their time talking about his personal issues in the guise of teaching by example; and the third one slept with her. At least one of those therapists committed a criminal act (sex with a patient is NEVER okay!); one should have been reported and punished (drinking? during a session? with an alcoholic client? seriously!); and the over-talker needed to take a couple of good therapy classes and remember that therapy isn't about showing how brilliant you are, or how well you manage your own life, it's about helping the patient discover him or herself (and to discover how well s/he can manage his or her own life).

And, then, there are those therapists who think that grief counseling and grief therapy are no different than whatever kind of therapy they ordinarily do. For example, if she is a cognitive behaviorist, she simply addresses grief with the same techniques that she uses for cog-b therapy. Agh! Talk about compounding the problem! Grieving people need sensitivity, warmth, inclusion, and psychoeducation, not techniques, and certainly not emotional distance. They need someone who will explore the deeper meaning of the loss, uncover the ancient or multiple losses glomming onto the current loss, and who will (figuratively) hold their hand throughout the grieving process. Instead, they get no real help, and I see them years later when their lives are approaching the sunset years and the former years cannot be recaptured.

There are no do-overs for decades lost to grief. And, certainly, no do-overs for dreams, ideals, hopes, and love lost. So, please, therapists, stay in your areas of true expertise and leave grief to the true grief experts. And, consumers, BEWARE. Ask about specialized training, years of experience, where they earned their experience, what special certifications they may have, their philosophy of grief therapy, and their usual style of therapy (humanistic, cog-b, Jungian, etc.), and then go to TherapyDirectory.com and look up the style of therapy so that you understand it. You wouldn't do less if you were looking for a heart surgeon, would you? You owe your psychological future at least as much. Just a thought.

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