Therapy has many drawbacks and limitations; it's sadly not that effective
Earlier in 2023 I had almost entirely made up my mind to let my therapy license lapse and transition into being a full-time life and wellness coach and psychedelic medicine facilitator with an extensive background in mental health and psychology. I decided to keep my therapy license active because I decided that I would rather be a therapist that also does some kind of coaching than a coach with a background in mental health. My style of providing therapy is more of a coaching approach that is also peppered with some mental health diagnosing and some therapy modalities like behavioral interventions and various cognitive approaches including different types of CBT.
Where and why the mental health industry fails
I know the therapy and mental health industry inside and out. Over the years I've frankly become quite disenchanted by it. I know all of its faults and shortcomings. I know where it succeeds and where it fails and I refuse to be a part of those failures. Frankly, I find that most therapists just aren't that helpful or effective. I also find that the mental health industry is both stuck in its ways while simultaneously being led down the wrong path. I believe that in order for a therapist to be effective, they have to break some of the unspoken laws of being a therapist. I just find that the mental health industry in general is dogmatic and stuck in it's ways which is evident by their refusal to acknowledge that therapy isn't nearly as effective as it should be.
The biggest problem I have with the mental health industry is that it's based on a sickness model. It's centered around sickness and mental illness. It doesn't support wellness, it supports sickness. The main reason for this is that insurance companies are the ones signing the checks and they won't sign them unless there is an established diagnosis and a therapy treatment plan that orbits solely on that diagnosis. They can yank funding whenever they want if they don't agree with the diagnosis, feel that the individual no longer meets the criteria for the diagnosis or that therapy hasn't been directly addressing the diagnosis.
There's no diagnosis for wanting to improve one's relationships, one's personal discipline, finding oneself, seeking a life with more connection and fulfillment or increasing one's self-love or self-respect. This is just naming a few things that people might seek from coaching but insurance companies have no interest in supporting you in your pursuit in having a happier, more positive, more connected and more empowered life and so they're going to pay for you to attend therapy if that's what you're seeking. Insurance companies are in the business of sickness. That's it. Sadly, it would seem as though this model and this particular way of providing people with wellness has greatly been dictated this way. Our healthcare system isn't based on prevention or wellness. That's just the sad truth of it.
Why Isn't Therapy Effective?
I recently caught wind of a New York Times article that brings into question the effectiveness of therapy and I've even seen some therapists comment in public spaces about how they don't really believe that therapy is that effective. If you ask me, therapy, as it presents on paper, might be somewhat effective but sadly, many therapists get caught up in some old stale ways of talking to people about their problems that have little to no effectiveness. The mental health industry, as it would seem, is being pulled into a constant debate about whether or not certain mental health issues like depression, anxiety, ADHD and the like are just a part of people like the color of their eyes or their height. There are a lot of people who are accepting this notion without much scrutiny or question and sadly, there are more than enough therapists that are buying into some of the narratives that mental illness is just a part of who you are and that's it, nothing else to see here, moving on. If it's not obvious already, I don't just disagree with this, I think it's harmful.
"The effectiveness of therapist usually depends on how the individual therapist practices"
If you were to go to a therapist for chronic depression, for example, and that therapist told you that depression is just part of who you are, oh well, just learn to deal with it, or what have you... that therapist might be causing some harm or potentially a lot of harm. You might accept their professional opinion as truth when you frankly shouldn't. Therapists should approach each problem and issue with the attitude of growth, change and healing. If they don't take this stance then I would strongly suggest that you avoid going to therapy but more specifically, that therapist. I find that the effectiveness of therapy has a lot more to do with the therapist and how they approach mental health, therapy and the need for change. It's not uncommon for people to go to therapy and feel underwhelmed about the results that they get when there just aren't enough therapists that put their weight into the possibility that things can get so much better for the individual.
The problem with focusing on illnesses
There's a lot of trouble that comes with just focusing on a person's illness. It can honestly cause a bit more harm than good. The biggest issue that I've seen with it is that people can make their mental illness their identity. When you hand out a diagnosis, that person can be attached to that diagnosis and they allow it to be what defines them as a human being. And instead of seeing life through lenses of growth, change and empowerment, they see life through the lens of flaws, defects and limitations. I cannot get behind and endorse any notion that suggests that a mental illness is just part of who a person is like their eye color. This is an ugly and insidious lie.
I've had clients, for example, who insisted on wanting to know whether or not they had something like Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and I had to insist that it wasn't likely going to help them or the situation as I know that people can get entirely attached to something like BPD and then treatment becomes that much more challenging. ADHD and depression are akin to this as well, I've found. Young people these days attach themselves to ADHD and depression as though it's who they are and there's just no helping it.
The challenges with this start to compile when you realize that subconsciously, we all seek and desire a sense of identity. We want to feel like we know who we are and in this modern era, I find this to be an important issue that people need help with as many of us struggle to develop proper ego strength and a sense of identity or self. This is a major therapy issue these days and it's hard to help usher people in a healthy direction when they've shackled themselves to a mental illness as being their primary identity. People would rather be sick than feel like they don't have any sense of identity. They're afraid to be nothing and nobody when honestly, it's not so bad. You get through it.
Is Coaching Helpful?
Coaching is a result-driven approach which is why I had been considering making the change. While I do find some value in talking and processing, it has limiting effectiveness. There's a time to talk and there's a time to put things into action. And while coaching is great in principle and theory, it's not terribly great in practice. I've known some... troubled coaches with troubled lives and troubled practices who were arguably not in a good position to be giving people advice on how to live their lives. But the same is certainly true for therapists and psychologists. I've known plenty of mental health professionals that could give the most dysfunctional clients a run for their money. Getting a good idea of what a coach does, what a coach is supposed to do and why you should hire them in the first place can be a challenge. They really might not be in a good position to be handing out life advice. I know many coaches that pursued this work because they didn't want to go through the trouble of becoming a therapist though that's certainly not the case for all of them. I once knew a coach that had many insights and interesting ideas about life and psychology but this person was an absolute mess. I attempted to encourage this person to really do some difficult and necessary work knowing that when we walk our mile, we have an infinite amount of wisdom to draw from and sadly, this person was resistant to it. The irony was not lost one me.
Sometimes my therapy work has closely resembled coaching. We set goals, evaluate methods and effectiveness and develop a plan for changing habits and developing a higher level of effectiveness. Because I'm trained and experienced with providing various therapy techniques at the same time, it can be a really effective combination. I've also become proficient at understanding obsessive types of behaviors and trauma, big or small so I've found that putting them all together can really help people find the changes that they're wanting in their lives. I see people change, I see them improve and I see them get better. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I know how to help people get better results.
"Mental illness isn't part of who you are, it's not like your eye color. Don't think of it has something that's part of who you are"
I wish I had a title or some kind of name for this combination because I'm honestly a bit proud of this marriage between the best of both worlds. Therapy coach? Life mentor? Soul teacher? Eh, I'll have to keep sleeping on it I guess. What I'm trying to get at here while taking the risk of sounding arrogant is that I know how to change and how to help people change.
If you want to make changes for the better and if you want your life to be better then I would recommend that you do a super deep dive into unpacking what you want and why you want it. I thought I knew what I wanted and in some cases, I knew what I wanted but I wanted them for the wrong reasons which, I've learned, is just as bad as not knowing what you want or pursuing things that only think that you want. Sure, we all want money. But wanting it for the wrong reasons is going to cause you a lot of issues. It can easily become your only priority while your closest relationships fall into a state of decay. Money is something that can and should be used to help enrich the things that matter most such as our closest relationships.
If Therapy and Coaching Had a Love Child
Let's say that you wanted to improve your financial habits or you wanted to improve your level of health and fitness. Yes, coaches can help you set goals and they can help hold you accountable but coaches offer very little in regards to why you do what you do. They're not going to be able to help you with some of the underlying psychology of your existing habits. They won't be able to offer much in terms of helping you bring awareness to some of the beliefs that you might have behind those habits, for example. A good therapist can help you connect the dots with your behavior. If you better understand your psychology, you will have an enhanced ability to change them as I've found over the years that making changes can be a simple matter of establishing a drastically different perspective. I've found that I can help a person change simply by shining a light onto their blind spots.
I also recognize that most therapists aren't going to offer much in regard to setting personal goals. Most of them just want to spend time talking uselessly about nothing or rehashing things from the past or talking at length about emotions which often leaves the client feeling lost, not knowing what to do next. Therapists sometimes aren't the best at helping you develop an effective or working plan.
Therapists aren't always the best at telling you when you're wrong or when you might be the problem. They aren't always the best at calling you out on your own bullsh*t and frankly, they're not always that great at helping you focus on what you have the power to control and/or change. Therapists tend to be caretakers and people pleasers that got into mental health so they could do these things on a professional level. I only know how to be honest. It's not hard to find a therapist that can and will enable your negative cycles and who will keep you stuck and sick. I was surprised to learn earlier this year that the state governors office was conducting a thorough investigation and audit of the mental health professions. It had been determined that the public had filed more complaints against therapists than any other profession. The governor and his staff were concerned that it appeared as though therapists and psychologists were causing more harm to the public than any other profession.
We should expect better from the mental health industry. I advocate for people to be discerning about attending therapy and who they attend it with. Before you attend you should be clear about what you want out of life and where you want to go. You should be able to spend some time within the first two sessions about whether or not a therapist is going to be able to help you get there but don't be surprised if they just want to diagnose you with an illness and focus entirely on that.
In short, I strive to be the kind of therapist that offers whatever it takes to help you grow and to help you change. I prefer to think of myself as a life and transformation coach with an extensive background in mental health counseling. This is as therapy should be so give me a call and let's get you going on the road to healing and wellness.