Good Help is Hard to Find

In her life-changing book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, Alice Miller’s chapter about psychotherapists is titled, “How We Became Psychotherapists.” It is one of the most damning yet potentially enlightening escher2 by you.explorations of the profession that I have read anywhere. It identifies just exactly how lost children are trained by their mothers or fathers to abandon themselves in the service of the parents and are able to so develop their intuitive and other capabilities that they later become excellent healers, confidantes, comforters, advisers, and supporters. “No wonder,” she explains, “they often choose to become psychotherapists later on. Who else, without this previous history, would muster sufficient interest to spend the whole day trying to discover what is happening in other people’s unconscious?” I smile wryly every time I read those sentences, for no truer word has been spoken about the practice of psychotherapy. Miller continues:

But the development and perfecting of this sensitivity—which once assisted the child in surviving and now enables the adult to pursue his strange profession—also contains the roots of his emotional disturbance: As long as the therapist is not aware of his repression, it can compel him to use his patients, who depend on him, to meet his unmet needs with substitutes (8).

Several readers have pointed out the obvious problems of finding competent help when healing is needed. One reason I listed a variety of means of obtaining help yesterday was that I know all too well how difficult it escher3 by you.is to find therapists who aren’t likely to meet their unmet needs by using the client or whose own interpersonal relationships aren’t in shambles. During my practicum and internship as a psychology student, I was surprised to discover just how many therapists were themselves separated or divorced, alienated from their children, or had obvious signs of other interpersonal difficulties in their lives. One hardly cares that one’s dentist has been married twice or that his daughter has run away from home and hasn’t spoken to him in three years: his personal life has little effect on his skills as a dentist. Not so with a psychotherapist, priest, pastor or rabbi to whom one goes for healing one’s relationship problems. You want psychological help from someone who has been successful in his or her own intimate relationships. Even Saint Paul instructed new converts to Christianity to be careful about who they followed, and to “consider the outcomes of their lives” imitating only the worthy.

Certainly, one of the most robust signs of health is when a person outgrows an attitude of resignation or complacency toward being used or abused; in such relationships, the healthiest choice a person can make is to create distance, even when the movement will be away from a spouse, or one’s child. In general, though, as clients we want to look at what a therapist is doing with his or her current relationships. We must ask ourselves, is this the sort of person I’d like to become?

The Goal of Getting Help

The goal of good help is not to heal the past in such a way that it disappears as if it never happened. Rather, it is “to enable the patient both to confront his own history and to grieve over it” (Miller 106). The goal is to render a person free from inner bondages so that one can develop his own best potentialities. The goal is to acquire the tools of healing and the skill to use them so that a person can straighten out her relationship to herself and others.

escher4 by you.The entire goal of being helped is robustly healthy, balanced, and honest relationship to others. It is also to gain an awareness of when others unconsciously manipulate or use contempt or shame to try to control you or get their own needs met. If you can do that after receiving help, you have arrived.

Sadly, all too often wounded people grow up and don’t get true help for themselves. They put band-aids on their gaping wounds or slap an attractive veneer over a psyche no more substantial than cardboard, and they call themselves “whole.” Just remember the old adage that all that glitters is not gold, and look for substance. We know it when we see it; we just don’t always know that we know.

When intelligent wounded people who are lost to themselves grow up without actually dealing with their wounds on anything more than a superficial level (if that), they inevitably find and use dependent others for self-gratification. They keep paying forward that dubious inheritance given them by their own families of origin. The dependent others they use will be their own children, other people’s children, or dependent adults. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of the walking wounded go into helping professions (psychology, social work, nursing, medicine, teaching) or have children—or both.

The particular form of their objectification and use of others depends on what their particular loss was. What appears to be good and loving parenting can be anything but that to the discerning eye, giving the hapless victim the psychic gift that keeps on giving. I have met some of the most unconscious, wound-inflicting and wound-identified people among highly regarded therapists, adoptive and foster parents, birth mother activists, and home schooling mothers than I have met among clients who knew they had a problem. Eventually, it became so unbearable to watch what such people did to their clients or children that I stopped associating with such groups almost entirely. As Buddha said, “Travel only with thy equals or better; if there are none, travel alone.”

Finding Good Help

Although I’ve already stated that a therapist isn’t necessary to recapturing one’s true self, a good therapist can certainly speed one along the way, if only one can be found. I favor depth or analytical psychologists and Jungians, obviously. Failing access to such help (and depth psychologists are hard to find in many areas), I’d settle for an analyst with a psychoanalytic frame of reference—a Freudian or neo-Freudian or some such framework. My reason is that psychoanalysts and analytical psychologists are not only trained to help search for, find, and develop the true self, but also are supposed to be in analysis themselves. They are accountable helpers, and most other types of helpers in the mental health field are not accountable in the same way. I truly believe that the humility required by such psychological accountability is essential to honest practice. I would not settle for less for myself or for anyone whose healing I hoped to support.

escher1 by you.The most typical other sort of therapist one finds is the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or MSW, or the counseling psychologist. If it’s life skills one wants, any of this type of helper will be competent to help if he or she has a degree, completed hands-on training such as an internship or practicum, and has some sort of certification or licensing or works under someone (including an organization) that does.

Much research has been done on the link between professional certification and competence as judged by the consumer. Licensing and certification mean next to nothing, empirically speaking, when it comes to the effectiveness of the professional. I have often thought, in fact, that the introduction of licensing merely increases bureaucracy and gives incompetent professionals a bigger edifice to hide behind. However, with licensing comes the proof of basic competence: an accredited degree, knowledge of the basics in that field, and accountability. I tend to favor licensure or certification or other ways of proving that a helper has at least the fundamentals in a field before hanging out a shingle.

Training and credentials are important, but they do not insure interpersonal competence, good fit, or that a professional will be able to help you successfully reassemble the fragmented, missing, and wounded parts of your true self. Because analytic psychologists and psychoanalytic psychologists (Jungians and Freudians) are required to undergo a rigorous analysis themselves and to maintain an analytic relationship with their own analyst as they render help to others, my personal bet is always on the professional who has to regularly drag his own skeletons out of the closet in addition to helping you drag yours. I would not trust a therapist who didn’t.

Magicians, Shamans, and Other Oddballs

The last group of helpers I would consider if I wanted or needed help would be the non-traditional helpers who, rather ironically, are actually the most traditional helpers of all, if one considers the pre-modern era. By this I mean shamans, energy healers (including energy psychologists), priests, rabbis, psychics, and intuitives of other varieties. I’ve worked with a variety of such folks myself and find that when they come recommended, they have been as reliably helpful as many licensed, certified professionals I know.

Energy psychology is a growing field that is trying to gain legitimacy by offering certification now. I was escher5 by you.undergoing the certification process myself, but finally dropped it because I could not bring myself to depart from my orientation to analytical psychology. I noticed, too, that energy psychology began to devolve into a cluster of techniques rather than training professionals to use the powerfully intuitive, spiritual practices at its roots. Though this evolution is necessary when one wants to certify people and give a field professional legitimacy, it also tends to snuff the life out of its effectiveness. Energy work does have its place, though, and I point it out for this reason. I would certainly consider using an energy psychologist when talk or behavioral therapy were not indicated, as in work with children, one’s own inner child, or in attempts to reclaim missing parts of the true self.

I liked David Rochester’s comment about how difficult it is to find a person with clear inner vision. I think that having clear inner vision, an intuitive gift, a robust spiritual life, and a calling to help heal people all combine to make the best healers. One might find a healer like this in any of the professions I’ve mentioned, or in none of them. When I need help with something, and no one immediate comes to mind, I keep my eyes open and I pray. I search with my mind’s eye daily or regularly, and I hold the intention in my heart, until the helper or the answer appear. And they always do, even if it takes a long time.

Resources

How to Find a Good Therapist

Finding Help,” American Psychological Association

Making Sense of Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

References

Miller, Alice. The Drama of the Gifted Child. New York: Harper Perennial, 1997.

22 responses

  1. Okay, appears like there’s Past Stuff ‘twixt you an the unmentioned commenter. 😀 I am a deep-feeling but light-hearted soul, so yes, please see the wink above, between, and below everything I say.

    So I will be more upfront and quickly add my pov. Solely my own!

    I really enjoyed your post but disagree with all the parts where you mention the personal success of therapists or other’s imperfections. Fortunately for me, I love disagreement (authentic types of course).

    I think my perspective is just very different to your own. I guess I begin with the perception that there is no such thing as perfection. So I imagine that it’s very easy to take two very different paths after that, ay?

    I don’t feel that a therapist needs to have their own life in tact to be useful to clients. In fact, out of personal darkness often comes clarity for OTHERS. Now, don’t misunderstand, I go along with the old, ‘physician heal thyself’, but I’m okay if said physician is tending his/her own wounds as s/he listens to mine. A therapist is not a mentor in my eyes. Now a mentor, yes, I’ll prefer she is more successful in her life than I am in mine, otherwise, why the heck am I after a mentor anyway? But I digress….

    As someone, ahem, recently said, Jesus walked with the scum. As a non-Christian I really dig this about the guy.
    I personally have found much to learn from amongst the ‘worse’ of the imperfects of this world. If nothing else, a reminder that I am no better. That once I begin to differentiate from them because of their imperfections – feeling superior – I am merely confirming my first belief, that I am no better afterall.
    If I feel that a group’s energy is not of benefit to me, then that is MY issue. I own it. Many others have found that swimming in the mud is of benefit to them and to others. I saw this a lot on the streets of Sydney, with ‘street’ preachers, shelter workers and their ilk.
    And try to get a homeless drug-addicted teenager to talk to the squeaky clean therapist and you’ll see them march right out the door. But offer up a tasty ex-addict and middle-of-a-divorce therapist and they drop their defences, enough anyway.

    In my family, we have what are known as curanderas, and similar ‘oddballs’. This is a subjective observation, but I feel that if their lives were too perfect, people would be suspicious of them. Or, they would be revered in some way, as people tend to do. Reverence is not a good thing for certain oddballs, it completely changes/lowers your status.

    Being down in the trenches with the rest of us gives some healers credibility.

    As an empathic person, I see how this colours my bias. A divorced therapist is fine by me when I get around to my own divorce (the latter a joke). I would feel understood. *shrug*

    There you go. And if you could send some chocolate my way that would be very much appreciated.

  2. I am lucky, aren’t I? I always thought, throughout my entire life up until now, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could get paid to sit around and read?” Voila!

    I’m just glad that I know you well enough, I think, to realize that you know blaming someone else won’t really help. That and the little winky face.

    The weird thing about this book is that it’s being published by a publisher who (in part) defines itself as secular humanist…so I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in this book, for the author to proclaim what idiots all these theologians are. But then I see that the author is a professor of scriptural studies at a seminary, so that probably won’t happen 🙂

    Thanks for the offer of brussels sprouts, but I think I’ll stick to my “The Kids Are In Bed So Now I Can Eat All The Chocolate I Want” evening routine.

  3. Heni…. what is it with the synchronicity here? So often someone you read or who reads you will go on a wavelength and you’ll be editing (and thus reading) a book about it?! Wow, woman. It’s almost Twilight Zone-ish.

    I sometimes feel envious that you get to read such interesting books and edit them and get paid for it. I feel sorry for myself then, because I want to be paid to read too. But I’m too lazy to try to do anything about it.

    I’m going to find someone to blame about that so I’ll feel better. ;o)

    To your points, haha. You made *my* head spin! That’s just how it seems to work in so many churches.

    Here’s a wash cloth for your head as you go lie down. I will bring you a nice little bowl of buttered brussels sprouts, too.

    Heee heee heee!!!

  4. You said: “there’s no legitimizing body for church. And yet one can claim to be legitimized by God!”

    You said it, sister. My head is spinning a bit right now because I am proofreading a book about the various splits within the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian movement regarding biblical inerrancy. In other words, did God dictate the Bible and therefore it is all completely true and coherent, or did human beings try their best to write down what God inspired them to write, and therefore probably inserted human error — or are there inherent discrepancies within the actual word of God, and does that simply mean we just can’t (yet) understand God fully, or does it mean God used terminology and concepts understandable by humans at the time of writing but that no longer make sense, or….

    And all these people feel they are completely legitimate! Not to mention the Episcopalians who have just decided to formally split from the Anglican church over gay marriage and ordination of gays. I think I need to go lie down for a while 🙂

  5. Chaz, haha, I loved this line: “Or if he said, “I really am having a hard time grasping that there is a difference between right/wrong or just/unjust so I will become a cop to help me on my own journey”.

    Wonderful! That really puts things into perspective.

  6. Charlotte, wow, I love how your Very Strong Intuition worked for you. I’d like to nab that phrase and start calling it VSI! Nice. :o) It makes me smile.

    Yes, what you said in your last paragraph is the case. I am not against a healer having been wounded; in fact I think it’s unrealistic to expect to find one who has not! We’re human. We hurt. We have been hurt. We have more knowledge now than in the past, but we still unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) hurt others and also are hurt. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t been wounded, really. I do mean that a person should at least have healed enough and have enough knowledge that their biggest wounds are those of the past; that they have grieved them; and that they can readily empathize with others who have similar wounds, but will not be sucked into them and do their clients a disservice.

    You also bring up the rewards of determination. Not only with therapists but also with other service providers, probably many of us have had to search for what we really need, what will meet the need of the moment. I recall a time in my life when I didn’t know how to do that, and when someone taught me how to not settle. In that case, it was about making a simple return of an expensive but unsatisfactory item to a store, but it opened up a whole new vista of possibilities that I hadn’t seen before. I was barely 20 and realized then that there were a lot of things that Mom and Dad hadn’t taught me.

  7. Wow, Eve, great post and as always, some meaty comments and responses. There’s always a lot going on here.

    I’m quite far from my therapy days now, but it took three times for me to finally chime with someone, who happen to be in CBT, and who helped me face my wounds and work out ways to manage them in a few months. Fourteen years later, when an old wound starts aching, I still think of her. I don’t know if my two proceeding therapists had issues they needed to work out via me or not, but I had Very Strong Intuition they were not for me and moved on sharply. Oddly they were both men.

    I have acquaintances and family members in the healing professions and some of them would definitely fit your description of the walking wounded.

    What you make clear here is that the process of choosing a healer to help one is almost as difficult and as loaded as the process of trying to heal itself. In my case, it was touch and go with the first two, but I remain eternally grateful that I found number three.

  8. Thanks for your relfections, Eve. The point you make that I connect with the most is….

    “I don’t blame these professionals for trying to work out their own stuff. But they do all have ethical obligations that are clearly spelled out. If cops started running stop signs and driving on the wrong side of the road, we’d have chaos. The mental health professional is charged with a large responsibility and has a vulnerable clientele, right? ”

    I think the key word in all of this is “Professionals”. Those who hold themselves out as “Professionals” should be held to a standard of capability, behaviour and competence. Otherwise, how could they distinguish themselves from non-Professionals?

    Your analogy of Police running stop signs is perfect. If police do not respect and abide by what they are looked as as Professionals to uphold and deliver, then what is the freakin’ point?

    I am sure it would not make sense or bring comfort to any of us to know that our local Policeman became one because he himself wanted to address his propensity to break the law. Or if we discovered that subconsciously, he chose this career path because of his own tendancy toward lawlessness, it would not be any more comforting. Or if he said, “I really am having a hard time grasping that there is a difference between right/wrong or just/unjust so I will become a cop to help me on my own journey”.

    If this was on his application for the police force, I dare say he would not make it to the academy.

    The same principle would apply to our mental/emotional health professionals. Yet this can all fly under the radar because all one needs to be a mental/emotional health professional is the appropriate credentials and the absence of any severe histor such as criminal record or whatever.

    There are no measurements or indicators of their own mental/emotional/relational health, and frankly, how could this ever be formalized?

    So…. that leaves us, the buying public of mental/emotional/relational support services, with the age-old obligation of ‘buyer beware’.

    Not a clear or simple thing. Especially when our own unhealth and possibly even desperation underlies our need for such “professionals”.

    In AA, we keep it simple. In choosing a “Sponsor” (mentor), never pick someone sicker than yourself. It usually works but not an exact science by any means.

    Great thread Eve!

    Ciao. Chaz.

  9. Hey there,

    I’m de-lurking to say I’ve been skimming for a little while, and recently started reading thoroughly.

    My pov aligns well with Vesper’s, but then I read your 2nd response to her pov and will leave it at that. (You might psychoanalyze me and say I’m rigidly repressed or something, lol)

    Enjoying it, really. 😉

    Eve replies:

    Mon, welcome (I think). Without the winky emote I wouldn’t have known you were being playful. I might have mistaken you for one of Vesper’s friends who has come over to chide me for “psychoanalyzing” her and suggesting she is “rigidly repressed,” neither of which I have actually done, in fact. And to cast your vote for the Vesper team, as if we are choosing sides in elementary school dodge ball, or we’re both running for Psychology Club president.

    So just in case y’all want this to devolve into something other than what it is, which is a discussion, plain and simple, let me clarify some things if for no other person than myself. I feel a need to do that now and then.

    This is my personal blog. It’s not psychoanalysis. But if people comment, I am going to give them my honest, thoughtful response, as full of my true self and as free of my own projections and other crud as I can–unless I’m tired or feeling flippant, in which case I may post something silly or wonky or half-baked. But I will try to keep it real. That’s the first thing.

    Secondly, as far as evaluations go, I checked in with myself and asked myself if I was doing OK, and myself told me I was. As well, 8 of 10 readers give me a four-star (out of five) rating. So I’d be like the hotel that offers those huge, fluffy, white bath towels but no robe on the back of the door. ;o) You get what you pay for, what can I say?

    Third, did I mention that this is my personal blog and I’m not available for being the target of other people’s projections, assumptions, attacks, or other neurotic behaviors that arise out of childhood or other pains and abuses dealt to them by parents, teachers, school bullies, older siblings, mall Santa Clauses, the neighborhood pedophile, or terrible therapists? So when someone comes along and uses what I’ve written as a soap box, a whipping boy, or a vantage point for sniping, sure, I’m going to comment on that. It’s a dishonest use of what someone wrote if a person won’t admit from the outset “I have a personal stake in this.”

    I will give you a recent example and then I’ll let you do what you want with my response. I recently read a friend’s blog, and she was commenting about a law that was passed that restricts artistic freedom by classifying it as possibly pornographic as it depicted children or youth. Something about the discussion thread bothered me, and so I commented. The first thing I said is something along the line of my having a personal interest in this as a mother. I then stated my interest and made my biased statement. As the dialogue continues, I will continue to state my bias. I will continue to state where I have doubts. I’ll continue to state where I’m fuzzy and I won’t blame it on the author of the blog, who has her own reasons for being interested in this topic, reasons which aren’t my business. However, since she posted about them publicly, I may indeed make them my business. But it will be up to both of us to get to know one another or not as we wish, based on how we conduct ourselves as we differ and yet share our unique perspectives. She has her stuff, I have mine. We may share our stuff over coffee or over our mutual blogs; but I am pretty sure we each know where one of us ends and the other begins, and there’s an air of mutual respect and fondness between us. She is willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, and vice versa.

    This is what I hope for in dialogues on this blog. From time to time things don’t go that way, for whatever reason. I don’t have a problem with honest disagreement, and I get a lot of disagreement with a lot of my perspectives. What I do have a problem with is people who say “I mean well” but don’t; and people who say “I am aware, I see” but can’t see that they are blindly crashing about into others and even hurting them; and people who tell me who I am and foist their own projected, hated, selves onto me or who mistake me for the person who drove their real selves out of Eden. I am not that person. I’m me, and I’m doing what I can every day to stick with that person. She is all I have. And if you or anyone else doesn’t like it, well, take a hike. There are plenty of fake people out there who will kiss your ass or Vesper’s because they want to appear all good, nice, sweet, kind, wise and otherwise admirable. Who have a stake in being liked, acceptable, or whatever it is that makes people become and remain appeasers, especially to strong-willed folk who like to throw themselves against others like battering rams.

    I don’t go for that. I am more like that Del Griffith character in “Trains, Plains, and Automobiles” who after Steve Martin’s vituperative attack on every aspect of his personality and habits finally says,

    “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.”

    So comment or don’t, as you wish. But make it about you, not Vesper or someone else. I’m not going to triangulate with you. And I am always only going to offer only what I have, which is myself.

  10. Hmm…maybe it’s an issue of trust. There’s no legitimizing body for church (unless you consider seminary training and the like): you just have to trust and like your clergy personally I guess. Same with homeschooling: there was an article in the local paper today that a state representative wants to change Idaho law to make parents register as homeschoolers and to be more accountable. This was based on (apparently) a few terrible situations with grade school children not having basic skills after homeschooling, so clearly it’s alarmist and not based on much data. In Idaho, you simply homeschool, and there’s no tracking or state involvement of any kind after that.

    New York evidently has a good balance: you need to more or less teach the same things that the state does, but the reporting is not onerous and there is a good amount of latitude in terms of freedom of curriculum choice.

    I think parents would need to be able to demonstrate that they are acting in their child’s interests and not simply being neglectful. That sounds balanced to me.

    Eve replies:

    True, there’s no legitimizing body for church. And yet one can claim to be legitimized by God! Something about this strikes me as funny (as in, “I started laughing!”).

    My state has a constitutionally protected right to home school. Now that’s something. ;o) However, parents must school the same number of days as the public schools, teach the same or similar content, and document their teaching plans, attendance, etc. But I have never heard of a state official ever checking up on home schooling parents. It’s possible, then, to say you’re home schooling in my state but to in fact do nothing.

    This little sidestep into this topic reminds me that one of my daughters encountered a home schooling family at church one year. They taught their children using only the Bible as a text book. Yes, that’s right: their ONLY text book was the Bible. They taught every single subject from the Bible.

    I couldn’t believe my ears.

  11. Marian, welcome! I appreciate your comments, and visited your blog. The film you linked to, about the psychologist who hears voices, was fascinating.

    I took your comment about the Jungian analyst to be what it was, which was a testimony to your intuitive knowledge of what will be helpful and who will be able to help. There are analysts who get training and then do not continue with analysis because there are no other Jungians nearby. And just having analysis isn’t a guarantee, is it? Jung made some huge mistakes as an analyst (such as having an affair with one of his colleagues, for instance), which he later admitted. He was seeing clients at the time! Poor fellow.

  12. I read your article with interest as an Energy Healer with a very specific method of Healing.

    This is essentially what is done for you at the Spiritual or Energy Level during a Human Energy Assessment Release Treatment, HEART Energy Healing.

    A simple Kinesiology technique is used to identify, and assess any negative disturbances or blocks within your Human Life Energy Fields. All Life Programs and experiences are stored within your Aura, which is part of your Soul; this is from the time of your Creation until the present.

    A Disturbance or Block within your Human Life Energy Fields causes a defective program to run which eventually manifests in the Physical Body and or Mind thus creating an imperfection that is a malfunction of our created perfection. Any mental disorder or impairment, any form of physical imperfection, sickness or disease, is a manifestation of these defective programs caused by a Disturbance or Block within your Aura.

    Once the original cause is identified, the treatment is to remove or release these negative disturbances or blocks. This is a process; to change or remove the original cause; and the learned negative association or meaning; from this negative learning to a positive one.

    This new positive association and learning is then updated from this original incident to the present and into the future. The benefit for you is that this particular incident will never again be the cause, to run this defective program, and your Spiritual Side will be restored to perfection.

    You’re Physical and mental healing will also take place very rapidly, unless the damage to your physical body is so advanced, that the body’s natural healing ability cannot repair the damage.

    In recognition of the view in your article we have taken the step to offer a money back guarantee so people can judge the results for them selves without risk.

    Perhaps if all practitioner offered this guarantee then those unable to give satisfactory results during the first consultation would soon be out of business; leaving only the competent.

    With Love
    Ian Stone – Founder of HEART Energy Healing System,
    Human Energy Assessment Release Treatments
    Metaphysical Institute
    Metaphysical Institute Blog

  13. I just came across your blog today, through your latest comment at Gianna’s blog. So far, I’ve only read this one post (and I’ll certainly have a closer look at the archives), but this alone would make it to my blogroll.

    Chaz suggests above that we’re looking for help “when we are hurt and desperate”, and “can be least objective and rational”, why we then would risk to end up with helpers who (ab)use us. Instead of being true helpers/healers.

    My own experience is that I actually am somewhat better at sensing who might be of help to me when I am hurt and desperate, than I am under “normal” circumstances. Under “normal” circumstances I can put up with other’s woundedness/narcissism, and I have rather little need to employ my “sixth sense” for “vampires”. Not so when I’m in crisis.

    Years ago, friends of mine recommended I saw a certain Jungian analyst. Already during the initial phone call to get an appointment it felt wrong to me. I went there anyway, thought I couldn’t just dismiss her because of an obscure feeling I had from a two-minute-conversation on the phone. I should have listened to my obscure feeling. In hindsight, the obscure feeling was caused by her simply not being able of or not interested in (who knows?) listening to me, “seeing” me. – Don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely not to discredit Jungian analysts/therapists! It’s just to say that neither an orientation towards Jung nor being an analyst necessarily and always is a guarantee for quality.

    A good four years ago, going through another crisis, I decided to give it one more try, and since I had no friends to recommend anyone (having none of my closer friends living nearby being the reason why I thought, I would have to pay someone for listening to me), I chose completely at random from the phone book, and ended up with a therapist specialized in CBT. While I had no idea what CBT was, nor actually cared much at the time, a two-minute-conversation on the phone was sufficient to tell me that this person was just the ticket. And she was.

    Objective and rational thought is fine, but I think, it isn’t enough, and it is indeed widely overestimated in our culture. Intuition to me is, at least, as important. While objective and rational thought repeatedly has misled me, my intuition never has. Rationality and objectivity would at any time make me prefer a Jungian analyst to a (Freudian) CBT therapist – if there were only these two options. Actually, today I’d prefer a humanistic/transpersonal approach. Simply because I don’t agree to the pathologizing of crisis that, as I see it, is more or less a matter of course both in most psychological specialities and in psychoanalysis, and that I experienced as being extremely disempowering and painful. – The overall brilliance aside, the CBT-therapist also was just a human being, conditioned by her professional training to look for unmistakably expressed “insight”, like in “Yes, I’m thinking differently from how most people do think. And yes, it’s sort of schizophrenic.” While I think, the mere fact that I asked for help should have counted as “insight” enough. But that of course was only being insightful in regard to having a problem with myself and the world I was living in. Not in regard to being diseased…

    Last but not least, therapy helped me to re-establish an “I”, an ego-identification. But from thereon I was on my own in my attempt to go beyond it and find my true self. Luckily, therapy didn’t freeze me in the re-established ego-identification, as I see it all too often does with others.

    I think, the decisive quality that makes someone a good therapist is a certain amount of self-awareness, gained by overcoming the narcissistic fear of facing one’s own issues, one’s own imperfection. Professional training, no matter how advanced, can’t replace this. But it can be (mis)used to replace it. While self-awareness alone, without any advanced professional training, sometimes can be of great help, as, among other similar approaches, Soteria has shown.

  14. I was grossly traumatized by a Freudian analyst who was extremely well regarded at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute…

    I found a Jungian many years later much more to my liking, though I have to say I think that Freudian spoiled me for therapy.

    I find my teachers as you say, in friends, and authors and right now I’m talking with a shaman…who I will work with only a handful of times over a several month period.

    I see you as a teacher as I’ve said in an email.

    I’ll share the link to a post I did on my Freudian analyst. I warn you there is bad language and I was much angrier than I am now when I wrote it. I believe I’ve let go of her hold on me now in large part.

    http://bipolarblast.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/repost-my-experience-with-traditional-freudian-psychoanalysis/

    I continue to read all your posts. I rarely feel I can contribute because in general I am simply moved in some deep way that has no words.

    Eve replies:

    Gianna, reading your post was a sobering reminder of the risks to which a professional can expose a client. I would have had worse language had that happened to me. ;o)

    I have had a couple of experiences with other professionals that spoiled me, too. I can’t say I ever had a client who left similarly bad memories. Now, isn’t that strange?

  15. This is a bit off topic but your comment about how “energy psychology began to devolve into a cluster of techniques rather than training professionals to use the powerfully intuitive, spiritual practices at its roots. Though this evolution is necessary when one wants to certify people and give a field professional legitimacy, it also tends to snuff the life out of its effectiveness.”

    This is pretty much the exact feeling that people have about certifying Waldorf teachers. My husband struggled to work with the state to maintain accreditation for the Waldorf teacher training BA/MA program at his last employer, and it was a struggle because people just resisted what they felt was excessive structure and lack of creative freedom in complying with state requirements.

    I wonder how we can find balance in this? Rudolf Steiner talked about the two adversaries (roughly corresponding to Lucifer and Satan in the Bible): Lucifer being the one who wants us to eschew the earth and wallow in fantasy and illusion, while Ahriman wants us to become overly earthly and wallow in materialism. Jesus is the paradigm of the human being in balance between these two.

    So how do we maintain the spiritual side, the “intuitive, spiritual practices” you mention, while still legitimizing ourselves within the world around us?

    Eve replies:
    Interesting question, and I don’t have a satisfying answer. My first impulse, though, was to answer that this may well be what religion/the church are for. The church has a lot of protections and liberties against state involvement. It’s unfortunate that there’s not a similar sort of parallel liberty for non-church spiritual means of healing that do not qualify as religious or church-based. That and the Native American sovereignty and protections come to mind.

    Home schooling has in many places in the country undergone more and more control and legitimizing too. I worry that eventually a person will have to be licensed in order to school his/her own children!

    Do you have ideas?

  16. This post was extremely interesting to me, particularly in light of my last comment on the previous post, about what I meant when I said that I think I have unrealistic standards for people who are in potentially healing positions toward me. I still think that’s true, but I also agree with what you’ve said here regarding therapists, in particular.

    I have had several psychologists and psychiatrists as clients, and was appalled at how they conducted their personal lives, seemingly with no awareness of how irrational and just plain nuts they were. There is no way they could model healthy behavior to their clients with any degree of integrity. Even without inappropriate self-disclosure in session, those dysfunctions are bound to leak out as unhelpful countertransference.

    People who are healers have to be held to a different and higher standard, I think. That’s how they get to be called healers … they’ve healed themselves first, and so they know how to guide and help others. One thing that struck me about my current therapist was her explanation of how she handles her high-risk clients; she said she had spent years doing her own work and getting through her own pain and weak spots so that she could hold her clients’ trauma in a safe and neutral space without being triggered by it, and without having an ego-based need to fix it or assuage it immediately.

    This is in stark contrast to my previous therapist, who started to cry after I told her about my college experience. That was someone who had not done her own work, and her reaction was very damaging to me. I know she was a kind, intelligent person; she thought very highly of me, and she meant well. But that didn’t really matter, as far as what I needed her to do for me.

    Eve replies:

    Integrity… that’s the word. Thank you!

    We’re on the same page, so I couldn’t have put it better than you did in your third paragraph here, about the higher standard for healers. So I particularly like the way your therapist respectfully handled this issue with you. Nice.

  17. Here are various thoughts that arose after reading your response:

    Jesus and Buddha were both known to hang out with the “imperfects”. They genuinely befriended them, loved them, and did not merely pity them. They BEFRIENDED the beggars, the prostitutes, and the ‘unclean’. They were like them. Buddha gave up the ‘perfect life’ in pursuit of something else.

    The lotus comes up through the mud. The mud is the filth that feeds the beauty and purity of the white lotus blossom. After the blossom opens, it does not reject the mud. It is a mutual and long-standing EMBRACE. No judgment. It just IS.

    That is perfection — accepting and honouring the darkness, and allowing it to strengthen the whole. There cannot be light without dark, and vice versa.

    Only another TRULY accepting human can help another human accept themselves. Perfection in this regard, is not necessary. We all just want to be loved and told that we are ok. If we always have this GRAND IDEAL to follow, we will never amount to much of anything. Iris Murdoch has some very powerful things to say about this… The grand ideal, the Grand Poison of the Mind.

    I have read that the devil is merely another side of god.

    What else is perfection but to be what one truly is? To be TRUE, and not always be striving to be something ELSE? Just resting as one is at this moment can do a hell of a lot to clear up so much trauma. If this becomes practice (as in ritual), all the better. It doesn’t always have to be so difficult. Not everything is a giant riddle.

    I am ALL for growth and development, but living for some untouchable perfection sans putrifaction is…illusory. I believe this is one of the main themes behind the film *I Heart Huckabees*…?

    It’s a very complicated and burdensome state of mind to always be in the mode of evaluating the moral state of another human being. If we are doing this with every single person we encounter, we will forever be burdened by their imperfections (while at the same time ignoring our own). Imperfection is beautiful and is part of growth.

    Eve replies:

    Vesper, I see that you are very attached to your point and to your need to have your perspective be the right perspective. “Right” is a moral decision. I have to smile a little when you seem so irritated by my supposed moral judgments against the hapless divorced therapist, when you’ve already interjected your own moral standards into the discussion. As I said before, I think you have a personal issue here that has nothing to do with what I’ve written, but was still triggered by what I wrote.

    That you so doggedly stick to your perspective is fine with me. Good luck with that, and I hope you’ll let us know how your perspective is working for you as you walk it through. :o)

  18. I did my homework and it made me cry. Made me think too.

    Eve replies:

    Geez, Deb, I keep making you cry. I feel I should apologize, but then on the other hand I think about all the needs we have to grieve our past losses and I can only say, keep going and I’m sorry for your pain, and *hugs*.

  19. Holy cow Eve…. you have said a mouthful.

    To keep my reply relevant and concise, I will simply address the point you make about therapists who, themselves, have unaddressed personal problems or things to heal from.

    I have had a couple of experiences with this. At the time, I was so desparate for help, I was willing to overlook some conspicuous indicators of dysfunction in these people.

    The first was a marriage counselor my wife of the time and I went to. First off, the guy was late for our first appointment. With no apology or explanation of why. Second, he was obese. Now with all due respect to the overweight population, I need to say something about this. This is not necessarily an indication of any deep problem. Or it could be medically related to metabolism or thyroid or whatever.

    However, this guy, upon getting to know him, I learned that he had always been the awkward dorky fat kid in school and in the neighbourhood. There were other indicators that suggested that his obesity was a sign of something deeper.

    The part of your post where you mention some thereapists looking “meet their own unmet needs by using the client” brings starkly to mind this therapist. The guy was completely ineffective. I later learned that some of his colleagues in the field referred to him as a “divorce mill”. His advice to us was ridiculous and was like asking a suicidal person to hold a loaded gun.

    I do not blame him for the demise of my marriage. His “professional” efforts however did not help. They hurt. The marriage we brought him to help us save ended. There was far more to it than just bad advice by a psychologist/counselor, but again, his input was meaningless in terms of any help to our situation.

    I had another experience where a Psychiatrist, who came accross to me as an Intellectual Snob, made the most ridiculous prescription. I am a cocaine addict. I am not active in this addiction and nor was I when I saw this psychiatrist. At a down time in my life in dealing with my divorce (over which I picked up the coke habit), he prescribed to me a narcotic sedative. This particular sedative is known to trigger relapses in cocaine addicts…. and others.

    Yet he was quick to whip out the prescrip pad and send me on my merry way with a veterinary grade dose of this stuff. That of course, being prone to addiction, I took in abundance to get maximum effect.

    This guy never took time to get to know me. And frankly, in todays world of substance abuse, him not knowing that giving me this stuff was like spiking my drink and being surpised when after a first drink, I wanted to continue.

    Yet, the chaos that ensued as a result of the medically induced relapse was so severe, that it forced me to seek out other help for my addiction and gladly, that was years ago and I remain clean to this day. Better yet, I am recovering. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally, and financially. It is awesome.

    Very little of what these professionals did for me has made much of a difference. Yet I have worked with some professionals since who have made a big difference. My current counselor is described perfectly in what you mention their roll should be … “to enable the patient both to confront his own history and to vieve over it”…. with the goal of freeing from inner bondages.

    Anyway…. I concur completely that good help is hard to find. The sad thing is that most of us look for help when we can be least objective and rational in choosing our helpers… meaning we look mainly when we are hurt and desparate.

    I still believe that value can come from all things though. A mark of maturity and growth to me is the ability to learn from those you do not necessarily fully like or agree with. And in this way, they have helpped.

    Ciao. Chaz

    Eve replies:

    Wow, Chaz, thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry you had them, but not surprised. To lend some balance to what I’ve said, in addition to thinking that we ought to try to be better consumers of mental health services, I’ll also add that I realize that we all work out our own salvation, so to speak, throughout our daily lives. We’ll do it in our profession, in our families, and in our friendships, etc. Wherever we need to. I don’t blame these professionals for trying to work out their own stuff. But they do all have ethical obligations that are clearly spelled out. If cops started running stop signs and driving on the wrong side of the road, we’d have chaos. The mental health professional is charged with a large responsibility and has a vulnerable clientele, right?

    Your experience with the psychiatrist is such a good case in point. (Good example of the worst blunder.) Let’s give yet another substance to a substance abuser. Yes, he may have been self medicating; but we don’t know that for certain after one visit or even a few. Let’s find out what happens when our client is sober and receives compassionate care from a person who can hold his hand, so to speak, as he goes on his journey of healing. Maybe he does have a problem requiring medication; but probably not. Yet it’s so much easier to write the prescription.

    Your second to the last paragraph is priceless and bears repeating: those most in need of help “can be the least objective and rational in choosing our helpers.” Not due to one’s own fault, but due to the vulnerability of coming in a weakened state from childhood.

  20. I have read in countless books by therapists and for those who are seeking therapy and self-help, that divorce is, in many occasions, the result of self-knowledge. It is not necessarily a bad thing. I think when two people are honest with themselves and each other, they might realize that their relationship is no longer helping them move forward…it’s no longer helping them reach their full potential. For some, their full potential means living in a relationship that lasts a lifetime. For others, their full potential means having many relationships, or spending long periods of time alone. Being in a secure relationship doesn’t always mean happy/healthy. Problems can fester just below the surface in so many “stable” and “happy” marriages.

    Also, as a fan of the opposites and embracing both sides of every coin, I don’t believe in perfect balance or perfect happiness or any kind of end point. Everything is always cycling. In Taoist words, happy is not just happy, it is happy-becoming-sad; and sad is never just sad, it is sad-becoming-happy. I do believe in finding contentment, regardless of what’s going on in one’s life.

    So, if a therapist is going through problems…they are merely human. They are avid thinkers and complex individuals. They are sure to have issues like everyone else. They can never be 100% aware…as they are not gods.

    Eve replies:
    Vesper, thanks for sharing your perspective. Obviously, I have a different one this time. For instance, to address what you wrote about not believing in “perfect balance,” two sides of a coin can be balance. Yin-Yang is balance. It appears to me that, though you perceive what expresses wholeness and balance, you interpret it as something else. This is a difference in perception, and may I say that I doubt your perception? Though you’re certainly entitled to it, I characteristically and somewhat devilishly want to ask you to consider what Terrible Thing It Would Mean if there *were* perfect balance, or if perfect happiness actually did exist? Do you have some rule against balance or perfection?

    I do believe in balance and wholeness, in end points and beginning points, and in cycles as well as stillness. Our paradigms must be very different. My beliefs do arise out of Christianity, where “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13), and where “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). There is an abiding archetype of wholeness all throughout the Bible, and also through analytical and psychoanalytic psychology. Obviously, having adopted such world views, I see them in a positive light.

    You do bring up something interesting, though, that I’ll comment on: perfection as in a more sinister light (so to speak). There can be a neurotic expression of perfection. Karen Horney wrote in depth and beautifully about this in several of her works, my favorite of which is “Neurosis and Human Growth.” There is a sense in which the drive for perfection is desperately neurotic. Someone who had lived with that sort of neurosis would certainly not consider a false sort of perfection as anything to be desired.

    Still, I’m in pretty good company, along with Jesus and Buddha, anyway, in believing in balance and perfection of some kind. Buddha taught a perfection of wisdom. This is a philosophical, spiritual, and religious question that we won’t be able to settle here, that’s for sure! But you certainly make some good points.

    I suspect that there is something personal about what you’ve written here as it relates to divorce, my friend, as I wasn’t writing about “self-knowledge” as something that leads to divorce, or divorce as a growth experience, or divorce as a good thing, or divorce per se at all. I was writing about getting good help in one’s search for the true self, the proof of which is characterized by good relationships with oneself and others. A therapist who hasn’t managed to keep a marriage together during the tenure of his or her practice as a clinician can be said to have had too poor a relationship with the spouse to sustain the commitment and intimacy of marriage. Divorce appears to be one sign of many other possible signs that a therapist isn’t whole him- or herself when his or her personal relationships are falling apart; the question is worth asking, and the answer worth listening to.

    Along this same line of reasoning and getting the best use of my dollar as a consumer of professional services, I also would not, for example, use an accountant who had been indicted for tax evasion or who had failed to file his or her own income taxes, or use a financial planner who wasn’t solvent, or expose myself or my loved ones to a variety of other similar risks. If a person wants to become wise, he or she seeks wise counsel; put another way, as Saint Paul wrote, “run in such a way that you may win.” I think that people whose true selves have been wounded and fragmented need exceptional care, and the last thing I would want to do is encourage them to accept that old saw “I’m only human.” This very excuse has been used ad nauseum by parents who excuse themselves for the utter violation of their own children.

    I’m sorry, Vesper, but I just don’t see it your way when it comes to choosing a therapist. If you’re willing to take a risk like that with your own growth, by all means you’re certainly justified. I simply wouldn’t make that choice myself or advise others to do it. I couldn’t care less if my butcher, baker, or doctor are divorced, though (and I thought I had said as much… maybe using a dentist as an example?). Hopefully that makes sense; and thank you for your comment, even though we don’t agree.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: