On one of the major social network sites there is a thread running at the moment – it has been running for 4 months in fact – based on a simple question “What is the best way to treat phobia?” In fact, there is far more to the original question than would appear at first but let’s just stay with the question in its base form. It has elicited 114 replies, including one from me, and still has currency on the site with comments coming in daily. What is striking – some would stay staggering – is the degree of ignorance shown in the responses, all of which come from Psychologists, Psychotherapists or Counsellors. The ignorance is not in terms of a model of treatment or in the therapists’ confidence in applying their particular skills to the problem, but in the “I’m right and you’re wrong” way they have approached it. Of the 114 responses there are well over 30 different therapies promoted as “the only way to treat phobia”. these include, in no particular order:
- HUMAN GIVENS
- REALITY THERAPY
- SYSTEMATIC DESENSITISATION
- TIME LINE THERAPY
- RAPID RESOLUTION THERAPY
- BEHAVIORAL ACTIVATION
- PSYCHIC HEALING
- THOUGHT FIELD THERAPY
- PRIVATE SUBCONSCIOUS HEALING
By the end of it, I’m quite surprised we haven’t also heard from proponents of homeopathy, dowsing, reiki, Hopi ear candles, reflexology or others in the same vein.
My own response was howled down by 2 psychologists; I had said “The only effective therapy will be one that is congruent with the patient/client. Everybody seems to want to promote “their” approach, but in fact we should all know by now that the evidence shows that many therapies can be equally effective so long as the chosen modality is firstly congruent with the client and secondly congruent with the therapist’s training and professional competence. I do agree completely that the client must have realistic expectations, be motivated, be available and trust the programme.” I carefully avoided suggesting that one therapy was “The Best”. The replies centred around a view of me and people who think like me that can be summed up by one psychologist who clearly thinks he’s in a war zone: “a bunch of talking heads with no hearts. These folks then do most of the studies that are preached from while the real healers are out in the trenches healing quietly” In fact, the person who wrote that is by far the largest single contributor of comments to the thread. It was so interesting to see on his website that he has written several articles on Narcissism – who says Americans have no sense of irony?
What was so depressing was the way in which so many of the respondents sold their snake-oil remedies with no concept of the person on the receiving end – and it so often was a receiving end rather than a collaborative effort – turning therapy into a battlefield for credibility and hence, presumably, income.
For a person who has a phobia the problems can be enormous or in fact can be trivial – some phobias only emerge in extremely rare situations, so as not to interfere with daily living, whereas others go to the heart of how a person lives life. What saddens me is that access to good effective therapy is extremely limited and clients don’t normally have the resources to work their way through 30 different therapies to find the one that fits. Whilst the psychologists bicker, the phobic clients suffer. Everyone is ill-served by a profession that is so enmeshed in internecine warfare.
Looking at the history of psychotherapy, since its earliest identifiable days, it has been typified by schism. A group of therapists are like stem cells – they will divide and divide, going on to produce things that are in no way like their starting point and often with no relation to each other. The trouble is they don’t create a functional organism but rather a series of disparate warring factions who look for opportunities to diss each other’s therapies.
It seems to me that the best collective noun for a group of psychologists is ‘An Arrogance’