The Emperor Needs to Admit He’s Not Always Right

I have to say that my all time favorite story when I was a little kid was The Emperor’s New Clothes, not Where the Wild Things Are or The Cat in the Hat. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that when I was very small, nudity made me giggle. Mostly, I think this tale fascinated me because, in the end, a child is the one who points out that the Emperor is naked. Also, I believe that even as a kid, I suspected that people could easily fall for deception if you told it to them in just the right way. Maybe I’m giving myself way too much credit. After all, around that same time, my favorite tv show was The Hollywood Squares, despite the fact that I had no idea what the jokes were about or the answers to any of the questions!

Today I read a snarky comment online that was written in response to a blog about Psychotherapy, which reminded me of the story about the Emperor who got nothing for his money but a lesson in vanity. This disparaging post (I’ll paraphrase) stated that therapy is merely “paying thousands of dollars to a shrink to be told the obvious.” The implication being that the therapist gets rich, while the client gets nothing. Within this same post was a reference to being given pills, so I’m guessing this person has also been prescribed medication for a mental health issue at some time in his/her life-or knows someone who has. I’m sad to say that I have read similar posts before.

If this person has received therapy and medication, yet feels as though there was no benefit, I am truly sorry to hear it.

It’s also quite possible that they are simply expressing their opinion, based on hearsay. Certainly everyone has the right to their own opinion. One of my all time favorite quotes is, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The thing is, I think this person’s message is very harmful, and here’s why.

First of all, as those of us in Central Florida who’ve ever worked in the hospitality industry know, people are much more likely to take the time to complain about bad service than to rave about good service. I’m not saying that there aren’t bad therapists out there. Of course there are. Indeed, there are bad dentists, bad assistant principals and bad sales clerks, too. There are also fantastic, well trained therapists out there (and here at LSRG) who truly help people. For every person posting diatribes online about how therapy doesn’t work, there are a great many people who are living the life they always wanted because of the work they did in therapy.

Additionally, it’s very likely that someone reading a blog about a topic like depression is doing so for personal reasons. Perhaps they or someone they know (a spouse, friend or family member) is suffering from what seems like depression. They may read the blog and feel encouraged, especially when they read about the efficacy of therapy. Then they scroll down and start reading the commentary and are discouraged from seeking help because of something written by a person with a negative bias toward Psychotherapy or antidepressants. People who are depressed already feel helpless and hopeless. It can be very difficult to make the decision to seek counseling and to place that initial phone call to make an appointment. I shudder to think that someone’s mind could be needlessly poisoned by one angry, anonymous rant, before they ever give therapy a chance.

Also, it’s important to realize that most people don’t like to go around bragging about how great therapy is and/or how much they’ve improved because of the meds they’re taking. They don’t say, “You know, I was completely lost and about to give up hope of ever being happy, when I decided to seek professional help. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t change over night. There were stops and starts along the way. It was a process-one that I had to pay for with my time, money and personal effort. However, it was so worth it. I learned how to be myself and make choices that honor me. Everyone who knew me before says that I’m a new person. Some of those people are no longer in my life, which is for the best. I highly recommend counseling to everyone. I wish I had done it sooner. Call my Therapist. Here’s her number.” People tend to keep private their counseling experiences.

Finally, for some reason Psychology appears to be held to a much higher standard than any other medical profession. You don’t hear of people with heart disease refusing to go back to their doctor if they have another stroke or heart attack. They don’t stop taking their vasodilators or blood thinners, because they don’t like the side effects or decide that they don’t need them anymore. If the worst happens and they succumb to their disease, their family members don’t swear off doctors, hospitals and medication for life. They don’t search the internet for positive articles and blogs about cardiology just so they can post comments about what a scam internal medicine is and how it doesn’t help people.

Mental health is to be cultivated, expanded and maintained, just like physical health. Sometimes we become unhealthy in our thoughts, feelings and actions. When we do, it may be necessary to seek out professionally trained Therapists to help us regain our good health. Just as cardiologists have patients who respond well to treatment and are willing to make changes for the sake of their physical well being, we as Therapists have clients who do likewise for the sake of their mental well being. Psychotherapy is not a scam. It is a highly researched and rigorously tested field, full of caring, competent professionals.

Those who have not yet benefited from therapy, please give it another try. Perhaps your previous Therapist was not a good fit for you. At the very least, I implore you to stop posting comments which may prevent another human being from reaching out for much needed support in a time of great crisis. I know you wouldn’t want anyone to continue to suffer needlessly, based solely on your opinion. After all, the whole reason the Emperor in the fable got into such an embarrassing mess was because he refused to admit he may not know all the answers.

I’ve heard it said that most people become Therapists because at some point in their lives they were struggling and were able to benefit from working with a Therapist. I think that’s probably true. I know it is for me. Contact any one of our Therapists at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando directly from our home page, and see for yourself how much a therapeutic alliance can change your life for the better. Or, just call our offices at 407-355-7378 and ask to speak to Kim. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Kim