A view of Psychotherapy from the perspective of both patient and therapist.
In 1979 I first went to see a Psychotherapist. It followed the retirement of my original colleague in my business Communication Improvements. Since it's foundation in 1974 I had worked with him on an exclusive basis. His name was Henry Davidson, he was 23 years my senior, but also acted for five years as mentor and guru. I realised without his insight into people, the business would be much poorer and I needed to improve mine. I had first come into contact with therapy via him and his wife who was at the time a Jungian Child Psychotherapist who had trained with Winnicott. My first five years in therapy was therefore naturally with a Jungian. At this point I was sufficiently immersed and involved that I decided I wanted to be a therapist. I thought this would be a very good occupation for later in life. At the start of the training, to widen my experience of therapy I changed to a Freudian and spent the next four years of my training in a Freudian therapy. Following that I moved back to another Jungian for a year and then finally moved onto a therapist specialising in the Transpersonal and Psychosynthesis. Thus over an 18 year period I had four very different therapists.
Therapy was not so much 'needed' but became a way of life. Fortunately having a successful business I was both able to afford it in time and money terms. Indeed having the business allowed me a great deal of time for study and the very long 7 year training before I finally qualified in 1992. I had begun practice with 'Training Patients' in 1987 and continued in practice until 2002, some fifteen years. I completed more than 10,000 hours as a therapist and saw more than 200 patients for differing lengths of time over that period. The longest I worked with any one individual was 7 years.
Being a Jungian at heart if not by training which was eclectic, I tended to mainly work with dreams. In over twenty years I recorded more than 10,000 dreams of my own. That was, and still is in my view, the very best therapeutic path to follow, provided you have a therapist who really works with and understands how dreams work.
However my views of therapy and therapists have changed over the years as my experience grew and widened.
Let me first of all give a perspective from the patient's viewpoint. Being a patient in Psychotherapy is not easy. It requires dedication, commitment, hard work, time and money. You enter either because in the main you are either courageous (the few) or desperate (the many). The majority of people hope for a 'quick fix', little realising to 'be in therapy' properly is several years work. I always reckoned around 4-5 years to completion for most people, never less than three, and for a few even more time was needed. Of course occasionally dramatic insights and turnarounds are accomplished in one session or a few sessions, but this is extremely rare. Then there is of course the question of which therapist to see, and with what particular persuasion. I always stayed with the therapist I went to until that part of the work was complete, with a single exception where the lengthy travel proved counter productive. However often people 'try' a variety of therapists, hoping to find the right one. I believe it is more than likely the first one you went to. The key thing I learned from going to different therapists, particularly in the early years was that it helped distinguish what was the therapist's stuff and what was mine. Leaving the first therapist after five years, I felt very spiritual, but gradually as I immersed myself in a Freudian therapy with a very different outlook, I realised some the ideas I had were not necessarily mine, but my previous therapist's. Naturally in an intense relationship like therapy, you pick up some thoughts and ideas from your therapist, however non-interventionist they are. Again over the years my views on this aspect of therapy changed substantially. I concluded eventually that to be paid a lot of money and sit and say almost nothing, was for the patient a rip off. Why were people coming and paying good money for your wisdom and experience if you were not prepared to share it with them??!! This idea in many therapy circles remains heresy! Many therapists consider saying as little as possible the only way to work, but whether this provides good value to the patient is I think a highly debateable point!
In 1999, I took a sabbatical from therapy and on my journey discovered The Landmark Forum (see under button for Courses). This proved a revelation and after a weekend's immersion I realised my vision of the world which had been finally formed around the age of 42 and held firm until I was 56 had to be revised. In fact the world view I had on which most of my therapy work had been founded was revised and realigned. I decided that for 80-90% of the patients who came into therapy, the Forum was probably a much quicker, cheaper, more powerful alternative. Indeed at that time I encouraged seven of the eight patients I then had, to go on it and for all bar one, it was a transformative experience, which changed their lives as much as it had mine. Indeed the speed of the work we were able to do as a result improved immensely. These days if people seek my advice on therapy, my first thought is 'go on the Forum first' then see if you need it. In setting up a revised and updated website in 2011, six years after the original, I can offer a further comment on the one patient mentioned above for whom The Forum hadn't apparently proved transformatory. At the end of 2008 having not seen him for some 8 years, I suddenly received an e-mail from him out of the blue. In it he said "finally I have a sense that I understand some of what the Forum (and life!) was showing me.". That was amazing and to proved once again how profound and powerful the Landmark Forum can be.
That is not to say Psychotherapy doesn't work. It does, it deepens and broadens anyone who seriously enters into it.
But it is far from easy and needs a willingness to really look at yourself in depth. The danger is that Psychotherapy itself becomes a solution to the problems that continue to be avoided. "Oh, I'm in therapy" is not an answer. It is a tool, to help you deal with the practical problems of life. Too often, the comfort of this strange and unusual relationship, once established, can be used to avoid actually having to do anything about the real problems patients come with. Thus these days I tend to feel a more confrontative and direct approach like the Forum, is actually an advantage for many people, who might otherwise wallow in the therapy room.
As a therapist it was a tremendously challenging job. However the organisation and administration of therapy in the UK is a complete mess and the quality of organisation and management available is extraordinarily poor. Thus in my view, there is no dependable organisation you can rely upon. Equally with the explosion in Counselling, much of it with poor quality and inadequate training, has resulted in a huge growth where there are far too many Counsellors for the number of patients available. It is not a business in which you can earn significant sums of money unless you have an exclusive London practice and work long hours. The costs of training and your own therapy are substantial, I reckon it at £15-20,000! The rewards pretty poor.
The Meaning of Madness
Is the whole world mad?? Is the human condition one of madness?? If we look around the world, what we see in so many different places seems madness. In many of the world's poorest countries, thousands die from starvation and disease, whilst in the richest, food mountains and drink lakes abound through mad economic policies. Farmers are paid to let crops go to waste or fields lie fallow. We have seen rain forests despoiled to feed the demand for hardwoods, or to make way for cattle ranches for hamburger production. We see promotion of arms sales which continue to foster wars and kill and injure innocent civilians. We see religions proclaiming the name of God, yet fostering sectarian strife, narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Is any of this behaviour sane??
In the Milgram experiments, students were invited to give volunteers (actually actors who were pretending) severe electric shocks if they answered questions wrong. Of 40 male volunteers, 26 went all the way to give the volunteers what had been deemed virtually fatal shocks. In July 1942 500 men of the German Reserve Police were given an assignment to kill 1800 women and children. They were invited to back out if they didn't want to take part. Only 12 did so! The North Koreans believed that 95% of their prisoners were acquiescent and only 5% would offer resistance. By discovering who that 5% were and separating them, their prisoners needed virtually no guarding. We seem as human being to act in a sheeplike dream, doing as we are told, without any resort to individual conscience. Apparently we can nearly all behave like this, given the right conditions of control and ideology.
Some of the problems now causing so much grief coming into the light in the West, such as child sexual abuse and paedophilia are simply business matters in the East, where children must support themselves and their families. Children are sold into prostitution, or work as virtual slaves in sweatshops for long hours and hardly any pay. Women from the poorest countries go to foreign lands to earn money to send back to their families, having little idea of the conditions under which they will work. They are often, beaten, maltreated, sexually abused and made into virtual slaves. This is the human world - the world in which you and I live.
We have had this century, not one Genocide but several. There was the Holocaust of the 2nd World War. The Killing Fields of Cambodia, The tribal genocide in Rwanda and the Ethnic Cleansing of Serbia and Bosnia. We have had Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein to name a few of the mad leaders who have sentenced whole populations to death. Where is our sanity in allowing such matters to happen??
Then we have the killing in the name of God in Northern Ireland, in Iran, in the Middle East, or the killing in the name of ideology such as in China. None of this makes a pretty picture, just a montage of madness.
No doubt on the other side we can point to all kind of progress, of amazing technological advances, or great strides in science and medicine and engineering in communications and computers and much more besides. But what does all this mean set against the human condition, which apparently learns so little and continues to act in a mindless, heartless way towards our fellow men, women and children?? If we apparently care so little for human life and dignity, for individual rights and social justice, how can we call ourselves human at all?
The great difficulty is that madness lies at the heart of every one of us. Inside us is not only the loving father, the nurturing mother, the sensitive child and caring friend, there is also the potential for violence, murder, torture, sadism, and abuse of every kind. We carry inside us the seeds of darkness, which most of us refuse to acknowledge, let alone dare to bring into the light of day. Yet, if we can dare look, within this darkness once acknowledged and owned, there is light. There are to quote Jung 'diamonds in the shit'. This is not easy looking within at our own madness, honestly acknowledging and owning those parts which are so reprehensible and frightening. Yet, when we do, we withdraw those projections from the world and make it just a little safer for us all to live in. Is there a meaning in this madness?