Monday 12 March 2012

"If you want to be loved and liked, don't go into psychotherapy."

Take a look at this article about the doyenne of forensic psychotherapy, EstelaWelldon

The field often attracts "do-gooders", says Welldon, who are singularly ill-suited to it. The only physical attack she has ever witnessed at work took place when a colleague comforted a client by patting them sympathetically, prompting an explosive reaction. "Touching them?" she says, "No way. Also, if somebody's saying nobody wants them, and wants to talk about the parts of themselves that are bad, or hateful, they don't want to hear: 'You're actually really nice.' Fuck you! I mean, honestly, it's so condescending, and you're not seeing what the patient wants to give you.

My first exposure to psychiatry was when as a very new student nurse I chaperoned a doctor one night as he spoke with a young woman, about 16 or 17 years old in the Sisters Office. Looking back on it it’s clear now that she had been raped, was in shock and possibly a little dissociated. The psychiatrist was all technique, at one point noting that the woman glanced at a picture of fairies that was propped against a wall and wondering if she’d like to join them. Happily, his bleep went and he left the room.

Having not yet learned that professional means detached, I said something along the lines of “Well thank Christ that load of old rubbish is over. What happened to you?” The doctor hailed me as some kind of miracle worker when he returned and the young woman was able to speak about the evenings events.

When we treat patients as poor souls in need of our expertise we distance ourselves from them and patronise them. As a matter of principle, we are all equals.  And it’s dead true that therapy attracts do-gooders, people in massive need of care themselves who find satisfaction in exerting control over others. Therapists come into training because we’re interested in our own inner lives above and beyond almost everything else; we’re a desperately solipsistic lot and we’re all a bit bonkers. Therapists have to accept that about ourselves to keep the privileges that we’re given under control.

[Welldon] says she has an "enormous amount of violence myself, and I think the patients know that too.”

Hoorah. Many of us are seething with violence a lot of the time but we’ve learned to tone it down, disguise it, pretend it’s something else because that’s what gets rewarded and it’s why so much of Paganism is pathetic. Sitting with some friends the other day one said, ‘If one more person tells me I’m strong, I’ll scream.’ Another replied, ‘Tell them you’re not strong, you’re violent, that’ll shut them up,’ and we laughed with recognition and pleasure. Religions in particular tell us we must be meek and mild, totally accepting, utterly non-judgemental and it’s a very rare person who can come close to that even occasionally. Patients who are wild with fury, often very justifiably, don’t want to be met by someone who would really like them to talk about rainbows and puppies and the power of forgiveness. Whilst it’s often important for a woman patient to have a woman therapist there must also be room for a woman to meet with a male therapist who’s au fait with his responses to sex and  gender and is comfortable with a woman who needs to rage or talk honestly about her dangerous feelings around her children. I’ve met too many women therapists who make their fear and disapproval of women’s rage and violence all too obvious.

We all walk a thin line between professional, cold, and over-involved and we’re not always going to get it right. Good training, a good attitude towards authenticity, excellent and rigorous supervision all help, as does having people around us who are also authentic, who are settled enough in themselves to allow us to be vulnerable, livid, clever, committed, successful. Who are wise enough to allow and accept our humanity in its entirety.


dreamguardian said...

I love your honesty, Claire as it's very refreshing especially about therapy, therapists and attitudes.

Also, I'm a bloke who likes blokey stuff. Yet when it comes to neo-paganism I feel uncomfortable in the sufficating and sanitised enviroment!

Glad you feel the same coz it really brings out the worst in me:)

AmethJera said...

I have found that you can drop the facade and still be effective and professional. It's all about your perspective, experience and keeping your own stuff out of the way.

Cheers for a great blog!

Ananta Androscoggin said...

Israel Regardie seems to have been of the opinion that all "occultists" of the Ceremonial Magic type (or so I took what I've read of his writings) should be in therapy the entire time they continue to do workings.

I'm no therapist or any other trained mental type, but for some reason over the decades there have been people who have sat down with me and told me stories about themselves which were none of my business to know. Thankfully my memory for details of such conversations is leaky like a sieve.

But that's some part of why I'm a part-time student at our local community college, working towards my own little piece of bringing more professionalism to the U.S. Pagan Chaplain discussions and evolution.

Bo said...

HURRAY. Clare, this is more proof of why you're a brilliant and also (I mean no disrespect, quite the reverse) an utterly necessary person.xx