Has Therapy Become the New Religion?
Curt and Katie chat about op ed pieces from the New York Times, where there are a lot of opinions on what therapy is and should be. We explore comparisons of therapy to religion, the notion that going to therapy makes one good, safe and dateable, and how therapy seems to have invaded our lives.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
In this podcast episode we talk about the opinion that therapy has become morally good
Katie likes reading New York Times Op Ed pieces on what therapy is now. We decided to explore some of the questions these articles raise.
What does the New York Times have to say about therapy and therapists?
- Going to therapy makes you a good person
- Putting that you’re going to therapy on your dating app is a cheat code – meaning that you are safe to date
- We have reached a point where we’re more focused on “mental health” than on mental illness
- Therapy-speak has invaded everything
- It is toxic to tell everyone to go to therapy
What is leading to comparisons of therapy to religion?
- Decreased membership in organized religion
- Finding your own morals and values outside of organized religion
- Finding meaning and purpose through the work you do in therapy
- A fear of the degradation of social contracts and a rise of moral relativism
How are people framing the role of the therapist?
“If we’re looking at therapy taking the place of [organized religion] – a lot of therapists are ‘preaching’ from the pulpit of social media. There is a lot of direction on how people should live their lives.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT
- Potential for individual exploration of how to live one’s life that is individualized and less tied to specific doctrine
- Another potential to be seen as giving direction on how to live life
- The role of community care versus individualized healing
- Relationship versus individual focus
- The nuance of what therapy is versus the fears of what is being done
What is the fear about therapy being so central in our lives?
“Maybe this is just an incredibly individualistic way, and growing up in the American West, and knowing that the free-market reigns supreme above all else. Supply-side Jesus is who we all need to follow values from… Who are we to really tell society whether or not that they need to go into therapy?” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT
- The worry that people are too self-focused and not sufficiently other focused
- Pushing back on the status quo and established systems
- The notion that “therapy is good” and “all people need therapy”
- Therapy as a status symbol or a designation that I’m a good person
- Lack of access for folks with mental illness due to “worried well” and “personal growth” clients taking all of the spots
Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:
We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
New York Times’ Articles:
Why Do People Think Going to Therapy Makes You A Good Person? By Mychal Denzel Smith
We Have Reached Peak ‘Mental Health’ by Huw Green
Is it Toxic to Tell Everyone to Get Therapy? By Zachary Siegel
How the Language of Therapy Took Over Dating by Dani Blum
The Problem with Letting Therapy-Speak Invade Everything by Tara Isabella Burton
Our Linktree: https://linktr.ee/therapyreimagined
Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:
Is Therapy an Opiate of the Masses?
Navigating the Social Media Self-Diagnosis Trend
Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:
Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:
Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:
Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group
Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Transcripts do not include advertisements; just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide where therapists live, breathe, and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist. Here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 0:14
Welcome back modern therapists, this is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about the things that are going on in our field, the things being said about our field and our rights to defend our field to the death against the evil op ed writers over at the New York Times who are accusing therapy of being the new religion. And we are diving into some of our responses to what some of these articles are saying, but also exploring is the way that we practice reflective of the society we’re in and answering all of the moral questions about the roles of therapists. So Katie, this is something where you’ve sent me a number of articles as a New York Times subscriber that we’ve had to work around some paywall issues for me to be able to catch up on. Some of the stuff…
Katie Vernoy 1:10
There’s just too many. I gave you too many for this to be a free article.
Curt Widhalm 1:15
Yes. So we have done an episode in the past on therapy is an opiate for the masses. We can include a link in our show notes over at mtsgpodcast on that. That episode was a little bit more of like, are we using therapy to just tell people to be okay with what’s going on around them?
Katie Vernoy 1:32
Curt Widhalm 1:32
This is a little bit different of an episode here. So where do you want to dive in on this?
Katie Vernoy 1:39
Well, I think the biggest thing is this is almost the New York Times op ed writers arguing that we are doing quite the reverse. We are antisocial or anti-community and that therapy is now the place you go to explore yourself and learn that “no” is a full sentence, that the only emotions that matter are your own, that if something is going to potentially harm your mental health, and that’s broadly used, because I think as therapists we know that there are things that harm our mental health and things that just make us uncomfortable, that we can opt out, regardless of the impact on our friends, loved ones, or people who are relying on us. And one of the articles actually said that kind of we’ve moved into this place where therapy now is solipsistic. And I had to look it up. And it basically means that it’s a philosophical principle that you can only know for sure that you yourself are real. And so that only you are important, and it’s only your perspective that matters. And so that’s kind of a really high level of some of the arguments is that therapy has now become the new religion, which is very anti-community, we aren’t looking at relationships. Which, you know, a whole bunch of mfts are like, we’re not worrying about how our actions will impact society. It’s about our own feelings and what our needs are, and the needs of other people don’t matter. So obviously, it’s very, very simplistic, but some of the stuff that they were talking about, I thought was really interesting, because it goes into how much therapy speak has invaded everything. You know, people have always used like, Oh, I’m depressed or I’m anxious without it being clinical, but they’re talking about OCD, or everyone’s a little bit neurodivergent or is neurodivergent. We did a whole episode on social media diagnosis. But there’s also this stuff that has invaded dating, where people will put that they’re in therapy on their dating profiles, as kind of a cheat code that I’m safe to date because I’m in therapy. There was another article about being in therapy makes you a good person. And so people are going to therapy, just to make sure that their toxic mess is not being pushed on to everyone else, that they’re doing the work, and that they are going to be okay, that they’re suitable for society. And they’re good people, because they are in therapy. And that article argued that people are going to therapy without any purpose. And so the therapy is confusing. It doesn’t have any point to it. I think that just sounds like bad therapy. But I think overall, basically, therapy has become the new cachet. It’s the new marker. It is the new place that you explore your morals and values. And the New York Times are saying, Oh, this is dangerous, especially because therapy is so expensive, and not everybody can have it.
Curt Widhalm 4:43
You know, sociologically as organized religion goes down, as the number of people attending organized religion tends to trend towards fewer. This seems to be kind of a thing that many people have discussed about going to church or going to their places of worship historically.
Katie Vernoy 5:05
Curt Widhalm 5:05
Of people who go without understanding why the reasons that they’re there. That a lot of the way that I initially hear this is, this seems to be trying to maintain the status quo of religion as religion, old religion as its old religion here. And something new has come along that threatens the fabric of something that has been around for 1000s of years.
Katie Vernoy 5:29
So this is the equivalent of ‘stay off my lawn!’
Curt Widhalm 5:32
Me. Yeah. Okay, thank you. It coincides with there’s a generational difference here. That is Millennials tend to be seen as a more individualistic kind of generation in and of itself. As compared to historical definitions, ones who are more likely to question, why are we doing things just for the sake of doing them? That’s trying to make sense of things in an individualistic way, if there’s a pathway or an opportunity to be able to explore things within the way that society is changing, rather than instituting and maintaining rules that were passed down from 10s of hundreds of generations ago. It makes sense as a reflection on society that something is challenging these old institutions. And within that change comes chaos or the fear of, you know, old standing rules and things that quote unquote, worked well enough, that, as you have already alluded to, don’t work well enough for everybody.
Katie Vernoy 6:35
Well, I think there’s some of that for sure. I think, religion as the previous opiate of the masses…
Curt Widhalm 6:42
Television and the internet, being in between those two.
Katie Vernoy 6:45
And now therapy. But I think there’s this element of religion gives people meaning and purpose. Religion tells people how they should live their life, what’s good, what’s bad. And so much of it is tied up in cultural norms. And as a society, many societies, I guess, within the world are strongly challenging cultural norms. And looking back at how were those formed. I mean, we look at systemic racism, patriarchy, those types of things, people are pushing back on those things, and looking at these cultural norms that have come forward through kind of society at large, but also in religion. And I think we’re finding that those things don’t necessarily make sense. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. And that’s too broad of a statement. I think that for some folks, it does align, and some folks are still involved in organized religion. And so I think that if there’s nothing. If that goes away, if we’re more of an atheistic or agnostic society, or more of a quote, unquote, spiritual society that doesn’t tie to organized religion, I think there is a gap that needs to be filled around how to identify what’s good and bad. How do I understand how to live my life in a way that’s healthy and positive? I mean, religion had all of that. That was the center for everyone. And there’s not that if it’s gone.
Curt Widhalm 8:04
But that is a religious centric argument as the default…
Katie Vernoy 8:08
Curt Widhalm 8:08
…from the very beginning. And I’ve heard this argument from atheist circles forever, that if what prevents somebody from murdering or raping somebody else is some sort of all being judge in the afterlife. That does not make you a good person. Atheists can not murder and not rape people just because it’s the wrong thing to do.
Katie Vernoy 8:30
But I think how is that decided though? Like, how as this society have we decided that you don’t rape and murder?
Curt Widhalm 8:36
I mean, that’s part of the social contracts of being part of a society.
Katie Vernoy 8:40
But where do those social contracts come from?
Curt Widhalm 8:43
And this is a cultural shift away from this being from a religious oriented default to something that is reflective of a society or a worldwide sort of change as far as the relation to how we arrive at living at those morals.
Katie Vernoy 9:04
Living in the United States, under that society, both of us have white privilege. I think there are societies that believe that raping and murdering are okay, depending on what somebody looks like, what genitalia they have, and whether or not they’re wearing a headdress. So I think that there is something where as a society, we can’t just say, well, people are just going to agree not to rape and murder.
Curt Widhalm 9:27
The point that I’m arguing is how do we arrive at these things being good or bad? And historically, what has been done and has done in the name of these things raping and murdering?
Katie Vernoy 9:42
Curt Widhalm 9:42
You know, there’s been lots of religious colonialism throughout. So…
Katie Vernoy 9:47
Curt Widhalm 9:48
…historically, put into place these systems and then maintained them through the abuses of these systems. You know, I don’t want this episode to just be like, Okay, here’s where organized religion has done really terrible in the past. The point that I’m trying to make is that imagining getting to morals and stuff like that outside of religion seems to be the threat of, I know the author of a couple of these articles as a theologian.
Katie Vernoy 10:17
Curt Widhalm 10:18
So there’s already just kind of a bias of this has been these societal default, the sociological defaults for behaving in these ways. And if people are arriving at some of these conclusions in ways that challenge what these organizations have done in the past, there seems to be a lot of bias that needs to be sussed out in who the New York Times is just letting throw up some words on their pages.
Katie Vernoy 10:44
I agree with all of that. And I think that the other compelling part of this, and I don’t have a strong opinion yet, I’ll probably come to it as we’re talking. But one of the articles, I don’t remember which one, we’ll post the link to all of these articles in our show notes over at mtsgpodcast.com. But one of the articles was talking about a philosopher or somebody that an expert in philosophy, who was having one of these conversations with a therapist about morals and values and talking about absolute truths. And the therapist in a bad therapy kind of way was invalidating this person’s perspective, and saying that there are no absolute truths. And so, to me that’s really compelling. Like, is that part of what new therapy has become? That people are creating their own reality? Or they’re, they’re creating their own moral code? Or they’re creating their own truth? And if so, is it bad, if we’re doing that?
Curt Widhalm 11:41
I will lay off of the judgment of whether it’s good or bad. It’s a threat to the way that things have been.
Katie Vernoy 11:49
Sure. I agree with that. So that point is taken. I’m talking next step…
Curt Widhalm 11:52
Katie Vernoy 11:53
…into if we are in this space, where we are subversive over here. We’re helping people to take care of themselves, set boundaries, potentially become pretty self focused, which I don’t think that’s true. But that’s one of the arguments. And pulling away from, quote, unquote, absolute truths that society have carried on for years, is that something that we’re actually doing?
Curt Widhalm 12:18
Well and within this is also the does anybody who goes and gets a mental health license now just become the guru that people need to follow their ideas, and, you know, a lot of what we’ve navigated over the years of like, Alright, here’s, you know, what it’s like to work with me, as opposed to, here’s what I’m going to make you believe. But written into a lot of, you know, the social media posts or the, you know, reports of what goes on in a particular therapy session is, what is the role of the therapist? And historically, we’ve been trained as an avenue of giving people the self reflection skills to be able to come to their own decisions.
Katie Vernoy 13:03
Curt Widhalm 13:04
The neutrality of that should open up that if the client that we’re working with uses religion as a basis for coming to their morals, or whatever else, that is up to the client, not necessarily for us to tell them what to do.
Katie Vernoy 13:19
Curt Widhalm 13:20
But the concern underneath a lot of this stuff is people are going out, and they’re making these decisions outside of, you know, the traditional, you know, larger organizations that have unifying theories. And that makes it harder to create the space to have people be able to fit. I guess, I’m going back to the same argument of like, this is just a threat to the systems that have been placed all along.
Katie Vernoy 13:48
Yes, I think that points well made. I think the thing that I’m trying to grapple with is kind of the other part of what you said, which is, what is the role of the therapist. Because if society is looking to us as a new place to understand: how I fit in the world, what’s right and wrong, how do I live my life, those types of things. In therapy, we help somebody come to their own understanding of it, and hopefully, with, you know, kind of if, for me, I have the belief that deep down people can figure out what’s healthy for them if they’re able to clear out the clutter, right. You know, and I think some people may be more directive around what’s healthy and not healthy. And certainly I can give advice on you know, be active, you know, check with your doctor, but be active, and that will help with some of the mood stuff. But I think there’s that element of in therapy, the guidance is very individualized. The guidance is non-directive typically. And it’s really about how do you make these decisions and how do you live your life. Which is not what religion does. Religion says, Thou shalt do X, or you must do this or whatever. Right? And so that’s a very different thing. And that puts a lot more autonomy on the individual. Which I think is scary to a society that has relied on folks being compliant. And it’s also may not be honoring folks from collectivist cultures. And so I think that’s a whole other conversation to have about what is therapy for folks that is culturally appropriate. But on the other side, if we’re looking at therapy taking the place of that, and a lot of therapists are, quote, unquote, preaching from the pulpit of social media, there is a lot of direction on how people should live their lives. No is a full sentence, you know, you can just opt out if your emotional needs aren’t being taken care of, you can opt out of whatever you don’t want to attend to. There’s a lot of push towards take care of yourself, regardless of the impact on other people. I mean, that’s not stated. But that’s kind of implied. And that’s the concern with some of these things. But we are pretty directive in social media. And that’s where a lot of people are consuming mental health content. There’s a lot of self help stuff. There’s a lot of things that are tied to that. And I think some of the folks are, you know, and this is why I love a lot of the decolonizing stuff, and this stuff that comes from like, look at it a different way; there is community care, community healing, there’s things that tie back into more of a kind of societal piece that may be missing, if religion is not present, right. The community and the coming together. But as individual therapists trying to build our brand and be on social media, have we gotten to the place of telling people how they should live their lives? You know, what kind of relationships they should be in? What are the red flags? Who should you date? Who should you not date? Is that something that we’re co signing on, at the very least, if not explicitly exacerbating.
Curt Widhalm 16:48
Part of what I’m trying to answer in here is, again, looking at religion as the status quo. And what is the point of this and why it may feel threatening is, what is the ultimate goal of any of these institutions. If religion is based in salvation, you know, that this is about living in this plane of existence to, you know, have a better plane of existence after life. That the goal of that is fundamentally different than what therapy is. And as you’ve outlined, there’s different approaches within therapy. There’s different approaches within number of different religions and whether or not there’s even the agreement that something happens after this plane of existence.
Katie Vernoy 17:33
Curt Widhalm 17:35
What millennia of religion has done is come up with at least some answers. And depending on your amount of cynicism, some circular answers into how we get to these places, or why things happen. But as society changes to look at some of those gaps, and be able to feel the frustrations with not necessarily having full answers and having more readily available information, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, whether it’s in short form Tiktok videos, or long term, you know, diatribes deep into, you know, philosophical readings and everything else. That what I see in some of these articles that you’ve sent me. In these criticisms of therapy taking over is that it’s largely only a individualistic view that therapy is being pointed as, as individual answers are the only way that’s right. And that goes back to our own trainings, and the differences between licenses. You know, when we were preparing for the episode, I point out that you and I are both Marriage and Family Therapists. We’re going to look at, more naturally, the impacts of Alright, how is a decision like this going to affect those around you. That, you know, a number of the conversations we have is in setting limits or setting boundaries with family members. Of you’ve still got to have an ongoing relationship with them. This isn’t like no is a whole answer and…
Katie Vernoy 19:02
Cut everyone out of your life.
Curt Widhalm 19:03
You should say no forever, right?
Katie Vernoy 19:03
Curt Widhalm 19:05
You know, that that gets boiled down into Reddit answers of like, here’s three sentences and why you should cut off family. Therapy is more nuanced than that. And part of, you know, building the straw man that therapy is pushing this individualistic agenda, again, comes to this: We are not necessarily doing what we’re being accused of in these articles. What we’re doing is we’re helping people come to their own realizations of this. Some of us in more directive ways than others. But it’s outside of the confines of the organization of a larger religion, and that’s a threat. That’s a new dawning of the ways that we relate to the world.
Katie Vernoy 19:51
Well and not all the articles were tying it to religion. I don’t think we need to stick just with that. I think there’s a concern that having therapy be so central in so much of our lives. You know, I think I’ve already mentioned; in dating, in how we talk about our lives as a whole, like I think there’s therapy has invaded in a lot of spaces. And so in truth, I guess is that is that good or bad? I mean, I might argue that lots of people having therapy is certainly good for my business. I think it’s good for society in some ways. I think that there are a lot of things that people can do in therapy, that are very pro social, that is about making sure that your junk isn’t spilling out on to other people, and, as most therapists do, but certainly systems therapists like family therapists, we’re going to talk about how you better relate to other people, how you understand other people, how you see from other people’s perspectives. I think that there’s a lot of benefit for that. And the framing that as negative because it somehow is too self focused or too whatever, maybe we’ve already addressed that. Maybe the individualistic nature of it, we’ve addressed, right. It’s pushing back against the status quo. It’s helping people to figure things out when there’s not an established religion, telling them what to do. And yes, it is a threat, because that’s how a lot of societies have been built around these religious principles. But there’s also kind of the role of the therapist in What is therapy? You know, I think there may be a whole other conversation here. But some of the folks were arguing that telling people that everyone needs therapy, and that therapy is the only way you can be a good person, because you’ve done the work is toxic, is not appropriate. It’s not culturally responsive, not everybody finds therapy to be as, as helpful as others. Not everybody’s going to align with therapy. But it’s also not very accessible for a lot of folks. And so that moralistic element of it; of therapy is good, and all people need therapy. What do we think about that, besides the fact that it helps us keep our practices full?
Curt Widhalm 22:05
In this, and I realize that I’m putting you in the position of arguing on behalf of these authors, is trying to make objective truths. Is that there has to be objective truths about everything. Probably more of a, there’s shades of gray. Yeah.
Katie Vernoy 22:26
Curt Widhalm 22:27
Objectively, we can define what the color red is by going to whatever, you know, little color charts that artists do and be like, it’s this combination of these wavelengths of light, and whatever else. Physical Sciences have a lot of objectivity. And if so much of things is based on different perceptions that have a societal history of being able to say, all right, whoever’s got the most power gets to define what’s subjective. Being able to, you know, kind of move out of that space is a opportunity to help people to be able to improve their space in life. Not everybody has to go to therapy. I believe that you can be a good person without needing to go and spend time on, you know, a therapists couch, or any other you know, walk and talk therapy or whatever else it is that you can be a well adjusted human who comes to some sort of living within the values contributing well to the society. But I don’t believe that, like, you have to go to somebody for help in order to improve things.
Katie Vernoy 23:42
100%. I think the argument in some of these articles were that generationally, not even Gen X, but or millennials, Gen Z is really the the generation that’s most impacted by this. Where you have to go to therapy, to be appropriate for society. And so it’s not even therapists that are saying these things, I don’t think. I guess, one article was like, a therapist said, all people must have therapy, or everybody could use therapy. And then also, a tweet that was then deleted was people should require therapy to become parents, which was lots of pushback there, because that was pretty culturally insensitive. And so I think there’s this element of society has shifted this way. And maybe it’s just there’s a lot of people that really value therapy, right? And so they’re singing the praises. And this is a pendulum swing towards, hey, you know, stigmas down, and therapy really helps. So everyone should have it. Right. I think my question isn’t, do we believe that everyone needs to go to therapy? No, I don’t believe everybody needs to go therapy. I think people can find useful things in therapy, even if they don’t necessarily need to go. But I you know, there’s a whole other conversation about should therapists be a little bit more discerning and who comes into their offices because people who really need therapy can’t access it. Whereas the folks who are the worried well, or the people that are working on personal growth can definitely get into therapy. And so as a society, people that don’t need it as much get it. But I think that there’s that element of, should therapists be co signing on these broad notions? Or capitalizing on them by reposting memes? Or by putting forward these very concrete, simplistic life plans on social media? I mean, is this something that we should be doing? Because we certainly get a lot of likes and follows. We certainly get a lot of people into our practice, if we cosign on this ethos that’s out in society. What is our responsibility here?
Curt Widhalm 25:49
Our responsibility is, maybe this is just an incredibly individualistic way and growing up in the American West, and knowing that the free market reigns supreme above all else. Supply side, Jesus is who we all need to follow values from. That who are we to really tell society whether or not that they need to go into therapy?
Katie Vernoy 26:12
We’re the experts of whether or not they need to go into therapy.
Curt Widhalm 26:15
Here’s the potential benefits of coming to therapy with me. That’s what our responsibilities are.
Katie Vernoy 26:23
I mean, I certainly like working with the clients that I work with. And I definitely have a, you know, kind of, quote, unquote, higher functioning bunch of folks. And there are times when we move past the initial presenting problems, and we do move towards personal growth or coping with life that’s effed up. So…
Curt Widhalm 26:44
I mean, even looking at how much discourse there is within our field, as far as what’s true therapy, and what’s not. Of, you know, working with the worried well, versus the personal growth-ers versus severe mental illness.
Katie Vernoy 26:55
Curt Widhalm 26:56
There’s a lot that’s crammed under the umbrella of mental health. And maybe that’s a discussion for another day. But…
Katie Vernoy 27:01
Curt Widhalm 27:02
If this is a resource oriented argument of too many people are going to therapy, and it’s taking you away from you know, underfunded or under researched areas of working with severe mental illness. I can buy that as a criticism of like, hey, maybe some of you need to re stigmatize your mental health and save some space for the rest of people. But if what we’re talking about is people paying out of pocket to go to therapy, what’s the big problem of what other people do with their time and with their money in coming to their own personal growth sorts of areas?
Katie Vernoy 27:12
Sure, I agree with all of that. I think the thing that, that I just want to pay attention to for myself, because I don’t know that I really was worried about us being…
Curt Widhalm 27:47
Snake oil salesmen.
Katie Vernoy 27:49
Snake oil. But I do think that there is a responsibility and I’ll link to the social media one episode on our show notes, but like, I think that there is an element of are we basically, overhyped self help, are we actually therapists, and I think oftentimes what social media looks like is overhyped self help.
Curt Widhalm 28:09
And even critically looking at things, how many episodes have we talked about, or started our guests with? Like, there’s a lot of things that we do wrong.
Katie Vernoy 28:18
Curt Widhalm 28:19
A lot of what makes therapy effective, we’ve leaned into Scott Miller’s research a ton that says, you know, there’s tons of trainings and manuals and everything else that comes back to you. But ultimately, isn’t it up to the individual that we’re treating to determine whether or not that therapy is working?
Katie Vernoy 28:37
Curt Widhalm 28:38
And so, you know, at its core, these arguments of too many people are going to therapy these days, is a pearl clutching of, oh, people are trying to individually make sense of how they fit back into society.
Katie Vernoy 28:55
Curt Widhalm 28:56
Good treatment plans are going to include, you know, the social part of the bio psychosocial approach. That this seems to be such an outsider’s perspective of the criticisms of what therapy is that I will give them their subjective truth on this. But to make that even into an objective argument seems to be just dismissive of things that some people are going to need some help from some ways of life and some people are going to need help from different ways of life. And historically, that has been resolved by wars and murder and killing people into believing whichever side has more might and more power to make that happen.
Katie Vernoy 29:36
So you’re saying therapy is the humane alternative?
Curt Widhalm 29:40
Not in all cases. And because there are people who are selling things like conversion therapy.
Katie Vernoy 29:47
Curt Widhalm 29:48
And I think that this is something where giving people the individual choices to improve their lives in the ways that they see fit and that they feel work for for them, is potentially something that other people are going to have differing opinions than me. Those people get their articles published in the New York Times. I have a podcast and coming to some sort of reconciliation between the two, there’s probably more of an answer between both/and rather than either/or.
Katie Vernoy 30:20
Sure, sure. And I think it’s kind of fun in some ways that therapy speak therapy has become so ubiquitous for society, and that we talk about all of these things as a regular thing. I think sometimes it makes it more confusing, but it feels like it makes what we do more accessible. The takeaway that I have is really, as individual therapists, we have to look at what is it that we’re doing in therapy? Are we telling people how to live? Which I think mostly No, because most of the ways that we work with clients is non directive. And when we are directive, it’s client driven. And in a lot of different ways. I think, as therapy influencers, I think there’s also a responsibility to look at what is the content that you’re putting out? Does it have a good base? Does it make sense? If folks are using therapy as a weapon or using personal growth as a weapon, I think that’s clinical information and fodder for future therapy sessions. I don’t know that that’s what therapy is leading to. It’s part of the process sometimes for people to push back and then kind of find their grounding.
Curt Widhalm 31:26
We would love to hear your thoughts on this, you can let us know on our social media or in our Facebook group the modern therapists group. If you like this content and want to continue to support us, consider becoming a patron or supporting us on Buy Me a Coffee or in any of the other offerings that Katie and I have. You can find our show notes over at mtsgpodcast.com. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.
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