Betrayed (or Why I Do What I Do)

So many of us carry hidden scars.
We have gone to church or spoken with counsellors but for some reason we cannot seem to move beyond. We begin to think these wounds are terminal and we learn to cope and adjust to a life that we cannot seem to change.
It is sad that so many people feel this is the only option. They have tried different types of counselors and many people have paid thousands of dollars and nothing happened.

One possible reason for this, and I have alluded to it before, is that a lot of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists are really bad at what they do.

Recently Scott Miller, one of the psychology flavors of the month, posted statistics that confirmed that psychological methodologies are not what helps patients. He contends that it doesn’t matter what type of counselling you go to; the only important factor is your relationship with, and the skill of, the counsellor you see. You can stand on your head and spit nickels if you have the right person working with you and it will make a difference.

It is no wonder, then, that people often give up on finding help. They have a resume of failed attempts with incompetent helpers and have come to believe that they are going to have to spend the rest of their life where they are – stuck and hurting.

I am humbled by the courage of many of the people I work with; people who have survived situations I can hardly imagine. They have been forced to live with heinous memories that would dismantle most of us, and in many cases have dealt with their issues and live lives of value and purpose. It is frustrating to me, then, when day after day people recount to me the horrible advice they have received from their pastor or psychologist.

Years ago I was going through a horrible time in my life and I was recommended to a counselor. I had many misgivings about seeing a counsellor as i had been a counsellor myself for many years and knew not all psychologists/counsellors are competent. I saw this person for months and can report, with as much objectivity as I can muster, that this person did far more harm than good. He went as far as to get personally involved with the other person in the situation and with his assistance that person went on to make a series of damaging and permanent decisions. That counselor single-handedly took a bad situation and managed to make it much much worse. I saw firsthand the power for good or evil that is in the hands of those who presume to give advice from a position of authority; and I often think of this when I am counselling someone.

Some counselors suck. Most aren’t as stupid and insipid as the one I saw but many simply do not understand people, or are condescending, or basically incompetent. If you don’t mind a piece of advice let me contend that if you have been seeing a counselor for more than six months and haven’t seen any significant change you should fire that counsellor.

Tomorrow: Dating Advice

Coming This Week: Why You Should Never Date The Bad Boy

19 thoughts on “Betrayed (or Why I Do What I Do)

  1. You read my post today! You know the answer to that question. I’ll totally check the preview!!! Awesome! And when is the book coming out? You put a really great spin on difficult topics, yet you have the authority to give people correct, fact-based info. I’ve already breezed through like six of your posts…ok, I’m sounding like a stalker. But I dig good reading from sensible, smart people who turn a phrase. Where’s Oprah? You need a show. Seriously. Ok. I’m done. I’ve embarrassed myself enough for the entire month.

  2. And this is what is scaring me about going to see a new one. They’re suppose to be specialized in what I need for what I’ve been through, but sometimes I wonder if having a breakdown every so many years with the suppressed feelings coming out is better than reliving it every day and perhaps everything getting worse.

  3. You know, this is one of my biggest fears when dealing with clients, that I am not being effective or competent. There are times with difficult clients or with difficult situations I have to take a step back and even seek supervision from another therapist. In the past 5 days I’ve had to involuntarily place 2 clients in a mental hospital. For both situations I have no doubt it was needed for their safety, but I still wonder if there were things I could have done or said before to keep it from getting it to the point of hospitalization. Thank you for a great and true article.

  4. This is so true. I got lucky and had a wonderful amazing first counselor. After I moved and tried to find a new one I realized how terrible some can be. Its tough work finding one you can develop a good relationship with.

  5. Great post:). I do agree. Having been not in position to actually take counseling I took it upon myself to create my own therapy(do healthy things, leave aside time to reflect on memories, relive things and move through them, spend time with friends, question and research everything around my problem, and do less chores and work for a while to concentrate on this etc.). And having talked to a lot of people that are taking counseling for years for the same problem, I discovered I got to some of the same conclusions/resolutions they achieved after therapy, a lot faster, and even I discovered why I felt certain things, that some of them they knew they were feeling, but didn’t know why. I also pushed myself to start reliving the bad moment, which was a disaster…but started slowly clearing my life of past influences. Meanwhile a lot of counselors wouldn’t like to push you to do that…So I think a good counselor would know that all needed for recovery is very much in you already, and would try to guide you to find your own solution for whatever the problem is. But even if you aren’t in position to do that, if you can find the strength to dig within yourself, I think there isn’t an issue you can not deal with…although, of course, some of them would take a day, while others would take years.

  6. Thanks Scott – this is so true. I have a friend who often tells me of what their counsellor has told them to do, how their counsellor was talking about her own life / kids etc. It just sounds totally inappropriate – not at all boundaried. Sadly I can’t say anything as this friends issues include not being able to hear such concerns. Very frustrating.
    On the other hand, I disagree with Living…3D. Depending upon your issues it can take weeks to feel safe in counselling. You can’t fire your counsellor after 3 weeks.
    The relationship itself is vital – listen to your heart and gut when you meet the counsellor, try and see if it’s dislike or fear if you’re averse to them.
    ROS

  7. I have had the same experience – most of the counselors I’ve been to in my lifetime have been just awful, or else I have ended up counseling THEM rather than the other way around. One woman completely revamped her practice based on modalities I told her about!

    Now that I’m doing intuitive readings, which in the end is a form of counseling, I’m always very careful not to insist that my clients do one thing or another – the idea is merely to empower them to do what they generally already know is right. And I always tell them never to substitute my judgment for their own. To do so is to take away their free will, which is ALWAYS a mistake, and one I don’t want to be responsible for. My job is simply to listen with compassion and non-judgment.

  8. Scott…years ago I found myself in a situation and went to a counselor at the mega-church I was attending. At that time in my life, I assumed that if she was hired by the church to counsel, she was competent and was hearing from God at every moment. People revered her. The advice she gave me (very firmly gave me…almost ordering me) was terrible. It sent me into panic. I cannot even imagine where the advice would have led me, if I had taken it. A few weeks later I mentioned the advice to my pastor’s wife, thinking that she would agree with it since the woman worked for her husband, my pastor. “She doesn’t have to live it, does she!” she snapped. That comment changed my life. It was the first time, as a young woman, that not everyone in position to counsel someone else should be there. Now, as a therapist myself, I am very careful about “advising” someone to do anything. I understand that they may be in a vulnerable state and looking to me to be more wise and knowing than they are. Great post, Scott.

  9. i don’t think counselors should give advice at all. i mean, unless it’s asked for. showing options, yes. pointing out flaws in reasoning, yes. giving other interpretations, yes. but advice? always a sticky situation. i’ve had far more help from 12-step groups than my therapist. no one gives advice there! it’s a rule.

  10. I think I know what you mean. Not everybody that occupies the position of a counselor is competent with counseling. A true counselor is not so common but when found, makes all the difference. It really bothers me that many people often get their situations turned from bad to worse.
    A post worth sharing Scott.

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