Our Crazy Therapeutic Culture
Where Will It End?

The modern world has become absorbed with a new sort of fanaticism; this new form of fanaticism is telling everybody: "You need therapy!" If one should respond with, 'No, I don't need any sort of therapy, thank you, I am perfectly fine,' one will quite often be met with the comment, "Yes, you do need a therapy, most everybody does - its just that you haven't recognised it yet!" Sounds crazy? It is crazy.

When this nonsense first emerged a few years ago my wife and I knew a family who, to be perfectly frank, had made many mistakes in their child rearing; their children had not been consistently taught respect or discipline and were basically allowed to roam around and cause havoc! They stole because the father stole, they used bad language because their parents used bad language and they generally needed taking in hand. The mother eventually went to her doctor because she suffered from stress (hardly surprising), but this proved to be only the beginning of a long involvement for that family in various therapies which simply masked the fact of terrible inconsistencies within their family life. Their children, they were now told, were not 'naughty children' at all but were showing "reasonable self-expression" (unless, of course, one happened to live in the same street as that family, in which case "reasonable self-expression" was not a term one might choose!), and, in fact, the two children and Mum and Dad were told that they needed therapy. Responsibility was apparently not taught in any of this, neither was self-reliance, nor did any teaching of respect dare raise its head above the parapet!

A chair for receiving therapy

People are being taught not to cover up dark secrets but to openly reveal such secrets to "trained therapists." In this way, it is suggested, troublesome guilt feelings can be eradicated. But the truth is that God made men and women with consciences and the key to overcoming feelings of guilt is to deal with the reality of sin. People should not be encouraged to confess reasons for guilt until making a full confession before God. Until then, people may decide to reveal deep secrets to close friends - but never to strangers.

The new 'Therapism' always extols openness, frankness and emotional self-absorption, people are taught that they should share all their feelings and guilt complexes so they can be dealt with by "trained counselling professionals" (quite often a young man or woman with - thus far - very little experience of life). This line of reasoning leads to the belief that stress, uncertainty, feelings of guilt and anxiety are illnesses in need of a cure. Therapism assumes that even the average member of the public (not only the person who is plainly mentally sick), requires a vast array of therapists, self-esteem educators, grief counsellors and traumatologists to lead them though the trials of everyday life. One cannot help but muse on the fact that one's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents somehow managed to come through two world wars and probably suffered quite major poverty along the way to say nothing of outrageous anxiety and stress at frequent intervals yet apparently emerged from all that "unreasonable trauma and social emotional abuse" as pretty decent, loving and well-balanced people! Are we missing something here?

The need for 'self-esteem' is a central plank of much modern therapy. Plainly Nietzsche-influenced modern psychologists believe that lack of self-esteem leads to many psychological problems in life. Increasingly this approach is now being used for juvenile offenders. In The Tyranny of Therapism, Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel write,

"Young people are not helped by being wrapped in cotton wool and deprived of the vigorous pastimes and intellectual challenges they need for healthy development. Nor are they improved when educators, obsessed with the mission of boosting children's self-esteem, tell them how 'wonderful' they are. A growing body of research suggests there is, in fact, no connection between high self-esteem and achievement, kindness, or good personal relationships. On the other hand, unmerited self-esteem is known to be associated with antisocial behaviour - even criminality.

Therapism tends to regard people as essentially weak, dependent, and never altogether responsible for what they do. Alan Wolfe, a Boston College sociologist and expert on national mores and attitudes, reports that for many Americans non-judgmentalism has become a cardinal virtue. Concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, are often regarded as anachronistic and intolerant. 'Thou shalt be nice' is the new categorical imperative.

Summarising his findings, Wolfe says: 'What the Victorians considered self-destructive behaviour requiring punishment we consider self-destructive behaviour requiring treatment.... America has most definitely entered a new era in which virtue and vice are redefined in terms of public health and addiction...."

(The full essay can be located here: http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CABF8.htm)

Authors Who Have Questioned Our Therapeutic Culture

Dr. Tana Dineen's book, Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People, was first released in 1996 and significantly revised in 1998 and again in 2001. Dr Dineen has over 30 years of experience in the field of psychology as a licensed psychologist in Canada. She has also served as a consultant for many lawyers, agencies and government bodies on issues relating to psychology.

In their 2005 book, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance, Christina Hoff Sommers and Dr Sally Satel questioned the notion that uninhibited emotional openness is good for our mental health and challenged several other assumptions of Therapism.
Dr Satel has also written PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine.

New York writer Paul Beston has written,

"At the heart of therapism," the authors (Dr Satel and Christina Hoff, that is) write, "is the revolutionary idea that psychology can and should take the place of ethics and religion." Indeed, there is a strong whiff of Leninism in "psychological debriefing," a process in which counselors lead group sessions that prod people to share emotions about traumatic events. Those who don't wish to participate are deemed to merit special watching, since they cannot be considered truly healthy. To use the old Marxist terminology, such people are suffering from false consciousness.
By endorsing such practices, therapism runs the risk of violating individual autonomy and the imperatives of the inner life...

(From Sharing Way Too Much an article which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal and which can now be found on Dr Sally Satel's website which is Here.)

All of this is bad enough and we must see 'Therapism' as yet another aberration of this self-absorbed and responsibility-dodging modern society. But what is particularly worrying is how such flawed and intrinsically atheistic lines of human reasoning (which, after all, deny the realities of sin and of human responsibility), are now even making inroads into evangelical Christianity. Suddenly people are advertising their services as "Christian therapists" and "Christian counsellors." In some large evangelical congregations the practice of counselling with a minister has just about gone, having been replaced by the recommendation to counsel with a team of "trained counsellors" within the congregation.
One senior gentleman told me this,

"I wanted to see my senior pastor about a private, personal matter but I was told that the pastor no longer handles these things. I was offered a choice of three counsellors. All three were less than half my age and my wife used to babysit two of them! One of the guys was barely out of his youthful acne! When I questioned this I was simply told about the Christian counselling and psychological training the guy had come through. I later rang my pastor to complain. He said, 'Some of these things are now a matter of law and have been taken out of my hands.' HELP! What's happening to us??"

Christian congregations - however large - must ensure that they hold on to the principle of members being allowed to meet with, and to discuss matters with their pastor! This, after all, has been considered a fundamental right of church attendance for hundreds of years! We need to ask: how many more compromises with the modern world will churches make before the whole concept of 'church attendance' becomes meaningless?
Robin A. Brace, 2006.

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