For the Mind There is no Passive Cure

Sometimes doctors (or family members) refer patients or loved ones to therapy to fix something they — the doctor or family member, that is — consider a problem. The motivation for therapy is on the part of the referring party, not the client/patient him- or herself.

To this I respond: Get real!

You cannot cure someone who’s indifferent to a “cure.” If he’s indifferent, then the only way to cure him is without his participation (other than minimal cooperation, such as showing up). This will work with medical conditions, but not with mental or emotional ones. The person can stand there passively while you treat him medically, but he cannot solve his emotional problems unless he thinks, and unless he is willing to challenge and change his errors in thinking.

Sometimes the client/patient is not merely indifferent, but is actively hostile to a cure. The doctor or family member reasons, “Well, that’s OK. He’s wrong. The therapist will fix him.” No, that’s not true. A person cannot have his false beliefs changed for him. He can only change them through his own reasoning methods. His therapist can guide him, if he acknowledges something is indeed wrong; a therapist can correct him if he’s willing to be corrected. But it’s pure fantasy — pure magical thinking — on the referring party’s part to expect that the mind can change without its own consent, and without its own willingness to think.

This is the problem with applying the medical metaphor to psychotherapy. Reason and rationality are not pills or surgical procedures; they are self-initiated methods or habits of living, practiced only by one who wants to practice them.