Bad Therapy, Good Therapy: Excerpts

First excerpt from Dr. Michael Hurd’s new book, “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy: And How to Tell the Difference”:

Dangerous misconception #1: There are cures for all emotional problems. In reality, there are no cures. A ‘cure’ would refer to a state in which the capacity or potential for any emotional difficulty is permanently eradicated. A cancer patient, for example, is considered cured when the growth has been removed from the body and does not return. A person suffering from an infection is considered cured when the offending biological organisms have been eliminated. Can you seriously expect the same with anxiety or depression, no matter how advanced psychiatry and psychotherapy might become? Is there a state of existence where anxiety and/or depression can be eradicated, permanently, from human life? Of course not.

Occasional bouts of anxiety or depression are a natural part of life. The key is how to manage the anxiety and depression. The significance you assign to these emotions can determine just how prolonged these times of turmoil will be.

One major purpose of psychotherapy is to help the individual better manage these feelings. Research has proven that the only categories of therapy that show quantifiable outcomes are cognitive-behavioral therapy and solution-focused therapy. Respectively, these two modalities help people put things into perspective, and help them take constructive action to get different results out of their lives.

Mental health treatment is kind of like dealing with the weather. If you live in a hurricane zone, you wouldn’t try to find a weather professional to help you eradicate the possibility of any future hurricanes. What you might do is find ways to fortify and strengthen your house. The same is true with mental health therapy, except we fortify the mind.

Unfortunately, the expectations people usually bring to the process are phenomenally unrealistic. This is, by and large, a result of the notion spread by the psychiatric establishment and the media that all emotional pain can be cured, most often with a pill, and certainly with little to no effort.

Second excerpt:

During psychotherapy, a Pandora’s Box of emotions,unresolved pain, and long-forgotten issues typically invades a client’s consciousness. If therapy is to be effective, it should lead a person to think, feel, and behave differently. Simply talking about one’s problems with no conscious sense of direction or purpose does not guarantee mental health. What the therapist says and how she presents it are critical factors. The theoretical point of reference upon which the therapy rests determines how both therapist and client will approach it. Good therapy relies on the premise of psychological individualism: The idea that no better means exist for evaluating oneself, or the external world, than a calm and deliberate process of thought.

Feelings by themselves are not enough to identify the facts of existence. The feeling that the world is a hopeless place or that nothing good will ever happen does not make it so. Feelings need to be subjected to logical reasoning before they can be adequately verified or rejected.

Human beings must take responsibility for asking themselves questions about their feelings. If they do not, they can become overwhelmed and, often without realizing it, begin to assume that their anxious or depressed feelings represent facts. Simple ‘self-talk’ techniques can help an individual deal with such feelings as, ‘I feel that I am worthless. Is this really the case? Can I provide evidence that warrants this emotional conclusion? If so, then I need to figure out some strategies for resolving this problem. At the same time, I cannot accept it as fact unless I first see persuasive and conclusive evidence.’

Aside from encouraging rational thought, good therapy also rests on the idea that self-reliance is a virtue. Psychotherapy is a means to an end. That ‘end’ includes increased self-reliance, individualism, self-esteem, and rejection of the idea that one owes any aspect of one’s self to others. ‘How can you act or think differently, so that you can better go it alone?’ That is the fundamental message that good therapists impart to their clients. Good therapists want their clients to improve as quickly as possible.