Conclusion of yesterday’s column
‘Social justice’ is usually code for ‘self-sacrifice.’ You would be encouraged by such a therapist to sacrifice, wherever possible, for the sake of ‘the social good’ as against the good of the individual; specifically ‘the social good’ as the left defines it. Such a therapist, by ideological definition, would encourage sacrifice of the self to a particular racial/gender group collective — the very essence of what undermines self-esteem!
Sadly, such a therapist would not meet with opposition or controversy from colleagues in her field. She would find plenty of seminars and courses on the subject of social justice, feminism and multiculturalism at her professional conferences — all from the explicitly leftist point of view. Any other viewpoint — ‘right wing’ or simply anything not leftist — would be ignored or absent.
If, in a rare case, such a viewpoint were to come up in the context of psychotherapy, there would be horrendous opposition. When a therapist comes from an ideologically leftist point of view, it’s considered proper and even admirable. Anything different is considered unprofessional and inappropriate for therapy (at best).
This double standard in the mental health field is no different from the double standard in academia, the media, government and just about everywhere else. Amazingly, most therapists in graduate programs are explicitly taught to not be biased or to engage in double standards. But this is precisely what the profession does in actual practice and with each other.
Many therapists try to remain fairly neutral and nonjudgmental about most things. While this is, at least at first, a nice stance for encouraging a client to open up and speak with you, it likewise raises questions. Clients do want to know what their therapists think. But a good therapist does not want to tell a client what to do.
In my mind, it works like this: A good therapist does not tell you what to value; but how to value. Not what to think; but how to think.
This is why I distinguish between ‘do as you feel’ subjectivism and ‘do as I say’ dogmatism. A therapist should do neither. In other words, a therapist should not be telling you, ‘If it feels good, do it.’ This disconnects you, the client, from your most important attribute: Your reasoning, thinking, objective mind.
Similarly, a therapist who tells you what to do is disconnecting you from your mind. By saying, ‘Take this job,’ or, ‘Don’t marry that guy,’ that therapist is implying that you cannot be responsible for using your mind to make sound decisions for yourself.
One approach is as bad as the other, and each shares a flawed assumption: That the depressed, anxious or otherwise troubled psychotherapy client is unable to think for him- or herself.
A properly neutral therapist can help by saying things like, ‘Let’s think this out. Let’s look at all the relevant facts and help you determine the most reasonable conclusion.’
A good therapist is, in this sense, a ‘reasoning coach.’ He or she has a philosophy, but it’s a philosophy that has nothing to do with feminism, multiculturalism or the imposition
of a socialist state on the individual (talk about a recipe for psychological disintegration!).
That philosophy is one of reality, reason and rational self-interest. (Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Aristotle’s classical approaches embody this better than anything.) A therapist who helps you foster these viewpoints is a good therapist and, in my judgment, a safe person with whom to work.
Philosophy is inescapable in therapy as in life. Any therapist who denies this fact immediately disqualifies him- or herself.
Better no therapist than a bad therapist? Most certainly! But don’t give up on the possibility of a good one, either.
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