“You Need a Therapist” And The Motive of the Psychological Shamer

I love it when people say — intending it as an insult — “You need a therapist”.

If you really think therapy is a useful and constructive process, why would you hurl it as an insult?

I would only recommend a therapist to someone I really value, respect and care about. Recommending a therapist is not a psychological baseball bat. It’s essentially a way of saying, “I think you’re great and deserve even better than what you have. I’d love to see you benefit from the help of a good psychological therapist.”

The context for the hostile, “You need a therapist” is usually clear: “I don’t like what you’re saying or doing. I don’t like the way you think, or the way you act. Therefore, you must find a therapist. Any therapist will obviously agree with me. And that will take care of it.”

Seriously? Aside from the arrogance and presumptuousness of such an attitude, what makes anyone think a therapist has the power to force someone to think a certain way?

Of course, everyone probably understands that nobody can force anyone to think a certain way. We can force people to shut up, resign to our will out of fear, or go through the motions of doing something they do not wish to do, something neither heart nor mind is invested in. But nobody can ever force a mind to think anything in particular, or even to think at all.

The real motive for such a comment as “You need a therapist” is psychological shaming. People who say such things think they can shame or humiliate you into doing their will. That’s a terrible mistake, and it’s also revealing.

People who shame others have no good will. They have no respect for the human mind, for human reason, and for how the brain, free will and individual autonomy actually work. If they did, it would not even occur to them to say such a thing, or to motivate anyone via shame. Chances are they are motivated by shame themselves — inwardly — and they think it will motivate others, too.

When dealing with a shamer, always consider the source: The shamer him- or herself. Because such a tactic tells you more than you need to know about a person.


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