The soul of psychotherapy – is it in danger?

The following is an excerpt from Huffington Post on mental health in today’s society.

One of the gravest dangers afflicting our culture in general and the field of mental health in particular is the assault on human subjectivity; the decreasing interest in honoring and valuing people’s experience. In the craze to map the brain and prescribe pills for psychological disorders, the field of mental health is not only getting hijacked, it is losing its soul.

Yin and Yang of Spirit

Yin and Yang of Spirit

In Dante’s Divine Comedy the Roman poet Virgil accompanies Dante to the underworld. No one wants to be Virgil anymore — to “go into hell with Dante.” But the willingness to explore with patience and empathy the actual experience of what people undergo, no matter how horrific, is indispensable in healing the emotional afflictions that haunt human beings. And we shouldn’t be surprised that recipients of such understanding will be capable of both remarkable resilience and extraordinary healing. (Huffington Post)

It’s part of an article titled “Why Mental Health is Loosing Its Soul”, written by Jeffrey Rubin.  How often have I found myself – a therapist who passionately believes in working things through – reach for the aspirin bottle, or a book, or some other distraction – wanting only to feel better now!  I might follow this up with something like “I’m really tired today and need this break.  I deserve it – everything (the hard stuff I’d rather not think about) can wait a day.”  I call this my Scarlet O’Hara sabotage.

For many people, they would rather take a pill that deal with an underlying issue.  This isn’t the same as saying I am against anti-anxiety or anti-depression drugs – they have their place — but I do very firmly believe that many of us are using these to avoid dealing with what we really need to deal with.  The problem with this strategy is that the issues don’t go away, they simply wait for the next opportunity to surface and, in the meantime, grow and fester. I recall a TV ad that struck a chord with me at the time:  it showed a mechanic talking about the benefits of motor oil and the possible consequences of not using it, and his tag line was: “You can pay me now, or pay me later”.

What do you typically do when faced with something you would rather not deal with?  How does this support you or undermine you in the long run?  What are some of the danger signs that might help you become aware that you are avoiding, and some things that aid in make better choices around coping?  See my next blogs “Danger signs – heading down the path to over-stress” and “Awareness – the first essential step to de-stressing our lives”.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.


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