Friday, August 22, 2014

Psychotherapy is Not Useless

As part of my readings for my social work classes I had to read a few articles describing the shift in the social work profession. The writers invariably expressed outrage that the profession had shifted away from promoting policy change and instead focused on direct practice (ie therapy). They think that therapy produces no useful results in the long run and that social workers need to focus on making life better for communities. In fact, many writers critique the practice of therapy on the grounds that it caters to middle class clients, and creates an environment of dependency on the therapist.
These articles were hard for me to read because I believe so strongly in therapy and because, well, that’s what I want to do when I graduate.
I don’t want to go into policy change. I’d rather stay far away from policy. I just don’t have the drive in me to make big changes socially. Am I fed up with some things? Yeah, but not the ones that everyone else seems to care about. Poverty, racism, drug addiction epidemics… those are all problems that I care about in the sense that I would rather they don’t exist, but I’m not going to fight them tooth and nail.
Maybe that’s a bad thing. It seems like social workers are mandated to hold certain political views. Like we’re not allowed to express anti-welfare sentiments. We have to care about every single issue and we have to take the side of the needy no matter what we actually think. I can tell that I’m going to be the bigoted conservative one in my classes, even though in the larger community I would definitely count as liberal or at least moderate.
Anyway, I don’t think psychotherapy is useless. My first reason for this is my own personal experience with it. I can guarantee that if I had never gone to a therapist I would be throwing up probably every day of my life. A therapist allowed me a safe place to talk and process my issues, which I’d never had before. Bad therapists really don’t make much of an impact, but I think they’re still helpful to their clients just as a face to talk to.
My second reason is that therapy allows others to reach their full potential. And when people reach their full potential they do good in the world and can reach out. So even if social workers aren’t directly helping tons of people, indirectly they’re very important for their communities.
My third reason is that there are some problems that can’t be eliminated. Poverty is never going to go away because there’s always going to be a lowest earning income bracket. You can succeed in helping individuals or small groups, so why not focus on those efforts rather than failing to help everyone?
I have a feeling my opinion will change by the time I graduate from this master’s program. But those are my feelings now. 


  1. There may be arenas where people won't be receptive to your beliefs (and it's totally up to you if you want to voice them and get into debates in those situations) but don't be afraid to have different beliefs. My experience in psychology and sociology classes was very different. Psychology focused on the individual's ability to change the way they experience the community, and sociology focused on how the community influenced the person - in my soc class, to the extent that it essentially negated personal responsibility. I believe both are very important, but a single person has minimal influence over the community and much more on themselves. I don't see anything wrong with enabling a person to better handle the situation they are in! It doesn't mean community isn't also important, but people whose driving force is community building can do that while other people whose driving force is the individual focus on that. They don't have to be opposing forces.

  2. I agree that therapy is not useless. Without my therapist I would've been right there with you, still in the midst of my ED, harming myself, etc. My therapist gave me a safe place to vent, made me feel like my problems were important, and gave me strategies to relax and work on myself so I could better myself and recover fully.

  3. I don't think therapy is useless, but at the same time, I feel like all I do when I go is vent and get very little feedback. Maybe it's because I make decisions based on what others think and feel, which I know is bad, but if I'm not getting a response, then I don't feel the need to go to therapy. That's just my opinion.


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