Writing About the Talking Cure
What I've learned from 10 years of In Therapy
Posted March 31, 2018
Greetings psychology enthusiasts. You probably don't know that the Psychology Today blogs is 10 years old this year. I’ve tried to rally them to throw a party, but they’re not biting. It turns out the PT staff is comprised of humble, shrinking violets who’d rather spend their day toiling away at their thankless editorial tasks than take a bow for helping share 100K (+/-?) free articles with a world hungry for answers. I admire their modesty, and well, I gave it a shot. So it goes.
Thanks for helping millions of people, PT!
Ten years ago, when the PT blogs were shiny and new, I was offered a chance to write for them. It was a great moment in a difficult year (it was ’08, and, you know… ) and I was thrilled. So I cranked up my Commodore 64 and started writing, joining the couple dozen other bloggers charging into the new frontier. Peter Kramer , Bella DePaulo , Dan Ariely , Scott Barry Kauffman , and many other notable scholars… these were my formidable colleagues early in the game.
This opportunity was life-altering, it turns out. Through blogging for PT I’ve been able to interview most of my psychotherapy heroes , gain new writing opportunities , launch dream initiatives , form solid friendships , and have a lot of fun. All of those new opportunities have their own merits, but PT is the launching point.
My blog, In Therapy , is about demystifying the therapy experience for clients. Therapists have years to learn their trade, but clients have very little to help them navigate the treacherous waters of therapy. As a therapist myself, and a long-time consumer of psychotherapy, I wanted to start conversations about therapy and help a few people enhance their time on the couch. Maybe I’ve succeeded, maybe not, but it’s taught me some lessons along the way. If you’ve read this far, you deserve to know what they are:
Not everyone loves therapy – When I started writing the blog I already knew that some people had negative experiences in therapy, despite the research showing therapy’s overall effectiveness . But soon, the blog became a beacon for people with bad experiences to come tell me their stories, either in the comments or through a direct email. I’m now well aware of how much abandonment, judgment, chicanery, and buffoonery some clients experience in therapy, and I've found myself apologizing for my profession at times. I thought my training was pretty much standard for all therapists, but apparently not. Check out the comments on the Transference post and Termination Series for more on this.
Therapists and clients are having different conversations – Therapists spend a lot of time and energy arguing among themselves about the theories and techniques we use to help people, and much of that is lost on the clients who seek our help. Most clients don’t give a damn about the finer distinctions of ACT vs. DBT, and they could care less about the CBT-Psychodynamic battles – they just want to know if their therapist cares and can help them. I wrote early on about the problem of jargon in our field, and still believe we’d spend time more wisely figuring out what clients want instead of proving one theory’s superiority over another.
You can please some of the people some of the time – Blogging has been a crash course in thickening my skin to people who despise me and my field regardless of what I say. I’ve been told my degree isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, that I’m one of “those people” who don’t care, and that all therapists just want clients to go away. I’m an arrogant blowhard who should find another line of work. And by the way, I’m the guy trying to empower and advocate for clients. At times this has made me want to just stop (dog). But I know that's only a portion of the readers, and that their comments likely come from a tremendous amount of pain at the hand of a trusted caregiver who let them down. I'm an easy target, but their hurt is real and complex. I'm not giving up on that.
You never know what works – Bloggers out there already know this. You may pour time and energy into a post or a series that you believe will rock the world, but they fall short; while an off-topic, off-the-cuff post makes big waves. You never know.
Just try – They say that on your death bed you don’t regret what you’ve done as much as the opportunities you failed to strive for. I haven’t been on a death bed yet, so I defer to “they.” If there’s an overarching takeaway I’ve acquired from my PT Blog experience it’s that trying, reaching, and striving for something, whether it’s a position you never think you’ll get or a conversation you doubt you’ll ever land, it’s still worth the effort.
So I raise a glass to the PT blogs for 10 years of disseminating personal, scientific, and entertaining wisdom to a world hungry for the information. Here’s to a great decade, and many more to follow.
Kleenex , I'm still waiting for your call.
Do you have a favorite post or author or memory from the PT blogs over the past 10 years? Please share them in the comments – we'll throw our own birthday party.