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Business as usual in the problem people industry

I found an interesting article in the Independent Online (IOL) lifestyle section about mental health workers called, sensationally enough, Shrinks in distress.

“Mental health practitioners are generally believed to hold all the cards to mental health,” says Gcina Makaula a clinical psychologist. “People want to feel they are with the right person. The brain is a very fragile organ to mess with. As a psychologist, I cannot ignore my own bias. I believe that psychologists are best at doing therapy. However, I cannot say that all psychologists are good, and I cannot claim that all social workers, mental health workers, or psychiatrists are bad. There are some very capable social workers who I refer cases to and some psychiatrists who I believe are great pharmacologists and diagnosticians.”

Most professionals are good at holding their own biases; otherwise they would have chosen other professions. Sometimes this is merely a matter of pride. I’ve met a few recovered psychologists, too, but very few. Most of them mostly keep at the game of therapy, and heeling people. Recovered psychologists are people who have changed professions and who no longer pursue the business of contributing appreciably to the disability epidemic that is plaguing our nation.

When it comes to psychiatrists, I agree, there are a few good apples out there, a very, very few. This is to say that shrinks themselves are 99.9 % bad, and .1 % or so good. There are a few good shrinks out there, and by good I mean psychiatrists like Dr. Thomas Szasz and Dr. Peter Breggin. I consider them both the exceptions to the general rule of badness governing their trade.

When it comes to great pharmacologists, you might have better success with a local bartender mixing drinks at a corner bar, and when it comes to diagnosticians, you might as well be saying hypnotists. Given the 300+ “mental illness” labels in the last revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) I find many of those diagnoses laughable.

The article goes on to discuss psychologist burnout, and the personal and familial problems that sometimes bring people into the profession.

Makaula disagrees. “Not all of us get into this line of duty out of the need to cleanse our own issues although no one can deny how therapeutic it is to hear other people’s stories, but some of us got into the fraternity with one mission and one mission only, to make it better for others who have not been as fortunate.”

My understanding is that psychologists and other mental health workers often live in another end of town, and in different neighborhoods, from those people they tend to treat. Were this otherwise, they’d not be “as fortunate” as they are. I suggest that they are not nearly so necessary as they perhaps might consider themselves to be. Moving down into the slums, and taking salary cuts, is usually not a part of the bargain. On the receiver side, therapy comes with shit jobs and slumming it in general. The mental health consumer, or troubled person, by and large, is not in the slightest bit upwardly mobile economically. Psychologists don’t tend to address this matter for good reason. Their position and salary depends upon their professional fortunate elite status. Without unfortunate people the psychologist is out of business.

Offering a counterpoint to the previously expressed view we get the following.

[Canadian social worker and psychology student Yolanda] Mkhize thinks otherwise. “A therapist who has or has had issues to deal with is more dependable than someone who only imagines what its like to have issues. Credibility comes from experience. The saying ‘those who cannot do teach’ must have come from that. It is always easier to look at someone else’s situation from outside,” she says. Clean as a whistle therapists are as good as a medicine dispenser in the hospital. Unless you have walked the path, you cannot give directions.

Remember what I said about recovered psychologists, the same applies here. The mental health/illness profession has little future without people giving other people such crooked advice. There are perhaps better directions to walk in than into the clutches of the disturbed professional. Of course, it may take an individual many years in therapy to achieve this insight, and to realize that there is a world of a difference out there waiting for him or her, but it has been known to happen.