Recently while perusing the listing of local counselors and therapists on Psychology Today’s website, I stumbled across (to my horror) a profile belonging to somebody I used to know well. There she was, after having completed her master’s degree during the last 7 years since we cut off contact, offering her services as a licensed therapist to work with children, adults and families, claiming to specialize in treating depression and providing grief counseling. Charging, according to the site, $140-$250 per session (notably with no sliding scale fees available for low-income patients, though accepting various insurance plans). Huh.
People pay THAT woman for help??? WOW. Pardon me for sounding like an arrogant jerk here, but I knew that woman for a few years as a friend and can’t help but find that shockingly absurd. Mentioned this to another friend of mine who also used to know her and he too was floored by the news. Just goes to show that the mental health field will indeed take all comers, so long as they can pass the social work or psychology curriculum (which apparently isn’t too terribly difficult).
I knew her, and through knowing her I can’t imagine her having anything of value to bring to the table when it comes to aiding anybody with depression or overcoming grief. Sure, she herself experienced grief when her father died, but that doesn’t mean she’s a good candidate for helping others in a similar predicament. In our time knowing one another she was drinking to blackout limits on a regular basis, taking home strange men who she’d then accuse of raping her (due to them taking advantage of her blackout state), contracting STDs as a result (on more than one occasion), and then completely fucking up her social services job that eventually fired her and then aggressively refuted her attempts to collect unemployment benefits (a very painful lesson to her that occurred shortly before our friendship ended). THAT lady, a mere 7 years onward, is now credentialed to be a source of aid to others, and at a very steep price.
Okay. Examples like this are why I don’t place much faith in the mental health field. Look, even if that woman has turned her life around and is doing much better these days (as I sincerely hope she is), that still doesn’t qualify her to be a mental health professional to others. It would take a lot more than a few years and an additional academic degree to provide her with enough life experience and wisdom to be of much use to others. I recall her temperament and in no way can I see her personality as being that of someone who’s truly and deeply committed to helping others or exploring life in open-minded ways or relating to depression in others. She was one of the more selfish women I’ve ever befriended, and I say this as a pretty damn selfish woman myself. The difference being that I have the sense to recognize I’d be a charlatan if I hung out a shingle and played therapist to others for a paycheck.
I’m not trying to come across angry here. Mostly I’m incredulous. And I can’t help but wonder how many folks have visited with her and whether they felt they actually received any benefit from doing so. Was she mentally and emotionally present with them during sessions? Does she have any worthwhile advice to offer, or is she just regurgitating whatever she read in college textbooks? Is she sober these days or still living each day in the hazy fog of a perpetual hangover? Has she actually done more soul-searching over the years and unearthed the problems and pain that were driving her own self-destructive tendencies? Is she less of a bitch nowadays?
How does one go from raging drunken party girl to professional counselor in such a short span of time? And how does one feel right about doing so? She’s younger than me, so in her early 30s by now. How much useful advice can people like us give to others when we’ve spent our 20s drowning our sorrow in bars, depending heavily on the help of friends and others ourselves?
Like the blind leading the blind…
Just strikes me as utterly queer to have come across her profile on there. Yet another example of what I’ve grown aware of over the years: that there’s a disproportionate amount of fucked up people in the mental health industry. By that I mean that the very people we’re instructed to turn toward during our times of need unfortunately tend to be the ones who have a shitload of drama in their own lives, and often enough of their own creation. Why? My assumption is that those of us trying to heal ourselves tend to be drawn to those fields and their material, which for some gets them thinking that because they learn a lot about these subjects that that then qualifies them to join such fields in order to earn a living. In short, crazy attracted to information about crazy transforms into professional for other crazies in order to earn a profit and prestige. Maybe it’s a way to help oneself to feel less crazy by comparison. I don’t know. I just know that it makes me very uneasy when I keep seeing this play out time and again.
Reminds me of a close girlfriend of mine whose uncle is a child psychologist. He and his mental health field wife had one daughter and she happens to be one of the most batshit crazy people some of us have ever known. Seriously. Enough to where my friend’s husband refuses to leave his own kids alone with the woman for any amount of time. And of course, as to be expected of completely unhinged people like herself, she went to college and became a teacher. And when that blew up in her face finally (due to her bizarre behavior and ongoing disruptive lunacy, including screaming on her cell phone and hysterically crying in front of a classroom of children, that ending one of her teaching jobs), she’s now decided to return to college to pursue her master’s degree. In what, you ask? Psychology. Naturally…
Nevermind having been locked up in a psych ward herself due to multiple suicide “attempts” (more like manipulative displays to distress and guilt the hell out of her parents, who continue to financially provide for her into her 30s).
Makes the head spin.
While I can understand the attraction to these fields of research, it’s one thing to learn about them and yet quite another to preach from their pulpits. Unhealthy people aren’t the best at defining or demonstrating what health is. Winds up being abstract and theoretical rather than lived experientially. I can understand this as a lover of sociology — the study of human dynamics, particularly among or across groups — as someone who repels from groups. It’s as if we’re attracted to that which is foreign to us. Not saying we can’t offer up unique perspectives about these subjects through our own research, but how helpful to others are we likely to be when we can’t embody that which we wish to teach?
Just a thought this morning. The more I learn, the less I really can claim to know. But I do tread carefully in my dealings with anyone claiming to belong within the mental health establishment (in any capacity) since life has been teaching me that crazies tend to flock within its ranks. And I’m not down with having my mind screwed up even more by folks who play a role they have no business playing.
The way that game is currently set up, there are no checks and balances to deter unhealthy people from joining such fields and then passing along their own warped way of looking at life onto others (or simply wasting our time and money in our search for useful guidance). And yet we as a society grant them so much power and funnel the masses toward these supposed professionals. It’s worth seriously pondering on the potential consequences of this trend.