I always take the attitude that I’ll do anything to help another therapist. I sign up to participate in their research, I readily and enthusiastically give the best tips I know for succeeding with clients, and happily give referrals to other therapists. People have asked me several times “Why would you help out the competition?” Oddly enough, I don’t think of other therapists as my competition. I don’t think the public holds the therapy profession in a high enough esteem for us to have to worry about competition. Consider that nearly half of all American adults will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives, yet only a tiny fraction of those adults will ever seek out treatment from a therapist. Most of them (30-60% depending on which study you look at) will drop out after just the first session. Of course, there’s also a lot of so-called normal people that could benefit from therapy. Combine these normal people with the 50% of adults with a diagnosable mental illness, and I think it’s fair to say that most people in this country could benefit from therapy. Clearly there’s more than enough potential clients to go around. The problem is that very few of them actually want to go to therapy.
So, as you can see, it’s not a problem of competition. It’s almost funny to me that another therapist would think of me as their competition. There is no competition. The therapy industry as a whole is simply failing. People would rather get a prescription from their doctor or see a psychic than go see a therapist. That’s the real problem. Those of us who aren’t struggling as therapists should be doing everything we can to help out our fellow therapists and in the process improve the overall image of the counseling profession. Way too many people are scared of therapy. They’ve all heard the horror stories of the incompetent therapist. These stories are all over the internet. I’ve even heard them from my own clients when I ask them about their previous therapists. Some of these stories are absolutely ridiculous. They make ALL therapists look bad, not just the “competition”. We can do better than this.
When a therapist succeeds, surely that is a wave of success that we can all ride. I’ve noticed that when a person has a good experience in therapy, they don’t tell their friends “Marina Williams helped me so much! You should go see Marina too.” They instead say “Therapy helped me so much! You should go see a therapist too.” Do you see the difference? When therapy goes well, it helps the reputation of therapy as a whole. Of course, when therapy goes awful, it hurts all of us too. If you read some of the many therapy horror stories on the internet, you will notice that nearly none of them give the actual therapist’s name. They give blanket statements like “Therapy is a con!” The “bad therapist” gets off scott free, but the rest of us suffer. This is why I believe that in addition to trying to be the very best therapists we can be, we should also be striving to improve the therapy profession as a whole.
Consider that the dentistry profession used to have a bad reputation too. Very few people went to the dentist and only went if they absolutely had to. Sounds like the current state of our profession, doesn’t it? Now, nearly everyone goes to the dentist, and not just when there’s a problem, they also go twice a year for preventative check-ups. They pay out of pocket for cosmetic work. This turnaround didn’t just happen on it’s own one day. The dentistry profession worked really hard to clean up it’s image. We therapists have to do the same. Lately I’ve been trying to do this by writing easy to understand books on how to do more successful therapy, but I don’t think it’s enough. That’s why I have also added this blog. What could you be doing to help the therapy profession?