Therapy: Long Or Short?


Therapy: Long Or Short?
A psychotherapist claimed to be able to get to the bottom of many problems in one session. Hmm...

The buzz in therapy circles in April 2012 concerned a New York Times article written by a NYC psychotherapist, Jonathan Alpert, who inflates his credentials and bashes long-term treatment and the therapists who provide it. He implies that long-term therapy is only for severe psychological disorders—and he doesn't consider depression and anxiety to be severe issues. Tell that to anyone who's suffered from major depression or disabling panic attacks! Alpert claims to be able to get to the bottom of problems such as being stuck in unfulfilling jobs or relationships, unable to reach life goals, being fearful of change, and therefore depressed (this is how he grouped these problems) quickly, sometimes in less than one session.

Is therapy a series of commands or a process?

Alpert tells people what to do, rather than helping them with their thought processes, so they can make their own decisions. Many people begin treatment wanting the therapist to tell them what to do, but if a therapist does that, patients will never learn to think through things and take responsibility for their own decisions. I often make a feeble joke, saying that I forgot to buy batteries for my magic wand, before explaining that I wouldn't dream of telling someone what to do. My job is to help them explore the things that get in the way of satisfaction in their daily lives, so they can decide what they want to do, based on rational thought, instead of impulse, emotion, or an unconscious motivation that drives their decision-making process. The treatment approach Alpert embraces fosters childish dependency, with patients waiting for the therapist to "feed" them, rather than the therapist helping them look at the dependency and blame that often motivate this insistence on being told what to do. Remember: Dependency is the idea that I need you to do something so I can feel okay, and I get to blame you when you don't do it right. Alpert's approach is the "give a man a fish and he eats for a day" method, instead of teaching him to fish, so he can eat for a lifetime.

Short-term therapy has its place...

Short-term, goal-focused counseling has its place in dealing with situational problems that are right on the surface: How can I set limits with my clients or boss? How can I help my teenager learn to accept more responsibility? I just moved here and need support to adjust and integrate myself into a new community.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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