O Psychotherapy, Where Art Thou? By Howard Rosenthal, EdD on 2/26/18 - 2:38 PM

As I was driving home from a trip to the local hardware store I was channel-surfing until I heard a radio talk show physician say, "Today I am going to examine the ills of psychiatric medicines."

Now, that caught my attention. This was going to be my kind of entertainment. First, let me admit my own bias upfront. Although I worked with psychiatrists for years, I am not a huge fan of psychiatric medicinals. Yes, they can be helpful, but I don't believe they should be advertised day, night, and seemingly every minute in between. These brain drugs (as Dr. William Glasser, the father of reality therapy was fond of calling them) come with heaping doses of side effects.

Just listen to the conclusion of any television ad released by the pharmaceutical industry and you'll be saying "he got that right."

As I listened to the doc on the radio, who clearly had an alternative functional medicine slant, I must say she really did her homework. I mean she was seriously armed to the teeth with facts and figures. With every jab she took at the prescription drugs for mental health, she backed her allegations up with journal articles, studies, and meta-analysis data.

She boasted that she would be willing to debate any psychiatric or other medical doctor who was listening. Sadly, none called.

She covered it all. The horrific side effects of the drugs. The studies where prescriptions were useless or worse yet made the client more depressed or anxious. Then there was a discussion of how anti-depressants caused folks who were depressed to become suicidal; hence the so-called black box warnings on some of these wannabe miracle pills.

She explored research where safer alternative supplements won out. And, who could forget those random double blind experiments she rattled off where the placebo fared as well as the highly advertised meds.

This was so great. But the best part was yet to come. After the commercial break (which was not sponsored by a drug company . . . yes!) she was going to talk about superior interventions. I just knew this was where psychotherapy was going to walk away with the grand prize.

Sure enough, as soon as the commercial ended the good doctor began listing a host of things to help folks with emotional issues. Some of these included: yoga, meditation, massage, chiropractic interventions, exercise, tai chi, getting enough sleep, drinking adequate water, negative ion generators in the home and the car, helping someone else in need, herbal remedies, minerals such as lithium orotate, and on and on and on.

Since I was pulling into my garage as she was going over her seemingly endless list I sat patiently with the engine off waiting for the information about psychotherapy.

Certainly, all of her interventions had some merit, but I felt like popping a lithium orotate capsule chased by a hit of Prozac myself when I heard, "Okay, well that does it for this week's show. Next week I'm going help our listeners tackle blood sugar difficulties."

Blood sugar? Did she say, "blood sugar?" Yes Howard she said, "blood sugar." Quite frankly I was stunned. But I just knew my day would turn around.

Several hours later a friend who was going back to college after many years in the business world called to say he was writing a paper on happiness. The assignment dictated that he should use YouTube sources and therefore he wanted me to have a look at his video references.

After punching in key words related to happiness, he had videos put together by physical trainers, alternative health experts, inspirational speakers, business management types, a multi-level marketing (MLM) guru, and perhaps most interesting, a 16 year old who usually talks about make up strategies, but decided she needed to dedicate a video to emotional health. And to round out the field -- thank god for small favors -- a couple of research and social psychologists.

What about trained, licensed psychotherapists? I regret to say the psychotherapists were MIA. Or as they say in the baseball world: their bats were silent.

To be sure, neither of the aforementioned incidents included in my day from hell was very scientific. But it did make me wonder. Has the golden age of psychotherapy come and gone?

Indeed, this is a different time and a different place; a whole new era, if you will.

Have Ellis, Rogers, Wolpe, Satir, Erickson, and Frankl been replaced by a young woman who normally gives advice about shades of blush? I was just about to say "absolutely not," when a rather scary free association whispered, "Howard, don't be so sure." 

File under: The Art of Psychotherapy, Therapy Humor, Musings and Reflections