Therapy is a Scam! – The truth about mental health and big pharma  

Therapy’s positive effects are impossible to deny- decades of research have proven it to be an effective treatment. Despite this, therapy is plagued with the same issues as the rest of healthcare, namely financial issues and exploitation. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

Yes, you read that right; therapy is a scam. In a world where phrases like “mental health matters” seem to greet you every direction you look, it almost seems forbidden to utter the kind of remark you’d expect from your grandfather who exclaims, “therapy is for suckers!” While I don’t hold the sentiment that therapy has no value, he does raise a point: Are therapists really swindling our money? The short answer is yes, the field of professional help and the pharmaceutical industry is rigged with financial traps and emotional roller-coasters that run for as far as the skeptic’s eye can see. 

The last decade worked hard to destigmatize mental illnesses, and contemporary culture finally recognizes that everyone can benefit from therapeutics, not just “those crazy people that belong in the loony bin,” as the older generation says. However, if you haven’t been dragged into the mess of professional help, there’s a misconception that once you finally seek a therapist, their help will…help. 

Therapists are never available to begin with, and after months of waiting for a consultation, you enter Susan’s soothing lavender room, complete with a stress toy and a place to vent. But on your second visit, you realize Susan only asked variations of “so how does that make you feel?”,  made surface level insights, and suggested general coping mechanisms that could be doled out to anyone. You walk out feeling more anxious than when you walked in, and that complementary stress ball is soon to be on life support. You end up asking yourself, “is this what therapy was all cracked up to be? No thank you, I think I’ll stick to my beer and Sunday football.” 

The typical rebuttal is “you just have to find the one you click with!” But why should I, the patient, have to go on a wild-goose-chase for a therapist that “works” for me? They should just…work. A highly qualified therapist would be sharp and strategically personalize their treatments for each of their clients. Leapfrogging through the field of therapists illustrates a fundamental flaw in our approach to treatment. Clearly, schools of psychology need to increase the rigor of their programs and raise the standards to be a certified therapist. To put it into perspective, we easily give doctors access to our bodies; their job is to maintain our physical health. Would you trust therapists to have unrestricted access to the depths of your mind because their job is to maintain our mental health? Would you be okay with allowing a surgeon who botched surgeries sometimes?   

Therapy can be life saving for some people. This makes the long wait times to find a therapist who’s right for you and the financial gates blocking off expensive options all the more harmful to patients who are seeking help. Photo by Alex Green from Pexels.

Getting legitimate therapy isn’t the only factor draining our pockets. The pharmaceutical realm shamelessly capitalizes off the increase in diagnoses for mental illness. “Big Pharma” is a running joke amongst younger generations, because no matter what economic logic you come up with, it all boils down to a gut feeling: Profiting off of someone suffering just doesn’t sound right. Corporations are incentivized to prolong the misery of patients, forcing consumers to rely on their pharmaceuticals. It’s no secret that corporate America rarely shies away from the chance to play with lives; they certainly haven’t hesitated to use the trivialization of mental disorders to their advantage.  

This is also where accessibility comes into play. Your favorite pill-pushing company may brand themselves as a “family company,” but which families are we really talking about here? Prescription anxiety medication is likely to earn a scoff in most marginalized communities. We circle back to the age-old controversy: should those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder still have the right to healthcare in spite of their inability to pay for it? Do marginalized groups not deserve therapists, medications and an improved standard of living? Or is it just tough luck, since they didn’t “work hard enough” for that white picket fence that anyone can earn in good old America? 

In the end, whether you’re rich or poor, one thing seems clear: we still have a lot of work to do in order to evolve our idea of what good, effective therapy looks like. We need to recognize these petty, stubborn mindsets are keeping us from focusing on reaching a point where the answer to “Do you think having a therapist is essential?” is “Yes.” And if we were to indulge a lofty prediction, when doctors’ physical check-ups are automated, perhaps therapists and psychiatrists will ironically become a “no-brainer”. Until then, do your research before shelling out cash for those pricey medications and wasting precious time on finding a decent therapist. Or as grandpa would put it: Don’t be a sucker! 


    • I’d be interested in hearing your opinion! Please feel free to elaborate, I by no means believe there is any right answer and I’d love to see things from a different perspective on this topic.

  1. This article definitely seems to describe my experience with therapy. I went through a very public trauma that the local therapists went so far as to rent out a concert hall to talk to the people who were there and tell us all we needed therapy. I dodged it for a year, then finally succumbed to the pressure (it’s bullying, let’s not kid ourselves) to “get help.” Four years later I’m worse off, because the only thing that got “helped” was therapists helping themselves to my bank account. I have all the same symptoms, but now also I worry about therapy taking advantage of me. I got threatened with hospitalization twice without ever being so much as rude or mentioning any kind of violence or harm to myself or others. I need help, but it seems needing help is very different from someone being capable of providing help. 4 years, 3 therapists, countless visits, and yet not one single formal named therapy technique applied. No EMDR, no desensitization, no CBT, nothing. Just showing up feeling bad, then leaving feeling worse, every single session. I feel utterly betrayed. I gave them so many chances, was never rude, always paid my bill on time, but I just wasn’t worth helping, and I was literally told I was too foregone with too many traumas to be helped. Imagine the blow that was to me, especially after paying so much for the help I was promised. How am I not supposed to feel lied to, taken advantage of, and played for a sucker?

  2. I just finished calling to make an appointment with a therapist via Kaiser. The entire time, all I could feel was dread and all I could think about was what roll of the dice was I going to get this time? I’m 29 years old and have lived a miserable life, honestly. I’ve seen countless therapists who I couldn’t “vibe” with, many of whom wanted to reeeeeally push for anti-depressants. And hey, I’ve been there done that as well. Tried about 4 different onces, each with its own pros and cons. In the end, they all ultimately had the same effect. I was more numb to emotions, so negative experiences didn’t hurt as bad, but positive experiences barely felt like anything. I felt empty and dead. And even when on anti-depressants, I would realize this, begin to feel sad but couldn’t because of the drugs. These drugs just suppress the sadness but it never goes away, not unless addressed through actual competent psychotherapy. Competent practice is difficult to find nowadays. I’m saying this coming from California which has the strictest standards for becoming licensed; I can only imagine what it’s like in other states. The best progress I’ve ever made was tackling these things on my own with magic mushrooms. If you do it right, it works. Places are finally starting to incorporate psilocybin with their practices. Big pharma isn’t going to like that unless they get their cut, and here starts the BS politics all over again which is actually a big contributor to my existential dread.

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