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?
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!