I picture saying to two therapists I know: “My clients, for the most part, get better. Yours (pointing a professorial finger at one) get listened to, and yours (sliding the finger over to the other) get cheered up.” One of these therapists is elderly, and sees many older-middle-aged women who have a sunken Titanic-load of physical and emotional disorders, histories, crises past and present, hysteric process. These victims are a hallucinatory purple, oozing red. They return to therapy week after week, sometimes month after month, ooze and talk and get listened to. How do I know they don’t get better in any significant way? If the therapist had proceeded to work into any of these wounds, the clients would have left much earlier – improved or escaped. Deep trauma work? Confronting the family toxicity? They’d probably scram. Teach, or even mention psychosomatic pain and disorder?* Scram like lightning. The younger, ebullient counselor whose laughter could be heard through the wall much of the time, did have a certain practical program in her tool belt: She presented clients with the goal of six sessions to “work through” the presenting issues. Cheering up, by New Age or Cognitive therapies, the client can work only if two factors are in place: The client has to be mesmerized or distracted by feel-good fluffery; and the therapist has to actually believe this is what therapy is about. There is then peace and self-satisfaction. The same is true of the listener: She must believe that this is the height of what we do.** Ignorance is both bliss and success.
And yet . . .