Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Brand is Your Therapist: On Commodification of Change

Ever so often a rash of articles appears in popular media about the demise of psychotherapy. I generally treat those articles as just that: a rash that requires some sort of cream. Don't get me wrong, however, because I do think the field as a whole has a significant amount of work to do in remaining relevant, powerful, and important in the human growth, development, and change process. Articles like this aren't helping this nurturing of a strong and relevant field.  People who do "naked therapy" don't help either. I digress...

Illustration by Matt Dorfman. Photograph by Jens Mortensen for The New York Times.
This morning a piece in the New York Times has been making the rounds. What Brand Is Your Therapist: Psychotherapy's Image Problems Pushes Some Therapists to Become Brands is the latest in a history of these sorts of rashes. The author, Lori Gottlieb, bemoans the difficulty of starting a private psychotherapy practice. She writes, "after I completed six years of graduate school and internship training and was about to start my psychotherapy practice [I discovered that] nobody taught me in grad school that psychotherapy, a practice that had sustained itself for more than a century, is losing its customers."

Gottlieb continues on with very tired advice about branding, developing a marketing message, and selling a niche product that customers cannot do without. Bothered by troublesome ethical codes that prevent making promises and money back guarantees? Call yourself a coach and do whatever you please.

What Gottlieb walks away from is a long (and admittedly troubled) history of the psychotheraputic enterprise of human growth, development, and change within the context of a relationship. She encourages the marketing of quick fixes and soundbites that soothe the ego but do little to nurture more complete human beings.

All this is good fodder for future blog posts. What is important here comes from a close friend and colleague of mine. She emailed me the New York Times piece with some background information on Lori Gottlieb.

What Gottlieb doesn't point out in her article is that she is right out of school. She spent six long years earning a masters degree in marriage and family therapy (note: it is generally a two year degree). Gottlieb is, in fact, so right out of school that she is still collecting the post-graduation hours of supervised practice that she is required to have before she can be independently licensed.

Of course she didn't have a thriving private practice. She is just starting out.

I don't know Gottlieb. I don't know her background, her skills, or her qualifications.What I do know is this: I am growing increasingly concerned about the commodification of psychotherapy. Slowly consultants and branding experts, out to make a buck, have been repackaging the psychotheraputic enterprise into a sexy sleek product that--similar to Twinkies--offers little actual value.

What do you think? What is the purpose of psychotherapy? Join in and have a dialogue here on my blog or on Twitter.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Autumn Updates: Magnolia Wigglesworth Edition

It's been awhile since I've connected my camera to my computer. I know this because I tried to shoot a few images yesterday and discovered the memory card was completely full.

Maggie, of course, got a significant amount of outdoor time. She finds the crunchy autumn leaves particularly wonderful. I think they hold the scent of whatever passed through them particularly well. She's been known to sniff each and every leaf in a pile--and of course leave a message of her own.

Of course there also was myriad opportunities for investigating wildlife in Cambridge. We attempted to visit out the urban chickens at least once a week and scout out a turkey daily.

The turkeys became very enticing. We caught this video outside in the grounds of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. What didn't get filmed was the turkey sneaking up on Maggie while she wasn't looking. As soon as she noticed the results were rather predictable.

Maggie found the remnants of hurricane Sandy rather distressing. She elected to stay inside until conditions improved.

And of course there were the car rides. While it is terribly unsafe for a puppy to hang her head out the window, occasionally Maggie can't resist taking in the scents. We were coming back from a hike at an undisclosed location in the Merrimack River Valley in this shot.

Maggie also had ample opportunity to frolic around her favorite fields near our home in an undisclosed location in the Merrimack River Valley. Here she is engaged in the quintessential hound activity: sniffing.
...and her Maggie is nearly looking at the camera.

..and finally we get a look at the camera. Of course she is in motion so it's blurry. I call this area we are at "tick city" because, well, it's infested with ticks. It's off limits to me and Maggie from spring until the first frost because neither of us get out without at least a few ticks on us. All year long she looks longingly at the path that leads up to tick city. This was her first visit to the area since last spring.

What does one do while at tick city? Wiggle, of course. There is a reason why she is called Magnolia Wigglesworth. This image to the right suggestions one reason for her name.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dear Republican Friends

Dear Republican Friends:

 I have been reading your Facebook updates, tweets, and blogs post-election. I have considered responding sometimes. It seems much more efficient to say this once.

Mitt Romney didn't lose the election because he ran a bad campaign, or because there were not enough young republicans who voted, or because of voter fraud. Romney lost because he offered too many losing ideas. The GOP ran a campaign of with a narrative of being against people. They ran an election with small minded candidates with small ideas.

What does this mean?

The GOP offered a losing world view, a losing platform that positioned itself against people rather than for people. Against gay and lesbian people. Against women. Against sexuality. Against Muslims. Against immigrants. Against science. Against knowledge. Against our environment. Against.

Against me.

A political party cannot win without coalitions of people. How many groups do the GOP have to run against before there is no one left?

I read some of your comments and am deeply saddened that you cannot see how much of the world the GOP has excluded. I am deeply saddened to see how many you have excluded and walked away from people who are different than you. While you might not overtly be doing this, your support of a platform that alienates and is against anything different is a rejection of the majority of your community.

You've rejected me.

Americans are not all Evangelical Christians. Americans are not all Christian. It disturbs me to see that some think we all share an Evangelical belief--and some think that is the only faith that there should be.

I know. The Bible says to spread the good news. I don't believe there is any instructions to spread that good news by being hateful and exclusionary. I believe the good news is supposed to be spread by embracing the other with love & compassion.

Engage me here, if you'd like. Defriend me or block me if you'd like. Whatever you do, I hope you spend some time thinking about how you might fight for people more, rather than fight against them.

e pluribus unum