We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
What is it good for, if anything? That's a big topic. Is it good for anything? I certainly think it is, but properly-done it requires so much time, commitment, and money that it could never be, or have been, available to large numbers.
Meaning does matter, in all areas of human life. Unfortunately, fake meanings, ie "false narratives," can matter a lot in life too. Analysis is a mental laboratory as much as anything else.
Can psychoanalysis or psychodynamic therapy (which I prefer to offer) be curative? Sometimes. Can it be helpful? Certainly. Can it be done right? Not really. It's called "the impossible profession" for good reason.
I can testify that it did a lot of good for me and made me a better Psychiatrist too. (We were required to be in a lengthy analysis in analytic training.) Interestingly, that analysis has continued to work, grinding away, in my head ever since in a never-ending and self-questioning process. Self-knowledge is never pleasant, however, and I would rather play tennis than dwell on it too much. I only dwell on it when I need to. It burns sometimes, but it cleans the instruments.
Good article. Dare I say it, the process is about care during the dark night of the soul. Since modern pastors have largely abandoned their call to minister to troubled souls and shepherd people thru spiritual and emotional crises. I don't know anybody any more who receives pastoral care from their church (it's all outsourced now to second rate "religious" counsellors (i.e.: lower pay grade) or nosy lay people from a parish. Would YOU tell someone from the next pew about night terrors with flashbacks from a childhood of abuse?? I think not...
And a CBT therapist would sweep it all under the rug. Personally, I consider CBT a rather poisonous form of bullying, kicking people when they are down. Buck up, you only THINK you are miserable, on top of feeling like !@#$, your thoughts are distorted, so just STOP it. Most people quickly learn to deal with CBT groups and individual CBT therapists the same way that people who survive boot camp do: do whatever you are told, act however you have to, to avoid negative consequences. But in the case of CBT, denying the existence of the feelings that brought a person to therapy is not the best decision for long term health. It's a bit like going on a crash diet to look good for a reunion or a wedding: sheer terror or the desire to look good may make a person make an effort, but there will be a rebound the minute the immediate incentive is gone.
But reading the Guardian piece I suddenly wondered if this isn't why so many young now HATE therapy and avoid it like the plague.
I also think that one reason it no longer "works" as well as it was supposed to is that when it appears to be having an effect, it is on the treatment naive. People who don't know any better. Partly placebo effect. As the ideas behind CBT have become more mainstream in the culture, they have less novelty or curative value when presented in therapy.
By contrast, the therapy a troubled young person would have likely found 35 years ago would have been very different to harsh cookbook CBT. An angsty college student simultaneously rebelling from and yet yearning for family might have a rich encounter with a therapist or analyst. A dance of fighting against and working with parents in that masked and mysterious form of the shrink while figuring out how to be a grownup. Young people (and all of us) need people who help them grow by exploring things, rehashing them, shining light on this, and sometimes bandaging an agonising wound awhile til the person can bear to look at it. It's a dance, not a forced march.