I’m Not a Healer - I Work for Money
Recently a pissing match broke out in the last two ISEPP Bulletins between Ronda E. Richardson who does “peer support” and two of our most stalwart ISEPP members, Ph.D. psychologists Drs. Lloyd Ross and Burt Seitler. In a nutshell: Ronda is envious of her former psychologist who charged $200/hour whereas the going rate for peer support is $15/hour. She demonstrates her envy in the usual fashion, by showing contempt for her former therapist who “gives out purchased wisdom from the pages of a textbook.” Oh my! Burt and Lloyd seem to take umbrage at the idea they work for money and defensively bellow they were not money hogs as proven by the fact that at times they worked “pro bono.” They borrow this term from the legal industry where very, very wealthy law firms offer some free legal representation to worthy causes: makes good public relations and assuages conscience.
Ronda seems to equate psychotherapy to a strange kind of paid friendship. She is “bitter” and preoccupied with criminality: “paying the fines for someone else’s crimes indefinitely.” It’s not clear what she means by this. I suspect she has been traumatized and sought professional help for some sort of PTSD. Also, she seems to struggle with keeping a grasp on reality: “Nothing is real anymore,” she says. She makes it clear that her therapy was not helpful, maybe harmful. Evidently she eventually does get better but not with psychotherapy. Rather, she does her recovery by making intimate connections in her “training” and I would add, safely projecting her horror onto her former therapist. I guess Burt and Lloyd did not want to get involved in all this mishegas, thus their milquetoast response.
Allow me some obvious observations. Our organization eschews the medical model so what to do with medical insurance? If there is no such thing as a mental illness disease, why do we pay for mental health “treatments” out of the medical coffers? Some of us (I’m one of them) do not participate in “network” insurance programs including Medicaid and Medicare. The reasons are manifold: a hatred of paperwork; loathing a third party having anything to say about this very confidential undertaking. And certainly, most important, it irks me to have a third party dictate my fees. The fee should be only the purview of the two parties – patient and therapist. I gave up on Medicare, for example, when I treated a wealthy elderly man but had to accept the scaled down fee forced on me by the State.
Quit therapy when you have something better to do with your time and money.
Money, the root of all evil. What the Apostle Paul actually said is that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul was making the case, a Greek idea really, that spiritual life takes precedence over material wealth. It is also the Buddhist idea that attachment to anything material leads to suffering. Islam joins in with condemning the obsession with attachment to this life and worldly possessions rather than preparing for the hereafter with Allah, Most Merciful. But in all of these spiritual traditions, money per se is not condemned. It is how we relate to and use it that is of the essence. Jesus, for example, tells multiple parables having to do with money. But the emphasis he makes is on fairness, condemining cheating (including by tax collectors) and corruption, not money itself.
Money was invented 3 – 4,000 years ago. You can find a wonderful discussion of money in Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, a Brief History of Mankind. He tells us:
"Money is based on two universal principles: a. Universal convertibility: with money as an alchemist, you can turn land into loyalty, justice into wealth, and violence into knowledge. b. Universal trust: with money as go-between, any two people can cooperate on any project.” (p.186)
In therapy, the therapist should help the patient develop a mature attitude about money. It is clear to me that Ronda did not, unfortunately, ever get un-tortured about this wonderful invention.
About the title of this blog. At our last ISEPP conference, there was a movie shown, a documentary that scanned multiple parts of the world where there were approaches to madness quite unlike our approach here in the West. Shamans, medicine men, drums, incantations, exorcisms, dancing, gyrations, speaking in tongues. It was clear in these examples that the various “healers” were not in it to make a living. They were not "professionals". There were no credentials, no code of ethics, no confidentiality. These various cultures were engaging in what broadly we might consider the “spiritual,” casting out demons, imposing good spirits, etc. And they were not paid money for their efforts. I am quite uncomfortable when professional psychotherapists market themselves as healers. They are confusing modalities. Psychotherapy is many things, but at its root it is a disciplined exploration of what makes the patient/client tick. It is not other-worldly or supernatural. These are rules. It is not done to the patient but with the patient. And it costs money.
One final idea. I don’t work from a medical disease model. There is no cure if there’s no disease. So I am often asked, ”Well then, when should I terminate therapy?” My answer: “When you have something better to do with your time and money.”