Restoring humanity to life

I’m Not a Healer – I Work for Money

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.

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Quit therapy when you have something better to do with your time and money.

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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.”

7 Comments

  • Dear Jonell, There are so many ways to "get better" other than going to a professional. "Quality" professional "mental health" care is only one way. Enriching one's life's, of course, is easier with wealth than with poverty. It does take imagination, that does not require money. God Bless

  • Part of the problem is that good care is not affordable to low-income individuals. When I refer to good care, I am referring to people who think outside of the conventional box. Holistic, alternative, actual helpful care outside of the conventional system is becoming exclusive to those who are rich or at least can pay their bills and have money left to spend on things like health care. Practitioners of this nature have opted out of Medicaid/Medicare system, for a valid reason, or only accept direct pay. I can only speak for myself, but as someone that was involuntarily forced into the mental health system, i was also forced on to SSI with Medicaid. My income is approximately $4,000 below the poverty level. It is more than a struggle to find quality care. In fact, I have found no good help because I cannot afford it. I was quoted a reduced rate of $85 per hour from one practitioner. For me, that is a week's worth of groceries. Should I eat or go to therapy? The conventional systems are beyond broken and repair with health care being dictated by the insurance industry. I would have loved to be able to pay for the education to get credentials or had the opportunity. I am well-informed and self-educated about many things, however, in this society that will not land me a job to increase my income to break this cycle of below poverty that I have been thrown into. I have been trying to dig myself out of this rut for far too long. I am actually offended by any practitioner that opts out of government assisted programs. It only helps to create a bigger problem and leaves people like me to fend for themselves and sub-optimal care.

  • Dear Al & Oliver, Thank you for your reflections. For sure there is more to life than material ( as in materialistic society) benefits. The jury is still out on whether we humans have done more good or more bad. The Un that keeps track of these things points out that there is less hunger and less extreme poverty than at any time in the history of our species. The cost of course is the devastation of vast parts of the environment.---The health care system is a shambles I believe because of the idiosyncratic notions of what is health. The medical model suffers from rigidity. Lot more to be said. best Dr"T"

  • Don't you think "healers" like shamans are perhaps compensated in some other (non-pecuniary) way and have "credentials" as understood by the culture to which they belong? (Confidentiality may be less important in non-Anglo cultures which are neither as individualistic or capitalistic [re: the former emotions and experiences may be understood as inherently more collective while re: the latter it may be part of Anglo cultures' obsession with private property {i.e. the idea that one "owns" one's emotions and experiences and therefore has absolute control over them {which is of course illusory}; as an aside Jefferson substituted "the pursuit of happiness" for Locke's "private property" in writing the U.S. Constitution {to show the historical and cultural depths of that value}}]).

  • What do I do as a psychotherapist? It depends. For some people I help them become more comfortable with what is going on with them and encourage them to sit with it and learn from it. For some I help them become more aware of what is going on with them and what it is about, what is triggering it, what is its purpose, how is it helping. In the words of my therapist, I am helping them develop a better relationship with themselves, getting to know themselves, being able to step back from their process, look at it, monitor it, wonder about it. For some people I am helping them resolve, integrate, get beyond the effects of trauma, doing that by helping them learn how to use their bodies, emotions and minds to do that. For some people I'm just providing them with a relatively sane person with whom they can spend some interesting and, perhaps pleasurable time for an hour a week. For some people I am helping them get a clearer idea of what they want to do about a difficult dilemma. Etc., Etc., Etc. I think what I do is more beneficial to the physical health of people than most of what physicians do. I think I should be part of the healthcare system because of that. I think I should be paid more than I get paid because of that. But I'm very happy with what I get paid and I'm glad I can do what I do. I'm aware that I am very limited in my ability to help people but, thank God, human beings are very resilient and have powerful abilities to self-heal. If I can help them get access to those powers, I am doing a great thing. Joe, I'm looking forward to your response.

  • "The world has enough people in the back seat throwing rocks. What we need are more leaders." This was the Nugget from a mentoring session I had today. The essay this blog is based on was an important and healing moment for me. I cannot regret the courage it took to speak up after trauma and will be the first to admit that speaking up after trauma can be messy. I will instead say the essay is a year old and I no longer recognize the injured and angry child who wrote it. I've had some concern about the potential for damage from being so publicly pathologized by someone with the credentials to do so. His analysis of the girl I was a year ago is accurate. So I've decided to take care of myself by making this brief statement on advise of people with more experience than me and move forward. I have an appropriately ever changing website if you want to learn more at rondarichardson.net

  • Hi. I am Ronda. I was not aware this essay had been published. I never heard back or received a copy so I wrongfully assumed it hadn't. I never read any of the replies or feed back. Never knew there was a commotion until a friend found this by accident today. You make very valid points. I am bitter. I have PTSD. I am a peer. I project. I make huge errors. I open my mouth in pain. I am human. I am more imperfect than I want to admit. I sparked debate. That is what this essay was meant to do. To open a discussion. In that regard it was a success. Keep up the good work. I suspect it also projects a little and speaks volumes that my honest uneducated opinion could evoke a one sided "pissing match" as you call it. I do not yet have the PhD to diagnose exactly what that means, but you could if you wanted. I don't follow blogs and I won't be checking back, but in order to make it a match I thought I better try pissing too. I kind of enjoyed it. :-) Thank you for the wisdom. I am brand new and still stumbling. I have already modified some of my pattern and strengthened other areas from your words. I will keep growing. Perhaps that is the best gauge of maturity. Ronda E. Richardson

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