The Futility of Psychotherapy

Journal of Mind and Behavior 11 (3-4):369-384 (1990)

While psychotherapy is helpful to individual clients, the slim cadre of therapists and the vast number of disturbed people precludes any hope that more than a relative few will receive help. Nowhere is the futility of psycotherapy as obvious as among the poor and powerless whose suffering, crowding, and dispair will yield only to social and political solutions. In the United States the expansion of the number of psychiatric diagnoses and the demographic changes in populations will only make larger the gap in numbers between therapists and clients. Psychotherapy is an expensive oddity to the poor, but their taxes will help the affluent obtain prepaid care. Psychotherapy does reveal some of the social and economic factors, like bad parenting, homelessness and unemployment, that cause emotional disturbances. But one-to-one treatment, medical or psychological, does not, and cannot, affect incidence. The rightward movement of American psychiatry, supported by political conservatives and by activist parent-groups, espouses an organic explanatory model for all mental disorders and for a wide range of human problems. Only effective primary prevention leading to social change will reduce future incidence
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