Why is TV therapy stuck in the dark ages?
And not just TV, but the general public’s beliefs about therapy as seen in various media. By dark ages, I mean the earliest ideas, such as those by Freud and others in that era. There is some knowledge that is still relevant but come on, why are we using techniques in TV for mental health that are over 75 years old?
One of the things we see in the media is ONLY the most severe cases get therapy. This is very frustrating to me! Like you’ve got to have it really bad before you should go get help. Honestly that’s ridiculous. You might have just one minor nit picky feeling of shame that you want to deal with that’s totally OK to get help for. You don’t need to be traumatized to see a counselor. Another thing shown in TV land that is from ages past is you have to see a therapist for years and years to recover. Especially if it’s OCD, PTSD, or major depression. But research shows brief, solution-focus and/or CBT, therapy is far more effective than the old ‘couch’ approach. And lastly, some of the tools used in TV therapy make for great scripts but are not very effective in real life. Spending session after session talking about your mother won’t cure your fear of heights!
It really bugs me because we don’t see actors using bloodletting on modern medicine shows, yet we keep showing therapy from the 1950's, with the couch and never-ending weekly sessions. Why is that? Well I’ve got a few ideas.
First of all, confidentiality. Many don’t want others to know some of the stuff they’ve had to face. And even if they are thrilled with the results of recovery, it is completely unethical for us to use any testimonials. So the mental health industry looks silent and closed off. While we see ratings and reviews for all other services, counsellors and therapists avoid this (even anonymous ones) because we’ve been programmed to thing that is unethical. So, the real stories and rates of recovery are hidden from view.
Secondly, quick full recovery is not as common as it could be and hit and miss from practitioner to practitioner. Therapists are not all trained the same, they are left to ‘be congruent’ with themselves and do what comes ‘naturally’. Unlike other trades or professions where there is a very specific set of diagnostic and treatment tools, in psychotherapy and psychology there is all kinds of conflicting theories, many ways to do ‘therapy’ and much subjective debating. More on this next article.
Third reason we don’t see lots of recovery stories or effective therapy on TV or in the media is most people like the status quo. Believe it or not most of us don’t want to change. Actually, there’s lots of reasons to not change, some of them actually quite positive. But in any case, we want to believe we can’t change because then it gives us complete 100% permission to just stay the way we are. Even those with severe depression or crippling anxiety. Maybe It’s become part of who they are and they’re afraid that somehow if they let go, they will lose a part of themselves. Maybe we feel it’s unfair we have to change when we are the victims. Which is totally true! It’s not fair. In fact, I’ve gotten flak for posting articles on how to improve your life because some feel that’s victim blaming. It would be wonderful if all the perpetrators of hurtful things had to take on the responsibility to change. But unfortunately, the way we are designed, it doesn’t work for someone else to fix us even if they are responsible for the hurt.
Fourth reason, we don’t want people to feel bad if they don’t recover. If there are shows on TV where someone can go to therapy and recover from the PTSD in a few sessions, people will feel everyone should recover quickly and that would lead clients to be disappointed if they didn’t.
Fifth. The writers don’t know better. Yep, full recovery with brief therapy is still pretty new. And there’s a lot if old shows and reruns out there. Plus new ones created from novels written decades ago. Just like it took Hollywood quite some time to get leading female roles on major motion pictures I think it’s going to take time for Hollywood to catch up with modern therapy.
Lastly, there are still plenty of therapists practicing old school therapy like you see on TV.
Don’t let what you see on TV discourage you!!! You can get successful results for minor or major issues with a good therapist. Many counsellors offer free consultations and you can talk to them about what to expect. We can’t give you a timeline or guarantee but you can find healing for most issues if you are willing to put in the work to change and ready to face your inner demons. It’s not always easy but it’s totally worth it!