Friday, November 23, 2007

Psychotherapy: Humbug?

As depression becomes a public health issue, how can an increasingly skeptical public benefit from the fruits of modern psychotherapy?

By: Vanessa Uy

If one dares to point a finger on who destroyed the credibility of modern / contemporary psychotherapy, then the blame should be directed at the current American pop culture. Ever since the TV series “The Sopranos” gained it’s legions of fans, the folks who mistrust modern psychotherapy finally gained a platform in which their “statement” finally got the “sex appeal” it badly deserves. Or is it the “Soprano” – spoof movie “Analyze This” and the sequel “Analyze That” where the Italian-American community’s mistrust of “shrinks” finally got worldwide mass-media attention. And what about the famous actor Tom Cruise airing his views on the science of psychology as a whole during his appearance on the TV talk show “Oprah”. It seems like America has abandoned her faith on psychotherapy, but it isn’t always been this way.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s - friends of mine who are old enough to have experienced first hand the worldwide cultural phenomena called Guns N’ Roses - lived through a time where shrinks / counselors / psychotherapists were held in high regard by American pop culture and the American society. My older friends also remembered on how the practice of seeing shrinks / psychotherapists / psychoanalysts became fashionable back then even though those who visit one are not currently suffering any known mental illness. Back to Guns N' Roses circa 1989, the band’s mercurial frontman – W. Axl Rose – never forgot to mention during his press interviews about his personal opinion on the virtues of “shrinks” i.e. psychotherapists. Back then, it’s even fashionable to visit to shrinks and “chill out” with one even though it was (is) a somewhat expensive proposition at 75 to 100 US dollars- an- hour. At that time, Newsweek and Time even criticized the peoples growing over reliance on shrinks. There’s even a blurb about talking someone out of his or her diabetes (!). But during the same time (1989) in the Philippines, the existing sentiments on shrinks are pretty much like / mirroring the TV series “The Sopranos”. Back in 1989- era Philippines, only “crazy people” i.e. the mentally ill went to shrinks. Even though this is my view, I know of native New Yorkers of Filipino ancestry who say that Filipino’s distrust of shrinks / psychotherapists are born of “repressed Catholic anti-Semitism”. Is this because of what Sigmund Freud said that he is Jewish- by- race- and- not-by-religion as an expression of Jewish pride in defiance of Nazi-era Germany? By the way, the New Yorkers of Filipino descent who I am frequently in contact with via "WEB 2.0" are very critical of this "Makati-Corporate-World-Metro-Manila-Castelian-Catholic-Colonial-Chauvanism" that is "conveniently" overlooked (in the name of money) by the Tagalog Media / Cultural elite.

Today, the Filipino society – in general – don’t trust modern psychotherapy. The existing idea that only the mentally ill visit shrinks is still the norm. Ironically, the practice of astrology, fortune telling and other Gypsy / Roma / Romani style mysticism are used as substitute for legitimate psychoanalysis by the very rich and local celebrities i.e. the "Tagalog Cultural Elite". To me, that’s their loss.

No comments: