The Fifty Minute Hour

Thoughts on therapy and life

I predict psychics are bad for you.

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You know how it is, it’s 10 minutes till boarding, you’re running around the duty free shop looking for something you can blow the last of your local currency small change on and you come out with some over priced reading material. In my case it was the US addition of Marie Claire, a snip at 7 Euros.  But, on the basis that what happens over there, inevitably makes it over here, I dutifully took it for my in-flight reading.  Apart from some interesting “Fall” fashions, (hairy sweaters anyone?) and dodgy Ivanka Trump cocktail rings, the thing that caught my eye was an article on psychics or intuitive counsellors as they now prefer to be known.

It seems as if successful American women (in the main) are transforming their lives through intense sessions with professional psychics who rely on “a finely honed sixth sense to guide clients toward rational choices about their lives and careers.” So spot on are their pronouncements that generally only one session is needed, heightening it’s appeal to the time pressed career women who doesn’t have time to waste in ongoing therapy.

Hm, my hackles were raised even before the drinks trolley rumbled round.

The article read as if psychics are just much more efficient than plodding old therapists, but actually relational therapy takes time for a reason. It’s journey, to often difficult places, that requires faith and trust in your companion, and in the dark days, hope that you come out the other side. The American Counselling Association recently quoted research showing that the relationship between therapist and client is 30% of the reason for successful therapy, a relationship like this takes time to build; it doesn’t happen in a one off session. But there again, I can see that this may be part of the attraction for some people. Marilyn for example was quoted in the article as saying “I’m good at analyzing myself; therapists didn’t add much”. Maybe what her previous experiences of therapy had offered her were a chance of a real connection, and an invitation to examine the narrative she had developed about herself, both very scary propositions for some clients, but without which real change cannot happen.

The psychics work with their sixth sense, something described by David Myers, professor of psychology as “the fleeting unconscious impressions we form about people around us, immediate insights processed without the benefit of logic or reason”.  All schools of therapeutic thought recognise this phenomenon of unconscious reaction to others, as being based on past relationships, experiences, hopes and expectations. It is most often referred to as transference and Freud, the father of psychoanalysis was the first to recognise it’s significance and dangers. If we make assumptions and relate to people on this level, we endow them with the meaning we have made of the world, and risk missing getting to know who they actually are. In therapy this is often where the real work lies, whereas intuitive counsellors seem to function by merely reinforcing these meanings through snap judgements. And actually this is what I think is one of the real dangers of working with psychics, their readiness to confirm what they “see”. In my work I witness time and again, the struggle between the outward portrayal of what is believed to be acceptable, and the truer feelings being denied to achieve this. The psychics talk about arming people with the tools for self actualisation, but actually, actualisation comes from within. It was another American, Carl Rogers, founder of the person centred school of counselling in the 1940’s that put forward the theory of self actualisation as an internal force urging us to “expand, extend, develop, mature”, in other words to become all that we are. He recognised that this is often “hidden behind elaborate facades which deny it’s existence”, facades which psychics seem intent on maintaining with their instant decisions on what is right for their clients.

It’s interesting that most of the psychics felt that their generally successful, career orientated clients need to make a move towards consultancy, a generic profession suited to many different skill sets, none as far as I am aware were instructed to become undertakes, parrot sexers or nuclear physicists. I’m joking because I’m cynical, I know there will be many therapists out there who have more of an open mind (I’m talking about you Jungians), but there is a serious point to be made here. Putting anyone in a position of authority over your life is dangerous and something therapists are ethically bound to avoid.

So, psychics/intuitive counsellors, coming to the UK soon? You’ve been warned!


Author: Johanna Sartori BA MBACP Accred.

Finding my way through life, and travelling with those on the same journey

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