Why Waste Your Money?

I haven’t figured out the cover illustration, the frontspiece, the font, the preface, the introduction and I’m not a hundred percent committed to the title but I’m pretty sure I’ve settled on Why Waste Your Money? with a catchy subtitle that suggests a better use of your hard earned cash. This will be my little book on the pros and cons of psychotherapy and I’ll probably use certain well-known personalities like Woody Allen and Sigmund Freud (who suffered from a life long panic disorder) as examples and brief case studies that will clearly illustrate what a massive amount of time and energy and money is wasted each year on psychotherapy. I will definitely include a chapter on when you should go for help and what sorts of problems are helped by therapy and I will also include a very helpful chapter on safe and beneficial alternatives that are as effective, if not more so and substantially cheaper. Somewhere close to the front there will be a brief statement of my qualifications and background and claim to fame as a prominent psychotherapist.

Unlike Edgy Mama, who is making great headway on her new novel, this is clearly a work in progress, because I have to write it in 10 minute snippets between patients when I should be writing notes and fighting with managed care drones over the telephone.

So, here is today’s brief 10 minute chapter and it it entitled: Are We Problem Solving or Are We Whining?

I was trained at one of the best psychoanalytic schools in the country, 32 years ago before they had a big fight and decided to ditch psychoanalysis in favor of drugs. That’s another chapter. So I was taught to examine every statement, every bit of body language, and every utterance so closely that there was significance to inhaling versus exhaling. For years I listened, pondered, nodded, watched, observed, ruminated, obsessed and analyized every detail of the person seated across from me. All this analysis left me little time to say anything clever or insightful (hence the “uh-huh” and “mmm” lexicon of psychotherapists).

Then one day, after I had been listening to the same person every Tuesday for about three years go on and on and on, my internal editor just nodded off ever so briefly and then my head did one of those neck snapping jerks that used to happen to you in high school Chemistry? Right. And this is what fell out of my mouth:

“Okay, okay, okay. Stop a moment. I just want to clarify something here. Are you here to problem solve or are you here to whine? ”

We looked at each other in stunned silence and then in a lame effort to recover, I went on:
“Because, you know, it’s okay with me if you want to whine. Really. Piss and moan all you want. Everybody needs to sometimes ( but not at 100/hour/week times 3 years, I thought to myself). But here’s the thing. If someone is trying to solve a problem then they take one approach and have a certain agenda and if someone is pissing and moaning then it’s another agenda and approach. And maybe if we just figure out which it is that you’re doing as you discuss your ( insert: mother, father, husband, wife, boss, the lady in aisle three, teenage daughter, irritable bowel) that will, you know, clarify things.” There was more silence and then I tactfully pointed out that this person’s time was up and I would see them next week.

The next week this person, who was a pretty good sort as almost all my patients are, came back and announced that the last session had being an enlightening experience, a light-bulb moment, a revelation for him. All the pieces had fallen into place and his understanding of his situation was almost complete. “So, ” said I. And together we agreed that he had basically been pissing and moaning under the guise of problem solving. He said he thought he would like to piss and moan overtly for about two more sessions and then do some problem solving. That seemed like a good plan to me and in short order he moved on and did well. Occasionally I see him around town and he reports that life is good.

You might be thinking this is not rocket science and I would have to agree. But you wouldn’t believe the number of therapists who are earning a living off listening to people whine and piss and moan while they say nothing but uh-hu and hmm. Now I haven’t gone overboard with this simple concept and turned it into a Dr. Phil-type syndicated thing but it is a pretty useful approach and you can use it safely in your own kitchen at home. For free. Just figure out your agenda with the understanding that whining and problem solving are generally mutually exclusive behaviors- or at least they should be- and then decide which it is that would be the most help at the moment. The other very liberating thing about this is if a person is honest about the fact that they’re whining sometimes they can scale it up into full blown ranting and raving- to hell with problem solving!- and discharge enough negative energy to move forward. And solve problems. This requires a certain amount of care because there often IS some fallout when you cut loose with a major rant.

That’s the end of chapter one and the moral is “Don’t waste your money on a therapist thinking you’re solving a problem when really you’re just whining.”

Tomorrow’s chapter is titled, “You don’t Need Professional Help to Get the Gremlins Out of the Closet”

Moving right along, the response to yesterday’s GROUP THERAPY announcement generated a lot of interest. I should note that this will be primarily whining therapy as opposed to problem solving therapy. Although many of my problems will be solved once I bid adieu to my darling T.D. (“Not so fast,” says Gramma Moe from the great above and beyond. “Remember, little children , little problems. Big children, big problems. Expect many urgent and costly calls home.”).

SRP at Melange put in a link to her smart and tender empty nest post (go read it now) and it starts with this quote:

“A child enters your home
and makes so much noise for twenty years that you can hardly stand it:
then departs leaving the house so silent that you think you will go
mad” ~ John Andrew Holmes

Margaret’s daughter is leaving and she’s trying to figure out how she will give her a morning wake-up call long distance and Mistress Mary has posted a beautifully written piece that resonates so clearly in me that I can only get so far before I head for the kleenex. She notes that each child is different and saying goodbye to one is not the same as saying goodbye to another; the ties that bind you are of different fibers and have different knots.

This will be a running theme over the next couple weeks so let us know if you put something up and drop a link or trackback. If it appears that an emergency session is in order we may have to convene an online meeting at a designated time. I’ll design a button, ala Genuine Bash ; it will say something like Empty Nest Survivor, 2005 and it will be, like all good therapy groups, BYOB.

10 responses to “Why Waste Your Money?

  1. Are you going to require the Moms to BYOB Crown Royal, like Genuine does?

    Good piece on the therapy issue. For some reason I never got to whine much in my life. Am I missing something? Maybe I should whine about not having had a chance to whine…

  2. Me neither, Hoss. The line, “What are you whining about? C’mere and I’ll give you something to whine about…” is not representative of kind or gentle parenting but I remember it well. A more positive spin on this is Bonnie’s lovely quote from her post yesterday:

    Count your many blessings,
    Name them one by one;
    And it will surprise you,
    What the Lord has done!
    ~Johnson Oatman, 1897

    -and the realization that you needn’t look far to know that most of us have little to whine about.

  3. I demand 3 things from private clients (i.e. not group clients):

    1) Be committed to change;

    2) Be honest;

    3) Be willing to do whatever I suggest.

    I qualify that last one with the caveat that I never assign “busy work” but only ask my clients to do that that will affect change.

    If the client has a substance abuse issue, I add a fourth demand:

    4) Stay sober for X amount of time (never less than three months, usually at least 6 months).

    My philosophy is that if the client has not made substantial progress after a year, something is not working (either me or the client) and we should consider terminating the relationship. If someone hasn’t experienced worthwhile success after a year of therapy, they’re spinning their wheels.

    I question the ethics and motives of therapists who rely on clients spending years in psychotherapy. Having a steady clientelle (= income) at the expense of client welfare is slimy.

    Then again, my two cents comes at substantially less than $100/hour.

  4. Whining is very therapeutic, and I do it quite often. (not obsessively though because that gets tiresome–for me and others) I am not yet ready to write my therapy post; she doesn’t leave until Sept 17th. (still holding on to the fantasy that she’s not going anywhere!)

  5. Hmmm…and hmmmm.

    I’m pretty sure that I was of the mind of “I need to find a therapist before I lose each and every last one of the friends I have left” when I first pursued therapy. I felt as though I was doing an awful lot of whining (for a good two years) and not much else. I knew what the problem was but I felt paralyzed and hopeless when faced with the challenge of making the necessary changes to turn my life around.

    I was fortunate to find a therapist who assured me I “needed” to be in therapy and that, together, we would facilitate change. After completing nearly a year of weekly sessions, (the likes of which drove her to retirement) I was equally blessed to have found another therapist who was able to pick up the pieces, finish the work and then break up with me.

    Our last session found us sitting across from one another, smiling, and me, uncharacteristically *quiet*. He sighed, and said:
    “I think we’re done.”

    Long pause (with me sitting on my hands to keep from clapping in glee and resisting the urge to say in my best sing-songy voice, “I did it! I did it!”

    Me: “Really?”

    Him: “Really. Go forth, be happy and healthy”

    I was very adult about the whole thing but once I got outside, I skipped all the way to my car. ; )

  6. I think I’ll need all of the given advice about that long distance wake up call… I can tell this group is going to be VERY helpful for me! 🙂 Must.take.notes…

  7. Yoga is my therapy.
    Lu skipped!

  8. Bonnie- And soon to be mine! It’s true- I’m registered. Yes, Lu skipped to her Lu!
    Lu- 🙂
    Margaret- We will still be here and waiting for your contribution.

  9. We are in the throes of packing and how many pairs of jeans do we have to try on to find just the right ones, that will also fit into the Dillard’s $50 gift certificate limit. You would be amazed at how many it took – 20 pair at two different Dillards. They looked fine to me but no – they were too light, too dark, too high, too low, too fancy, too plain. The only two “too” things that I had to say were too long and too too low in the waist. And the fact that the favorite pair cost $70 and came with holes in the material. If she wants holes just buy a cheep pair, wear them, wash them, the holes will eventually come. What is it with paying for them to be there when you buy them? I just don’t get it.

  10. srp- you have the patience of a saint. Truly.

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