With Arnold Schwarzenegger recently in the news for commenting on how therapy has ruined his chance to patch things up with his estranged wife Maria Shriver, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about therapy.
As with most things, there is an upside and a downside with therapy.
While therapy will definitely help to understand the underlying issues of a more complex matter, often it's also the cause to dwell on the feeling of being victimized. There are therapists who give action-oriented advice but some keep digging in the patients past in great detail to find more reasons as to why a person is the way she is. Therapy can definitely help to enlighten someone in terms of behavioral patterns but if it turns into an endless reasoning as to why we became the way we are and why it is so hard to change, then it's quite counterproductive.
Often, when therapists do the latter, it turns people into neurotic self-conscious individuals, and it makes them feel even more as a victim of circumstances.
When something bad of a more serious matter has happened to a person, she might definitely benefit from getting out all her emotions and fears of a particular situation (i.e. rape, violent abuse), but at some point, one has to move on. How does it serve the victim to never trust anyone again, to deny herself the beauty of physical pleasure? Not only does that make the abuser win all over again, ultimately it's a form of self-punishment for the victim.
This is just one example, where the wrong kind of therapy can keep a person in that mind-frame forever; that she is broken and incapable to move on.
There are many minor issues that lead people into that same kind of thinking. "...because when I was a child, my brother always stole my toys, therefore I have trust issues today." That's just one example to show how certain therapy methods create a form of codependency. In these kinds of cases the patient will come back for any little issue and stay in therapy for all the wrong reasons.
Some people end up believing they're so screwed up that they can never let go and move on with their lives. Then therapy become merely a crutch to hold on to, to dwell in pain, to never take responsibility for one's actions. In these cases people just find more and more reasons to blame the past for everything that goes wrong in the present. It makes them feel powerless and passive.
Most people didn't grow up in a perfect environment but that shouldn't mean that they can't create a new, much more positive life for themselves. If one just focuses on all the baggage they carry, they will never be happy, because their awareness is constantly focused on their pains and the past.
It is very important to learn from the past, but if all current and future events are always seen through the eyes of the past it becomes a vicious circle
There is definitely a place for therapy but in my point of view, it's only valuable if it leads to proactive positive changes.