Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Finding a good therapist

On the face of it, Jules Evans' devastating report of an encounter with a "therapist" is not just a piece of helpful guidance for anyone seeking therapy, but also a cautionary tale for those who practise it.

The liberties that Evans claims the "therapist" took with him would make any counsellor, let alone a qualified psychologist, cringe - and indeed the link to the article came from the British Psychological Society's excellent Research Digest blog.

If it's an accurate account of what took place, this "therapist" crossed very well-defined professional boundaries and made unwelcome and completely gratuitous assumptions.

Given she practices a form of massage - something called "somatic body work" - it seems unlikely she had any business dispensing professional advice on intimacy and relationships. 

But while this woman might have deserved the comprehensive dismembering which Evans gave her, first in person, and subsequently in his blog post, the circumstances outlined by him are somewhat troubling. 

Evans is a philosopher, writer and researcher and policy director at Queen Mary, University of London's Centre for the History of Emotions. He is extremely well informed about psychology, and in particular CBT, and indeed used it to deal with an earlier case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he wrote about earlier this year. 

According to his blog, he teaches workshops on mental resilience and flourishing "which combine ideas from wisdom traditions with insights from modern psychotherapy".

I find myself at a loss as to why someone with that background would consult a massage therapist about his "continuing issues with intimacy and relationships". 

Evans writes that he launched into  "a 20-minute monologue" about his life history and those issues, and then asked her, "Can you help with that?"

Those circumstances make me wonder whether he was in fact motivated by what he describes as a need "to go beyond or beneath the cognitive" or really did feel himself in need of "some magic". 

There is, in my opinion, a distinct possibility that he was more interested in an entertaining blog post. 

I'm very much in favour of calling people to account for incompetence and unprofessional conduct. Unfortunately, I think his own conduct muddies the waters somewhat and risks discouraging people from consulting qualified professionals who could actually help them with intimacy and relationship issues. 

In my opinion, it isn't worthy of some of his other work - that apparently sincere post on Thomas Traherne, for instance. I wonder if he might have been better served to consult a philosopher. Or perhaps, a psychologist?