Though there was a dip in client loads at the beginning of the pandemic, mental health support is again in high demand (for some, more now than before the pandemic and for understandable reasons). In my own practice I have seen a demand for sex counselling and couples therapy and relationship therapy increase as relationships feel the strain of living together, isolating together, crammed in small apartments or alone in remote communities.
With social distancing, most therapists are seeing their clients via online means. This has lead to about a hundred million new online trainings from the usual, to the the usual with an online twist. Psychotherapy training has become an industry unto itself.
The problem with psychotherapy trainings (especially the foundational learning we do during our mandatory masters trainings or psychotherapy schools) is that it’s all based on a history of white, hetero, cis, able bodied, neurotypical, men with unchecked biases of what is healthy based on their assumptions rooted in their personal and privileged experiences.
And I do not see much of that being challenged in modern psychotherapy trainings, either.
Sex therapy is no different, though it has a slight twist— sex therapy seems to be dominated by white, cis, able-bodied, women. For this reason, I have chosen to seek talks, workshops, or conferences focused on lived experiences of the populations I serve: kinky folks, polyamorous communities, sex worker forums, queer and trans speakers, disability activists, and so forth.
In addition to that, psychotherapy trainings are wildly expensive and rarely based on thorough scientific inquiry. Many trainings are several thousand dollars for the full experience. Despite getting paid $75-150/session, I make closer to $25-50/hour and I work less than 40hours a week due to the nature of the work.
The cost is made further ridiculous given that only about 10% of success in therapy is due to modality, while therapeutic relationship accounts for about 60% of success. Why would I spend thousands upon thousands of dollars for training when I should be investing in the therapeutic relationship? What does it mean to invest in the therapeutic relationship?
After reflecting on my frustrations and skepticism of psychotherapy trainings, I came up with 3 things therapists can do instead:
- Be on top of your political game and activism. You likely didn’t learn much in the ways of politics and how they are relevant to psychotherapy. Find trainings and books on decolonizing psychotherapy as well as anti-racism and anti-oppressive approaches. Learn about how capitalism impacts mental health and how you can support your clients politically outside of sessions as well as politically inside of sessions.
- Connect with supervisors and peers for political and personal support. Remember the number one important thing in psychotherapy training— checking your biases. It can be almost impossible to do this on your own. It is really hard to see something you just can’t see. Find other’s you can process with whether that is a supervisor or politically-centred peers. Find supervisors who are more seasoned in politics than you, find peers who are at your level so you can learn together.
- Invest in your own wellbeing and selfcare. The relationship is 60% of predicted success in therapy, so spend 60% of your “training” money on being good to yourself, first.
Don’t waste any more time on information brought to you by the upper class who are deeply out of touch with the oppressive systems that deny mental wellness. Spend more time learning about the world your clients are living in and even more time caring for yourself as you continue to embark on this incredibly challenging path of mental health.