Do I really give therapy a bad name?

I recently found this comment by a guy called Robert Smyth posted on one of my webpages. If you read it, you will probably realise that it didn’t really fit with how I saw myself.

I thought I’d write a short answer to each of his criticisms, but it turned out to be a longer reply than I had expected.

Here’s what he said:

It’s guys like this who get therapy a bad name. There is no mention on his website of his being registered with one of the main UK accrediting body – either BACP or UKCP. Perhaps more concerning is that there is no indication on his website of the extent of his training, e.g., EFT can be learnt in a weekend, and NLP in a few months. A counselling training takes at least three years and a psychotherapy training at least four years. While he mentions that he received a counselling training it is unlikely that this would count if he were to apply to be accredited because of when he did this. Other aspects of his website are also concerning. For instance, why promote the work of someone else. If the reader did not look closely enough she could easily be mis-led into think that this was written by the website author. Also, it does not appear that he has enough experience to be presenting himself an expert on therapy which a video and self-publications indicate. Any publication that is not peer reveiwed and/or pubished by a reputative journal or publisher is highly suspect. In addition, on what basis is he setting himself up as an institute. It is clear that he does have enough experience to do this. Finally, it appears that there is more ego here than anything else, and that he wants to promote himself as a money making business. If you are a potential client reading this I strongly suggest that you go to the BACP or UKCP website to search for a therapist. BACP, for instance, have good guidelines which help people find a suitable counsellor or psychotherapist.

Obviously it’s not what I want people to be saying about me but I thought it would be worth addressing some of the questions he raises.

As far as I know I have never met Robert Smyth so I’ve no idea what prompted his comments, or what his credentials are, if he reads this he might like to clarify.

So let’s examine this one piece at a time.

It’s guys like this who get therapy a bad name.

I’m not sure what I’ve personally done to give therapy a bad name, he doesn’t say, so I can’t comment on it.

There is no mention on his website of his being registered with one of the main UK accrediting body – either BACP or UKCP.

On the Therapy page of my website he would see that I am a member of the Neurolinguistic Psychotherapy & Counselling Association (NLPtCA) a member organisation of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy(UKCP)). I admit this might be difficult to find so I’m going to re-instate it on the front page so it’s easy to find.

Perhaps more concerning is that there is no indication on his website of the extent of his training, e.g., EFT can be learnt in a weekend, and NLP in a few months. A counselling training takes at least three years and a psychotherapy training at least four years.

This is interesting, because it’s the first time that anyone has ever asked me to describe the extent of my training.

Just for the record, here’s a list of what I think of as the most relevant trainings:

  • Client Centred Counselling – 1985 (taken over three years)
  • NLP Practitioner – 2000
  • NLP Master Practitioner – 2001
  • NLP Practitioner – 2002
  • NLP Psychotherapy Training – 2004
  • NLP Master Practitioner – 2003
  • NLP Trainer – 2003
  • EFT Practitioner – 2004
  • EFT Trainer – 2004
  • NLP Master Practitioner (Provisional) – 2006
  • EFT Level 3 Practitioner – 2006
  • Solution Focused Brief Therapy – 2006
  • Solution Oriented Hypnosis – 2006
  • Integral Eye Movement Therapy – 2007
  • Introduction to Compassion Focused Therapy – 2012
  • Ethical Practice – 2013
  • Human Sexuality and Development – 2013
  • Psychopathology in Psychotherapeutic Practice – 2013
  • Matrix Re-imprinting – 2014
  • Introduction to Provocative Energy Techniques (PET)- 2014

I think that there is a good point to be made here about the amount of training ‘therapists’ of one sort or another get.

Personally I think the idea that you could learn EFT in a weekend and be a competent therapist would be funny if it wasn’t so scary. There is a lot more to therapy and counselling than can be covered in a short training, or any training for that matter.

However, providing there is ongoing professional development, clinical experience and appropriate supervision I do think that the techniques of EFT and NLP can be applied with existing skills to very good effect. Most of the people who use EFT professionally that I know of have it as a part of what the already do or did not as a standalone technique.

The simple basics of EFT (Level 1) can be taught quite quickly and give the learner an excellent tool for managing their own troublesome emotional states and dealing with the stresses of everyday life. Those trainings are open to all.

Personally, I only train EFT Level 2 (the level required for working with others) to people who already have an existing solid core profession, so they can add these skills to their toolbox.

However much training someone has done, training hours are not a foolproof guide to the quality of the practitioner / counsellor / therapists. Academic competence is not the same as therapeutic competence. A technical understanding of problems is not the same as being able to help someone with those problems.

I have met a few gifted people who have used EFT with minimal training to get great results.

I have also met a few (and heard about many more) people who have been trained up to the eyeballs in the officially sanctioned therapies who I would not want within a million miles of me or my difficulties.

Good training can help, but it’s not a guarantee of the quality of the help or the helper.

There’s a lot more to being a therapist/counsellor than just the training.

My professional organisation the NLPtCA requires clinicians to have supervision for their work. My clinical supervisor is a UCKP psychotherapist and supervisor, who has been supervising my clinical practice for the past 10 years.

In my opinion being mentored by a more experienced therapist through all the professional and personal challenges of being a therapist is at least as valuable as the training.

While he mentions that he received a counselling training it is unlikely that this would count if he were to apply to be accredited because of when he did this.

I am working towards my accreditation for the NLPtCA (and hence the UKCP), with a bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, I will have completed all the necessary requirements by the end of next year.

Other aspects of his website are also concerning. For instance, why promote the work of someone else.

I don’t know who this ‘someone else’ is that I am allegedly promoting. I certainly pass on information and suggestions from other authors that I think would be useful (and I give them the credit for them)

If the reader did not look closely enough she could easily be mis-led into think that this was written by the website author.

Just about everything on my website (good, bad, right or wrong) is written by me – unless it is in quotation marks and attributed to the original author.

Also, it does not appear that he has enough experience to be presenting himself an expert on therapy which a video and self-publications indicate. Any publication that is not peer reveiwed and/or pubished by a reputative journal or publisher is highly suspect.

Hmm, I’m not sure that I present myself as an expert on anything. I don’t know which video he is referring to but in general I tell people what I’ve learned and suggest they try things for themselves.

I don’t agree “that any publication that is not peer reviewed and/or published by a reputative journal or publisher is highly suspect”, all it means is that they have not been peer reviewed or published by (insert favourite/reputable publisher here). I have a shelf full of un-peer reviewed cookbooks that are very good.

If there is something of value in my books then there is, if there isn’t then there isn’t, the best way of finding out is by trying what I suggest and seeing if it helps.

This is true for the rest of my website. Try out the suggestions for yourself and see if they help. If they do, use them. If they don’t try something else.

In addition, on what basis is he setting himself up as an institute. It is clear that he does have enough experience to do this.

Pardon!

I don’t know where he has got the idea that I want “set myself up as an institute” (whatever that means) but just to make it absolutely clear I have no intention of setting up an institute.

Finally, it appears that there is more ego here than anything else, and that he wants to promote himself as a money making business.

Just like Robert Smyth (and everyone else) I’m the ‘lucky’ owner of an ego, but I wouldn’t say that my work was more ego than anything else. You would have to meet me or ask the people who know me if that’s true.

Finally, I do want to promote my work, which is my business, I work as a therapist, I work with clients to help them overcome the difficulties they are experiencing and have a happier life. This is my business, and I need to make an income from it. I have bills to pay just like anyone else.

If I’m a counsellor, or therapist, in the NHS I will get paid (I will also get my clients delivered and not have to attract them via a website), if I work in a school as a therapist, psychologist or counsellor then I will get paid, if I work in business as a therapist, counsellor, coach, psychologist I will get paid.

Millions of people make a living helping others and getting paid for it, I’d like to get paid for the work that I do as well. In my case the client pays me directly rather than through their taxes, as they do for the NHS, education and social services.

If you are a potential client reading this I strongly suggest that you go to the BACP or UKCP website to search for a therapist. BACP, for instance, have good guidelines which help people find a suitable counsellor or psychotherapist.

That’s a good suggestion but, in my opinion, it’s not enough because being a client is hard.

Choosing a therapist to work with you is very challenging.

Nobody is the right therapist for everybody. I’m not the right therapist for everybody (and I wouldn’t try to be).

Not everybody can help you with what challenges you. I might not be the right person to help you with what challenges you.

Having the right letters after your name, or being in the right organisation is not a guarantee of competence or success. Not having the right letters after your name or not being in the right organisation is not proof of incompetence or failure.

Finding the person who can help you with your specific issues might take some time and some false starts.

Here are some useful guidelines that can be quite helpful for would-be clients to find good therapists:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-find-a-therapist/

and a list of warning signs for bad therapists:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/warning-signs-of-bad-therapy/

(GoodTherapy.org is a US website so some of the jargon may not be relevant to other countries, but the overall principles still apply)

By all means check out the UKCP website, if it all goes well, you will be able to find me there by 2016.

6 thoughts on “Do I really give therapy a bad name?

  1. I’d say this person is too cowardly to state his own experience or credentials and spouted a lot of crap. I am proud to say I’ve trained with you and I have respect for you. In the years I’ve know you I could never call you egotistical so ignore this fool. Continue doing a good job and helping people. All the best

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence and the kind words Chris, I appreciate it.

      I don’t know why this guy didn’t state his own experience or credentials. While I think he misunderstood and / or misrepresented what I do and how I do it, I do think he posed some good questions in amongst ‘the crap’ which were worth addressing.

      I think I’ve answered those questions, whether they would be answered to his satisfaction I have no idea and I’m not too worried about that. Continuing to do a good job and helping people sounds like a better use of my time.

  2. Grr, people like this do get my blood boiling Andy. His comments say so much more about him, than you – but you probably know that anyway. You have answered his comments in a balanced, calm way – well done. I agree with your comments about credentials/ qualifications. I trained with some people who I wouldn’t want anywhere near me, and other people who have no or very little training, who are natural counsellors. I understand the need for qualifications and training, but they are not the B-all and End-all. Being compassionate and having a ‘degree’ of curiousity to truly listen and empathise with your fellow beings are much more important, and I’m not so sure those ‘qualifications’ can be taught.

    You’re good at what you do – keep doing it!

    • I think the whole qualifications thing is quite tricky, some people feel secure in the knowledge that their therapists have a bowl full of alphabet spaghetti after their names and others would prefer a natural intuitive who has not been poisoned by the system – a difficult circle to square. I don’t envy clients trying to find good and appropriate help from the mixed bag on offer.

      Compassion and curiosity are a very good place to start. I do think they can be taught but I doubt if they get deep coverage on most courses. I think a course on what I think of as “therapeutic presence” (less ego, less agenda, more compassion, more curiosity) would be a very good thing, I’d sign up for it, there’s always room for improvement.

      Thank you for the compliment I’ll keep doing what I do and trying to get even better at it 🙂

  3. Andy
    What this person has done is provide an opportunity to move forward a step for you and your readers (including me who by the way has many letters after my name but tend to be known as Phil!). We could start a media search for Robert Smyth to see if he would care to follow up on some of his statements but life’s too short and full of diversity, opinion and bias. What is nice to take from this is that he cared enough to make a comment about you Andy, though a little off at least he bothered. Always glad to be associated with other ‘helpers’ out there. Now can I get a discount on one of your courses…
    BW Phil

    • Hi Phil, I couldn’t agree more. If I spent any time at all following up detractors of this kind of stuff I’d have a very miserable life! I am glad he cared enough to comment and give me a chance to think about it so that I could answer the questions. Which courses were you thinking about? 😉

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