Open Letter to a Therapist

For the benefit of my readers, I’ll recap your approach to healing and therapy.

Based on our conversations and your marketing text, your approach is founded on unconditional acceptance of everything your client may be experiencing, suffering, thinking, and feeling. You offer a living example of radical self-acceptance and you neutrally and nonjudgmentally receive whatever the client choses to share. You provide a safe space for the client to feel, experience, and voice their reality without any pressure or encouragement to change it.

You have established as your underlying principle the tenet that everything belongs—every thought, every insecurity, every fear, every damaging message, every form of negative self-talk. In your system, all of this falls under the umbrella of radical acceptance and self-acceptance and that it all belongs. You offer an environment where all that a client divulges is unconditionally accepted with no agenda to change anything.

I believe that radical self-acceptance and unconditional acceptance of others are a good starting point in trauma healing. They are a necessary building block in a much larger framework that carries the survivor to full functionality and well-being. They are not the destination.

My point of departure with your system is the same point at which I depart from all psychotherapy. The problem of therapy and any other client-led approach is that it doesn’t actually solve the problem the client sought therapy to solve.

A lot of marketing jargon focuses on solving our clients’ problems, alleviating their pain points and frustrations, and getting them to a certain result. When someone has a toothache, they go the dentist to get it fixed, not to have someone nonjudgmentally listen to them talk about their pain. When someone has car trouble, they take their car to a mechanic to get it fixed so they can keep driving. They don’t want a safe place to voice their frustration that they can’t get to work in the morning.

In a way, therapy is a form of consumer fraud. It proposes to solve our problems and does the opposite by magnifying them. Clients come to us—therapists and coaches and the like—because they don’t know HOW to solve their problems.

Let’s take a simple example that a great many trauma survivors struggle with on a daily basis—abuse flashbacks interfering with sexual intimacy. Let’s say our client came to us because their spouse was considering divorce due to the client’s flashbacks completely destroying their sex life. The spouse isn’t getting what they need and has come to the conclusion, in all likelihood the accurate conclusion, that their survivor partner is mistaking them for the abuser.

Nonjudgmental listening isn’t going to save this marriage. Letting the client take the lead is going to result in this marriage disintegrating and the client blaming themselves for their failure.

The vast majority of therapists don’t know how to solve this problem. They don’t know a simple tool they could give the survivor to alleviate the flashbacks, a tool that would solve the problem with its very first use.

Let’s take eating disorders. Let’s say we had an anorexic client whose eating disorder had wrecked their health and was posing a threat to their life. Nonjudgmental listening won’t solve that, either. Most of the time, these clients already know they have a problem and they’re desperate to find a solution. They would give anything, including their hard-earned money, for someone to tell them how to solve it. That’s the whole reason they come to therapy.

The list goes on and on. What about crippling anxiety that prevents someone from leaving the house? What about suicidal depression and suicide attempts? What about self-harm? What about employment disturbances or substance abuse? What about any of the dizzying array of abuse-related symptoms that trauma survivors struggle with every day, every hour, every minute? What are you going to do to make these people’s lives bearable? Listening certainly isn’t going to do it.

Therapy doesn’t even try to solve these problems. The radical acceptance approach would have us sit with these problems, accept them nonjudgmentally, and never offer any proposed solution that the client hadn’t thought of on their own.

This approach does our clients a grave disservice and I believe it violates the Hippocratic Oath. It puts us in a position of sitting on a potential solution to their problem, a solution that, in many cases, could save their lives. This is gross dereliction of our duty as professionals and as human beings.

The radical acceptance, client-led approach is nothing more than an abdication of responsibility on the therapist’s part. It foists the responsibility for healing onto the client when they are already incapable of coping with their problems on their own.

This is another version of “Blame the Victim”. If the client doesn’t improve, it’s their fault. It leaves the therapist unscathed so no one can blame us for giving them wrong advice or making a mistake. It’s nothing more than a form of self-protection on the therapists’ part so no one can come back and hold us responsible after the fact.

My system takes a very nuts-and-bolts approach to all these problems. My process is results based. My goal is to get the person’s problem solved as quickly as possible and I don’t believe that any of the above problems “belongs”.

Everyone exposed to child abuse and controlling relationships of all kinds has mind control structures in place that are left over from their abusive experience and these absolutely DO NOT “belong”. These structures form the foundation of whatever problem they are struggling with. To get them solved, these structures need to be exposed for what they are, attacked at the root, and dismantled. The client will never improve as long as these remain in place.

Simply listening to these structures and giving them a voice and a place to exist in the world will only makes them stronger. Exit counselling, as it is known in the cult world, is a process of examining these structures and taking them apart into their component thought forms. By revealing the methods and techniques that abusers and controllers use to manipulate us, we discover which areas of our thinking are faulty, inaccurate, and self-destructive.

All trauma survivors carry these thought structures around in our heads, often for decades. They lead us to a plethora of negative outcomes, none of which will ever go away as long as the underlying thought structure remains intact.

This is the first, foundational component of my system. I guide the client to identify those thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and logical fallacies that come from our abusive past. I provide tools, criteria, and information that the client does not have so they can understand the mind control techniques their abuser used to coerce them into acting against their own self-interest.

I use the same system to point out how these same fallacies, beliefs, and techniques are still at work in the client’s present-day life. I use the lens of mind control techniques to show how these structures are interfering with the client’s ability to function and preventing the client from acting in their own self-interest.

The second, most fundamental tool that I teach is positive change. Empowerment of all kinds is based on positive change and taking active charge over our own lives. For those of us who have been subjected to another’s control, this is essential for us to reclaim agency in our lives. It reverses the negative message from our abuse that we are unable to protect ourselves, take care of ourselves, and improve our lives on our own initiative.

I do this by teaching habit formation, a systems approach to achieving goals and milestones, and by continually assessing and re-evaluating our status and progress. The radical acceptance model would label this judgment and you might be right.

I strongly believe that this kind of judgment is necessary to us living our fullest lives. We have to be able to examine our lives, decide what is working and what is not, and be willing to eliminate that which does not serve us. The radical acceptance approach does not do this. It does not encourage it. It doesn’t teach it to those of us who may have missed it during our childhood development. That is what I provide in my business.

Last, and perhaps most important, I provide mentorship. I offer a living example to my clients, but it isn’t the same example you are offering. I offer an example of what is possible when we DON’T accept everything at face value. I offer an example of what can be achieved by actively seizing our challenges and problems and doing the hard work to solve them.

Abuse and mind control survivors need mentorship from someone who shares their experience. They need someone who can look them in the eye and say, “I get it. It happened to me, too. You’re not crazy. It gets better. Here’s how you do it.”

Therapy cannot provide this. Instead, by reserving your own experience and withholding your own involvement in the client’s problem, therapy only isolates the survivor even more. It emphasizes that the therapist DOES NOT share their experience. The therapist deliberately distances themselves from the client and withholds this vital piece of the connection puzzle. It leaves the client feeling more alone and helpless because they are left with the message that they are different, alien, and apart from the therapist.

For my clients, this one moment, the moment when the client understands that they are in the presence of someone who gets it, is THE most therapeutic moment in the entire recovery process. I have had clients see improvement in their problems from this alone. It takes a matter of seconds, but it can have a profound and life-changing impact on someone who is suffering and possibly on the verge of suicide.

This is a very different animal than neutral, nonjudgmental listening. Most of my clients want to hear my background BEFORE they tell me theirs. They want to know up front what qualifies me to help them. They’ve had enough to choke on of talking to people who haven’t walked in their shoes.

You might argue that the client can’t achieve a genuine therapeutic result with the therapist (or coach) constantly inserting themselves, their agenda, and their own experience into the process. I would argue that the opposite is true. The client CANNOT achieve a complete and full therapeutic recovery WITHOUT it.

Abuse and mind control manipulation are dependent on the victim believing they are completely alone, that no one will believe us or listen to us or care about our problems. This can only be reversed when the client sees, unequivocally, that someone DOES understand because they’ve been there themselves. The client realizes that they are not alone, that they are, in fact, normal relative to their experience.

This result CANNOT be achieved through simple listening and acceptance. The client MUST know that the person to whom they are unburdening themselves shares their struggles and has lived to tell the tale.

If the therapist never divulges their own abusive background (if they have one), the client will never completely trust them. The lingering doubt will always remain in the client’s mind wondering if the therapist is only sympathizing out of compassionate interest or fascination, or worse, if the therapist is secretly harboring some horror or revulsion over what the client is talking about. The therapist can assert until they’re blue in the face that this isn’t the case. Unless the client knows for certain that the therapist shares that experience, the client will never completely believe it.

This is the experience I have had in therapy and dozens of survivors and clients have shared with me that they experienced the same thing.  This is by no means an isolated incident unique to me. It is endemic in the therapy industry. Millions of people suffering from countless problems have spent decades in the mental health system with zero results. This is why we see people killing themselves in hopeless despair because therapy doesn’t offer any real solution to their problems. Our society holds up therapy as the one true go-to fix-all for mental health issues when it is really the opposite.

On the flip side, countless cult survivors have found new hope through exit counselling offered by unlicensed individuals whose only qualification was a desire to share their information and experience to help others. Since all abusive and controlling relationships are based on the same system of mind control, this process works for child abuse survivors, too.

This is what I seek to do by sharing the system I have developed in my own recovery. My goal is to provide survivors with a solution that actually works and brings them to a better quality of life.

As I’ve told you in the past, I don’t want hostility between me and the therapy community or any individual therapist. My only object is to help people who are suffering unnecessarily.

I hope that clarifies for you the approach I’m using. I wish you well and I hope we can continue to communicate about this. Kind regards, Leah