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Psychotherapy can harm clients

Psychotherapy can harm clients

Psychotherapy can harm clients is a strong title, and as you will read, it is entirely justified. Over the decades I have seen many harmful psychotherapy practices, which, frankly, ought to be illegal.

Here are some.

Psychotherapy can harm clients:

Creating Dependency

We all know why many therapists create dependency; it lines their pockets. Good for them; disastrous for their clients. Every hour that is spent making the client dependent is an hour that could have taken them closer to the main thing that matters in therapy: getting the client to the point of self-responsibility.

It is worse than merely wasting time that could have been better used, much worse. By fostering a state of dependency, the client is less and less likely to ever reach the point of self-responsibility. They are being taken in the direction of life-time dependency. They are being turned from being a person who has a problem self-soluble, IF they had taken self-responsibility in to a life time victim of exploitation. In this case ‘the client’ is absolutely the wrong word; we are talking about victims of psychological manipulation.

SRT (Self-responsibility Therapy) is at the other end of the scale. Clients are turned from victim of circumstance to victors over circumstance in one session. Of course, one session is not enough for all clients. Rarely, two sessions are required and very rarely three sessions.

Psychotherapy can harm clients:

Listening to Clients Yet Providing NO Input

Many old school therapists still hold the view that if you give the client a listening space that they will somehow heal themselves. Of course, that listening space, where no input is provided, is charged by the hour, at many multiples of the legal minimum wage.

We all love someone listening to us. Some people are even prepared to have a paid audience; that is what such passive therapy is: a paid audience.

At least with this passive approach, the hope is that the client will, eventually, after many expensive sessions, figure out their problem for themselves. The emphasis here is on the word hope. It is therapy by hope. There is no direction. Indeed, directing the client is not permitted under such therapy systems. Hope is a powerful healer, but the therapist is not schooled in providing it; they simply have hope that by listening to the client all will work out in the end, without any direction.

Leaving aside that it is simply not possible to avoid directing a client (it happens by virtue of body language, tone, environment provided… to name just three), what is the client paying for? Listening skills? Some children are wonderful listeners, and haven’t studied therapy for years to become so. It gets worse; the time the person spends having a good listener take their money is time that they could have been gently guided to solve their problem, many, many times over.

SRT takes the view that, YES, as therapist, you absolutely have to listen; it is impossible to understand the client otherwise. What you learn in listening is then harnessed to help the client to reach the point of self-responsibility.

Far from listening in hope, SRT teaches, that you listen in anticipation of joint action. Joint because the therapist and client work together to reach the point of self-responsibility.

Psychotherapy can harm clients:

Victimhood collusion

“Oh, poor you… I am so sorry… nobody should ever have to suffer that…” You know of this one, too. You may even have heard those words. The therapist, knowingly or unknowingly colludes with the client’s victim identity, and, in many cases actually creates or reinforces the adoption of full-blown victimhood.

Where does such misguided “therapy” come from?

Most therapists want to help people; most have high degrees of empathy; most understand that the starting point of therapy is the formation of a good rapport. Part of rapport formation involves identification, cooperation, being agreeable. There is the culprit: being agreeable. Many therapists are people-pleasers, and unknowingly, by being agreeable, create life-long victims.


SRT guides clients away from victimhood towards victorhood.  People, if they are helped to harness their resources have amazing powers of recovery. Self-responsibility Therapy teaches and persuades clients to harness those powers.

selfresponsibilitytherapy.com‘Teaches and persuades’ is used deliberately. For some clients, if they knew how to solve the problem, they would have solved it before therapy started. For others, they already know how, but simply haven’t been self-persuaded to do what they know has to be done.

SRT, self-responsibility therapy, is entirely open about teaching and persuading the client to take self-responsibility.

You may have heard this saying, and I will make it suitable for our more enlightened times:

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day

Teach them to fish and you feed them for life

It sounds like wisdom, but actually it is incomplete and inaccurate: you don’t feed them for life, you enable them to feed themselves for life.

Here it is rewritten to reflect reality more accurately, and more completely:

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day

Teach them to fish and you enable them to feed themselves for life

Teach them how to take self-responsibility and you enable them to better

solve life’s problems, for life

SRT is designed to, and harnesses the principles, which, enable clients to take self-responsibility to enable them to better solve life’s problems, for life.

If you are a therapist, coach, physician, nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or educator and you genuinely, and ethically want to help your clients, SRT Certification may be for you.

If you want to become Certified in Self-Responsibility Therapy, you can obtain more information here:


Copyright Dr Nigel MacLennan, CPsychol, FBPsS