The Devastating New Age Turn within Psychotherapy
(This article is the first in a series of three articles on New Age psychotherapies. The second is Regression psychotherapies – the third is Cathartic psychotherapies).
In this article I will investigate the devastating New Age turn within psychotherapy. I will show the difference between spiritual counseling and New Age psychotherapy, central distorting aspects of New Age psychotherapies, and finally some precautions in relation to New Age psychotherapies. In that way the article are divided in four parts:
1) The difference between spiritual counseling and New Age psychotherapies
2) Central distorting aspects of New Age psychotherapies
3) Precautions in relation to New Age psychotherapies (where do they go wrong?)
1) The difference between spiritual counseling and New Age psychotherapies
Philosophical counseling (true spiritual counseling), claims that our problems are due to a separation of the observer and the observed (see my article Philosophical counseling as an alternative to psychotherapy). In its practice it directs itself away from the observed, towards the observer himself. And its questions become of existential, conceptual, ethical, epistemological and metaphysical kind.
Psychotherapy is a branch of psychology, and therefore something scientific, which directs itself towards aspects of the observed, that can be empirical tested. Therefore it must not contain philosophical and/or religious theories. An example on such a scientific based psychotherapy is Cognitive Therapy, which also has shown to be the most effective kind of psychotherapy.
Today it has become an integrated part of management theories and the self-help industry, that they draw on the New Age movement. New Age is a name of a spiritual movement, which draws on many different religious traditions: Astrology, Shamanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, different techniques of Prophecy – which all are seeked integrated with Western psychotherapy. You may say, that psychotherapy, in this combinationform, has become a new religion for the modern Western human being – a religion, which the management theories adds the ideals about being a success. In fact the term New Age is today one and the same as a mixture of spirituality, management theory and psychotherapy. If you go into a bookshop, you can often see, how books about spirituality and management theory today stand on the same shelfs (see my articles Management theory and the self-help industry, Humanistic psychology, self-help, and the danger of reducing religion to psychology, Self-help and The Mythology of Authenticity and Six common traits of New Age that distort spirituality).
An example: today most people within school, folk high school, continuing education and business community, have met the concept Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). Both in education, as well as at work, you will almost unavoidably be forced to work with NLP-theories, which is a directly offence of the rights for people, who don´t advocate the New Age movement.
NLP is a therapeutic method, which picks inspiration from many different directions within psychology: gestalt therapy, hypnosis therapy, body therapy, neurology, shamanism etc. Some NLP-practicians claim, that it is a method, which is based on a scientific way of thinking, and refuse the connection with New Age. But this rejection is paradoxically enough a trait, which is quite typical for the New Age movement, where concepts such as research and science all too often become mixed with spiritual concepts. An example of the lack of ability to understand oneself as philosophy/spirituality/religion, and not science (see my article Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT))
For example has there within the New Age movement almost gone inflation in the thought distortion Research has shown that… A phrase, which often is used to convince the listener about, that the one who speaks can substantiate what he says with concrete empirical proof. But this could be an example of subjective argumentation, a form of unethical manipulation (often based on wishful thinking), because it is extremely vague to claim that ”research has shown” anything, unless you can substantiate the assertion with specific details about the claimed research. Who has carried out this research? Which methods were there used? What exactly did they found out? Have their results been confirmed by others working within the area? (see my book A dictionary of thought distortions and my article The Pseudoscience of New Age and reductionism).
However there are also NLP-practicians, who fully acknowledge the connection with the new spiritual movements. If you look at the NLP-consultants´ web pages on the internet, they often present themselves with a spectrum of educations, including astrologers, clairvoyants, shamans and healers.
Today you can almost draw such “spiritual” educations in an automat, if only you have money enough. They are typical taken in a few weekends, after which you get yourself some homemade title as coach, psychotherapist, therapist, shaman, healer, clairvoyant or spiritual teacher of one or the other kind. There almost seem to be speculated in creating new peculiar titles. But such educations can of course not give the sufficient competence, neither spiritual or educational, and there is no doubt about, that there on the grey, alternative market (including the whole of the circus of management theory and coaching) rules a wild growing, uncontrolled market of quackery and scientific/philosophical/spiritual misguiding.
If we for example take the title psychotherapist, then it is very important to be aware, that this title is not a protected title. Anybody can call himself psychotherapist, and one should therefore be on the alert with people who sign themselves psychotherapist. Competent psychotherapeutic treatment is usually in charge of University-educated psychologists and psychiatrists. For both of these groups of experts it is possible to achieve licence as psychotherapist. But on the so-called grey market there exists, as mentioned, a line of alternative forms of treatment with affinity with mysticism and religiousness, which do not live up to the professional demands, which lie in the authorization arrangements. These people also title themselves as psychotherapists, and it is a deep problem that precisely these people of the grey New Age market practically have patent on personal development pedagogy in almost all areas of life: schools, further and higher education, treatment, business, etc.
I will repeat: Philosophical counseling (true spiritual counseling), claims that our problems are due to a separation of the observer and the observed. In its practice it directs itself away from the observed, towards the observer himself. And its questions become of existential, conceptual, ethical, epistemological and metaphysical kind.
Psychotherapy is a branch of psychology, and therefore something scientific, which directs itself towards aspects of the observed, that can be empirical tested. Therefore it must not contain philosophical and/or religious theories. But this is precisely what New Age psychotherapies do, and in neglecting the observer, they are misguiding their clients philosophical and spiritual. The oberserver is the creator of thought distortions. In connection with New Age psychotherapy, and therefore a variety of techniques and therapies within New Age and self-help, there is especially one thought distortion they overlook, namely Subjective validation. These therapies can´t succeed, nor be understood, without understanding subjective validation.
Subjective validation is active when people will validate a set of statements allegedly about themselves as highly accurate, even if these statements not are accurate. New Age psychotherapies are dependent of that subjective validation is active in the client, or else they won´t work. It is also therefore it is necessary to eliminate critical thinking in the client. These therapies, and subjective validation, are two sides of the same coin (read more about subjective validation in my book A dictionary of thought distortions).
New Age psychotherapies are for example therapies such as Experiential psychotherapy, Rebirthing, Reparenting, Past life regression, Hypnotherapy, Alien abduction, Recovered memory therapy, Satanic ritual abuse, Primal Therapy, Gestalt therapy, Energy Breathing, Holotropic Breathwork. Also Nonviolent Communication, coaching, NLP and The law of Attraction, must be seen as kinds of New Age psychotherapies (see my articles Regression psychotherapies, Cathartic psychotherapies, Hypnosis, hypnotherapy and the art of self-deception, Nonviolent Communication is an instrument of psychic terror, The New Thought movement and the law of attraction).
A common thread is the belief that a person having problems is not likely to be responsible for those problems. This is due to their root in reductionism (see my article The pseudoscience of reductionism and the problem of mind). Another thread is the belief that the patient must discover the cause of his or her problem to be helped. These causes are built into the psychotherapy itself, and are therefore pure prejudice. It is causes such as inadequate parents, sexual abuse, satanic rituals, cannibalistic orgies, past lifes, alien abduction, possession by entities, etc.
In the best Sophist way the therapists are planting such causes in their patients minds. They give their patients books to read or videos to watch. They plant them during hypnosis, group sessions, etc., and then these planted causes are “recovered” and offered as validation of their therapeutic techniques and theories (see the thought distortion Communal reinforcement in my book A dictionary of thought distortions).
A third thread is the arrogance and incompetence of the therapists. They are very seldom educated psychologists, most often they are hopelessly uneducated. It doesn´t matter if they can show a diploma from one or the other private “New Age” education, which normally consists in a few weekend courses (see my article Hypnosis, Hypnotherapy and the art of self-deception for an example).
As shown in a documentary by Ofra Bikel “Divided Memories”, they are oblivious to how they are demonstrating the monstrosity of their pseudoscientifical and self-deceptive work. They talk freely about how uninterested they are in the truth and how indifferent they are to the families they help destroy. They are uniform in their dismissal of critics as being in “denial.” Patient after patient is paraded forth by the therapists as evidence of their good work, yet none of the patients seem better for the therapy and many seem hopelessly ill.
The documentary shows the subjectivism and relativism in the New Age environment.
Watch the documentary on the playlist of my YouTube channel
These therapists often call themselves spiritual counselors. But the karmacially talk and experiences of these “experts” and “clients” remove their energy-investments in the actual reality. When focus is displaced backwards or forwards in time, then the collective time has taken over and spiritual seen there therefore happens an escape. None of these people and theories can therefore be said to work spiritual. And when they use the karma idea in that way, it is no longer a spiritual help, it is a collective displacement of the focus backwards in time and therewith out of reality and into the unreality of the collective time (see my article What is karma?).
New Age psychotherapies are not just useless, they are harmful. The dangers of for example combining Regression psychotherapies with Cathartic psychotherapies - in the believe this is necessary in a spiritual process of development - are shown in my articles A critique of Stanislav Grof and Holotropic Breathwork and James Arthur Ray and the sweat lodge tragedy.
2) Central aspects of New Age psychotherapies
In the following I will use Margeret Thaler Singer´s and Janja Lalich´s book Crazy Therapies as a frame of reference.
The Crazy therapies Singer and Lalich are referring to are the same as New Age psychotherapies. They use the word crazy in order to describe some of these therapies, using the word as it is used in the vernacular, to refer to something as controversial, nonstandard, or “far out,” and sometimes to depict fads or current enthusiasms.
Singer and Lalich have seen three types of results from these crazy therapies, which fall on a continuum of helpful to harmful, including sometimes a combination thereof.
The first outsome is the placebo effect (see the thought distortion Classical conditioning and placebo effects in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions). Here, consumers think they´re being helped. They might feel better even though there is no scientific reason or established clinical pratice to support the apparent positive results. Consequently, individual clients may experience varied results from the same procedure, with some believing the´ve been greatly helped and others feeling no gain whatsoever.
The second outcome is loss. Consumers may end up wasting a lot of time and money pursuing dead ends and false leads. In some of these cases, clients may have fallen prey to unscrupulous, exploitative therapists; in others, they may simply have gone along with the enthusiasm of ill-trained, or faddish practitioners who themselves are caught up in believing in the curative abilities of a particular theory or treatment.
The third outcome is harm. Some consumers risk being harmed – psychological or otherwise – by some of the therapies currently in vogue. Each year countless individuals throughout the globe turn their innermost thoughts and feelings to a trusted counselor, only to be exploited and abused by some of them. When we go to a mental health professional or someone claiming to have special knowledge, we don´t suspect the worst; rather, we hope for the best. We go with open hearts and open minds.
But here are some of the outcomes Singer and Lalich have seen:
Singer and Lalich have heard example upon example, like those just mentioned and worse, of maltreatment and exploitation by psychotherapists and counselors of all stripes. They have encountered the bizarre and the arcane, the violent and the greedy. And they feel that these injustices, these instances of devastating emotional harm and financial loss, this psychological manipulation and in some cases physical and sexual abuse must no longer go unheeded.
They also believe that the professional community and media are unaware of (and in some cases, they shudder to think, turning a blind eye to) the kinds of abuses that are rampant today in the fields of psychotherapy and personal transformation (one might add that the media on the contrary directly are supporting these tendencies – just look at Oprah Winfrey). They add “personal transformation” because over time they have seen that many so-called therapies actually have less and less to do with legitimate forms of psychotherapy as they have more and more in common with unscientific pop psychology theories and New Age techniques.
The general public today is confronted with a panorama of theories and practices said to address a variety of symptoms and disorders, ranging from the supposedly scientific to the ludicrous and unchallenged. An array of therapists, counselors, and healers promote the following techniques, among others:
Flower essence therapy
Chakra and aura readings
White goddess healings
Chemical inductions (use of LSD, sodium amytal, and other drugs)
Tours to sacred sites
Rapid eye technology
These techniques – for which a consumer can pay anywhere from less than one hundred to several thousand dollars – are purported to bring about results as the following:
Revelatory past-life journeys
Smooth life transitions
Parents´ programming release
Alignment of fluid
Reclaiming your missing self
The body´s energies rebalanced
Insightful shamanic journeys
Disharmonious energies release
Inner purpose revealed
Becoming a galactic human being
Deep, transformative healing
Sexual karma revealed
Knowing essence twins
These lists reveal the spectrum of offerings available today. How does a person evaluate whether something is legitimate or a waste of time, possible beneficial or potentially harmful?
Because of my experiences with a spiritual crisis (see my articles Spiritual crises as the cause of paranormal phenomena and The awakening of kundalini) I will with this article (as well as my articles Cathartic psychotherapies and Regression psychotherapies) try to shed light on the potential dangers of some of these methods, including the increasing occurence of iatrogenic damage, that is, damage to the client induced by the therapist.
Women in particular have been victimized by these therapies: rather than feeling empowered and more autonomous, some women have become dependent and needy, and some have been exploited and abused, psychological and/or sexually, by self-serving therapists.
So, the one face of this paradoxical Janus head is the empowerment culture, the other face is the victimization culture (and the connected recovery movement) - read more about this paradox in my article Self-help and The Mythology of Authenticity
The mere fact that some practitioners have degrees or a wall plastered with various fancy looking credentials is no guarantee that their work will be ethical and competent. Therapists with degrees have been known to provide services that range from excellent to negligent to out-and-out quackery. The “flying circuses of psychotherapy” whirl into town, display their unproven techniques, and vanish, leaving behind certain insecure therapists who adopt every notion, from the quint to the downright dangerous.
Persuasion techniques within psychotherapy cults
Cults have the same characteristics as ideologies. That a thought-system has developed into an ideology shows in, that it is a closed system, which is shared by a large group of people. Such a closed system has especially two distinctive characters: 1) It allows no imaginable circumstance to talk against the ideology. 2) It refuses all critique by analysing the motives in the critique in concepts, which is collected from the ideology itself (an ideology always thinks black and white, and therefore always has an anti-ideology, an enemy image, which it attribute on to everyone, who don´t agree). An ideology is therefore characterized by, that it is not able to contain, or direct refuses, rationality and critical thinking. We all know how dissidents have been killed, jailed and tortured under totalitarian ideologies.
Ideologies are using propaganda in order to get their “truths” forced through. In that connection they use thought distortions. Thought distortions are “techniques” that, unconsciuos or conscious, are used from an interest in finding ways of getting on in the world, rather than an interest in finding ways of discovering the truth. Thought distortions are the background for poor reasoning, diversionary ploys, seductive reasoning errors, techniques of persuasion and avoidance, psychological factors, which can be obstacles to clear thought (read more in my article The difference Between Philosophical Education and Ideological Education).
The following is inspired by Margeret Thaler Singer´s book Cults in Our Midst – The ContinuingFight against Their Hidden Menace (page 125-181)
In connection with cults techniques of propaganda are often referred to as 1) Thought struggle, 2) Brainwashing, 3) Thought reform, 4) Debility, dependency, and dread (DDD syndrome), 5) Coercive persuasion, 6) Mind control, 7) Systematic manipulation of psychological and social influence, 8) Coordinated programs of coercive influence and behavioral control, 9) Exploitative persuasion.
Generally cults and groups using thought-reform processes do not have a visible product, such as a computer or a book or a car, to sell. They have an invisible product. Therefore, those who offer psychological, political, or spiritual transformations and enlightenment have learned that either they need to prove that they have special knowledge of some kind and that a follower will gain something unusual by participating in their group, or they need to use specific persuasion techniques that will convince followers to stay with them.
If cult leaders can´t give you “proof,” then they can manipulate you into believing. Through a variety of skillful manipulations and deceptions, they will persuade you that they have the ultimate solution.
In general, cult leaders combine two methods of persuasion:
Since a central issue in my own teaching is spiritual crises - (see my articles Spiritual Crises as the Cause of Paranormal Phenomena and The Awakening of Kundalini) – I will focus on physiological and psychological persuasion techniques within psychotherapy cults.
Physiological Persuasion Techniques
Techniques producing predictable physiological responses
Following are some of the more frequent physiological methods of producing various mental and physical feelings taught to members as group activities. Members´ responses to these activities are reinterpreted in desirable ways by group leaders or trainers, so as to convince both neophytes and devotees that the processes are good for them. The process of positive reinterpretation, sometimes called proof through reframing, is a persuasion technique commonly used by cults.
Hyperventilation is an overall label for the effects caused by overbreathing and repetitive sighing. The condition is easily induced by having people do continuous loud shouting, chanting, or speaking in tongues. For example, the effect can be produced by having individuals stand and repeatedly thrust their clenched fists outward while simultaneously shouting in a loud voice with heavy exhalation “Love our leader! Love our Leader! Love our Leader!” Overbreathing can also be produced through intense heavy expelling of air in more private, quite ritualized chants.
Mild hyperventilation produces dizziness or light-headedness; people feel “high” and experience loss of critical thought and judgment. More prolonged or vigorous overbreathing produces numbness and tingling of the fingers, toes, and lips; sweating; pounding of the heart; ringing in the ears; tremulousness; and feelings of fear, panic, and, unreality.
Even more vigorous and prolonged overbreathing can cause muscle cramps, including clawlike rigidity of the hands and feet, body cramps, and severe chest pain and tightness. Heart irregularities can develop, and convulsive tendencies can be exaggerated.
Hyperventilation also causes fainting. People often drop to the floor and are briefly unconscious. While they are unconscious, underbreathing occurs to compensate for the period of overbreathing and to restore the normal acid-base balance of the blood. People awaken limp, exhausted, and aware that they have been through a dramatic and frightening experience.
Cults, quacks, and manipulators have become aware of the predictable outcomes of hyperventilation – the giddiness, the out-of-control feeling, the possible loss of consciousness, the tingling, and the clenching of fingers and toes. Similarly, they have recognized the impact of immediately reframing the experience. By constantly reframing, or relabeling, the effects, thus confounding individuals´ gut-level reactions that something unpleasant has happened, leaders turn a frightening state into a supposedly positive one, telling neophytes, for example, that they are “getting in touch with feelings,...becoming blissed out,...getting or receiving the spirit,...on the path.” In private, the leaders of some groups have names such as lobstering or tunaing, for the clawlike clenching and the falling to the floor produced by hyperventilation practices.
All in all, the hyperventilation syndrome is relabeled as progress, closeness to God, or a new level of enlightenment.
Constant swaying motions, clapping added to chanting, or almost any repeated motion helps to alter a person´s general state of awareness. Often the repetitive movements are combined with forms of chanting to blend the effects of hyperventilation and dizziness.
Dizziness can be produced by simple spinning or spin dancing (in which the person also whirls around and around), prolonged swaying, and trance dancing (often done kneeling and rocking from side to side and backward and forward, with rhythmic repetitive drumming and background music). Again, the effects of these motions are relabeled by group leaders as ecstacy or new levels of awareness.
Change in Diet, Sleep, and Stress
Abrupt, radical, or prolonged dietary changes, prolonged sleep loss, and increased general stress also bring about predictable physiological responses.
Gastrointestinal Distress and Other Diet-Related Effects
Many groups encourage and/or institute vegetarianism as part of members´ conduct. In some cases, this dietary requirement may come only at later stages of membership or within certain select circles. Other groups simply institute cheap diets to save money and to modify behavior.
Vegetarianism can be healthy when individuals study and select proper daily combinations of foods. In contrast, a number of cults abruptly put new members on low-protein, improperly balanced vegetarian diets. Suddenly eating only vegetables and fruit with no concern for securing the proper proteins and amino acids produces odd sensations in the lower digestive tract. The manipulation in certain cults label this “doing battle with Satan” and tell neophyte members that their lower intestinal pains and churning are evidence of their basic sinfulness and their need to learn the group´s ways in order to battle Satan. Some of the neo-Hindu groups reframe the digestive upsets as the working off of past-life karma.
People in the human manipulation business know that, after a time, the body adapts and the intestinal discomfort of a sudden change in diet decreases. When this occurs, the leaders tell the new member that it means he or she is properly submitting to the leader or is achieving a higher level of awareness.
Stress, poor diet, and inadequate rest can result in hormonal changes that cause menstruation to cease in women and beard growth to diminish or cease in men. Manipulators deliberately misattribute these conditions, citing them as evidence that the women are pregnant with God and the men have become children of the leader, avatar, or guru.
Purgings, Colonics, and Sweating
Techniques involving purgings, colonics, and sweating are used in various cultic groups as symbolic cleansing rituals, but they actually serve the covert role of keeping members debiliated, docile, and dependent on the group for their well-being and care.
Reportedly, each of these procedures can produce visible body responses, which can be reframed and reinterpreted as desired by the group leader according to his philosophy. Again, such reframing is meant to demonstrate that a visible effect is generated not as an expected physiological response but as evidence of whatever the leader says.
Unusual physiological effects can be produced by a person acting either alone or with others to perform body manipulations. Leaders of cults and thought-reform groups employ a number of these manipulations and interpret the experiences to mean what they want followers to think.
Pushing on Eyeballs
Former members report that in the Divine Light Mission the lights would be dimmed and the guru would pass among the followers bestowing “divine light” on individuals by pressing on their eyes until the pressure on the optic nerve caused them to see flashes of light. This was reframed as Divine Light.
Pressing on Ears
In the same group, members were instructed to plug their ears with their fingers, pushing until they heard a buzzing sound which was interpreted as hearing Divine Harmony.
Some former members of a psychotherapy cult have described a number of pratices their leader instituted that were allegedly to balance members´ inner and outer selves but were, in fact, painful physical manipulations used to punish people and to get them in line with the leaders´ plans. These manipulations were called bodywork, and the point was to elicit pain and “awareness.” The motto was “No pain, no gain.”
It has been known in the professional literature for some time that not everyone responds well to closed-eye relaxation techniques or to mantra meditation, in which the meditator repeats an incantation. Some individuals find these procedures relaxing and welcome, but a noticeable number experience discomfort and distress. The reason is due to how the energy is circling in the person. The problem is that most meditation teachers don´t combine meditation with energy-stabilizing techniques – they probably don´t even know what that is. In relation to this most meditation techniques today are so-called upward meditationtraditions. Only a very few meditation teachers are acquainted with the downward meditationtraditions (which I myself recommend – and which my own meditation exercises are based on).
Even ancient literature on mantra meditation warns of the need for the experienced teacher to monitor learners and help them avoid difficulties, and those teaching mantra meditation and other closed-eyes techniques today have also learned from experience that many meditators experience some distressing responses. Instead of feeling relaxed, some feel increased tension, break out in perspiration, find their hearts racing, or become distressingly aware of many aspects of their body. Finally a number of people end up in a spiritual crisis, for example the awakening of kundalini (see my articles Spiritual Crises as the Cause of Paranormal Phenomena, and The Awakening of Kundalini – also read the articles A Map of The Spiritual Journey and The Spiritual Crisis, in my book Dream Yoga).
In recent years, it has been in vogue in management theory and coaching to speak of the stress of life and how to reduce it through meditation (the concept of Mindfulness is today very popular in the world of management theory). Many different cultic groups have therefore offered meditation as a cure-all for stress, and have done a real Madison Avenue packaging of the typical bodily responses found in a number of people when they close their eyes and attempt empty-mind meditation.
The cult groups call this unstressing and reframe any distress it causes as a necessary and positive response. This is a typical psychotherapeutic answer. An experienced meditation-teacher would see such responses as a warning signal that something is going wrong.
What is typically going wrong (when combining meditation with the stress of life) is that people are becoming more stressed if they are not changing their life as a whole. But a change of life-style is certainly not the intention within the management theories – the idea is that meditation can help people become even more effective within a business life which already is far too stressed.
The reason why people become more stressed is that meditation gathers energy to your life as a whole; that is: if your life is relaxed, meditation will help you getting more relaxed. If your life is stressed, meditation will make you more stressed (you add one more thing to do, to all the other things you also have to do). That is my whole point about that meditation is about philosophy of life as a whole, not just a part of if.
There are also many different kinds of meditation being promoted by various individuals, groups, and cults. In a recent copy of a California free newspaper, Singer counted advertisements for at least forty different meditation groups and courses, a portion of which were recognizable cultic groups.
The typical scene today is that meditation (and spirituality as such) is being mixed with psychotherapy and coaching (management theory – see my article Self-help and the Mythology of Authenticity). Many meditation teachers (who also often are business and success coaches) claim that their meditation techniques are based on science, and has been “liberated” from the religious and philosophical traditions the meditation techniques original were based on (life as a whole). This is of course a problem, since meditation with time will open up for the collective images of time, which are of religious and philosophical nature. When this happens for some people, the meditation teachers – who don´t have any experience of this themselves, and don´t have any religious and philosophical frame of reference as explanation and guideline - are completely lost. But they will typically call this unstressing and reframe any distress it causes as a necessary and positive response.
Often they even combine meditation with the four other categories of activities – hyperventilation; reptitive motions; changes in diet and in sleep and stress levels; body manipulations.
Singer mentions a few examples which illustrate former cult members´ range of impairments, some of which remain after many years out of the cultic group. The descriptions are typical examples of people who have ended up in a spiritual crisis, though Singer doesn´t mention the concept of spiritual crises. Therefore the phenomena described are not properly explained – for example: there is no doubt that the Kundalini power has been activated in these people – and when activated you can´t “deactivate” it – though you can stabilize it if you know how.
Read the following examples and try to compare the symptoms with the symptoms I have described in my article Spiritual crises as the cause of Paranormal Phenomena (also read my article The Awakening of Kundalini):
Singers examination of Physiological Persuasion Techniques and meditation groups are brilliant. The only problems are that she doesn´t seem to know anything about spiritual crises and how to handle them. Furthermore that she seems to think that ethical instructors of meditation have to be licensed psychologists or psychiatrists who use it as a therapeutic technique, or noncultic meditation instructors who teach meditation as a relaxation technique. This is of course alright, but a true meditation teacher must have had experiences to a certain degree, and must include the philosophical and religious aspects of meditation, as well as having knowledge about spiritual crises, and how to guide students around these pitfalls, or how to get students out of these phenomena if already in them.
In my article A Critique of Stanislav Grof and Holotropic Breathwork, I show why the effects of physiological persuasion techniques has nothing to do with spirituality - (though many of the descriptions sounds similar with true spiritual experiences) – and how they, on the contrary, are leading people on the wrong track.
Psychological Persuasion Techniques
Hypnosis and Trance
Hypnosis is classed as a psychological rather than a physiological method because it is essentially a form of highly focused mental concentration in which one person allows another to structure the object of the concentration and simultaneously suspends critical judgment and peripheral awareness. When this method is used in cultic environment, it becomes a form of psychological manipulation and coercion because the cult leader implants suggestions aimed at his own agenda while the person is in a vulnerable state.
A trance is a phenomenon in which our consciousness or awareness is modified. Our awareness seems to split as our active critical-evaluative thinking dims, and we slip from an active into a passive-receptive mode of mental processing. We listen or look without reflection or evaluation. We suspend rational analysis, independent judgment, and conscious decision making about what we are hearing or taking in. We lose the boundaries between what we wish were true and what is factual. Imagination and reality intertwine, and our self and the selves of others seem more like one self. Our mental gears shift into receptivity, leaving active mental processing in neutral.
What is happening is that the thought distortion Magical thinking is induced in the person. Again we have something that sounds like a spiritual practice namely passive listening presence and neutral observation. That is what seduces many people. But in a true spiritual practice people on the contrary learn to use critical thinking, or discrimination. Central in critical thinking is the discrimination between subject and object, dream and reality - and what are lie or illusion, and reality. The Dominican mystics call this steps discriminatio; the Orientals call it viveka, discrimination. This is also why all true spiritual masters are very critical towards hypnosis – for example Vivekananda and Krishnamurti (read more about Magical thinking in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions – also see the thought distortion Confabulation).
Trancelike states can occur during hypnosis, during complete absorption in reading or hearing stories, and during marked concentration. They are sometimes referred to as altered states of consciousness. While in an altered state, for the most part we experience an absence of our usual generalized reality orientation (GRO – which also has with discrimination to do) – that is, we are not actively noticing or aware of our environment and our part in it.
In normal waking life, our GRO is our frame of reference, serving as background to our ongoing conscious experiences, our awareness. Our GRO shapes a context within which we interpret what is going on. This frame of reference can fade away under certain circumstances: hypnosis, one-sided meditation, guided imagery, drug use, fatique, and sensory deprivation. When our GRO is weakened, we become both more suggestible to outside influences and more influenced by inner fantasies.
A number of cults use techniques that put people into an altered state of consciousness, making them more compliant. They engage members in a fair amount of behavior that induces trances, as evidenced by the types and quality of the lectures and sermons and the required activities, such as prolonged chanting or meditation, and repetitive rote behavior. Trance induction is the model for some of the maneuvres used by cult leaders to change the attitudes and behaviors of their followers.
Indirect trance induction also grows out of storytelling and other verbal experiences. Cult leaders often speak repetitively, rhythmically, in hard-to-follow ways, and combine with these features the telling of tales and parables that are highly visualizable. They use words to create mental imagery, commonly called guided imagery.
In these guided-imagery exercises, the listener is urged to picture the story being told. The speaker may say, “Stop reflecting. Just go with the picture.” Those who do stop reflecting on their nearby circumstances and go with the picture suddenly feel absorbed, relaxed, and very focused. And guided-imagery stories lead many people to experience altered states of consciousness. For many persons, entering a trance state is pleasurable. It provides a respite from thought about the woes of everyday life
A considerable number of different guided-imagery techniques (for example reading poetry or being in regression psychotherapy) are used by cult leaders and trainers to remove followers from their normal frames of reference (again: see the thought distortion Confabulation in my book A dictionary of Thought Distortions).
Cult members often say to their families and friends, “No one orders me around. I choose to do what I do.” Getting members to think that way is one of the manipulations mastered by cult leaders who have become skillful at getting acts carried out through indirection and implication. Accomplishing this task is easier when the member is in altered state, fatigued, or otherwise anxious or under stress.
Indirect, or implied directives are not only found in cults but are commonplace throughout society.
I don´t want to convey the idea that cult leaders sit down and plan on a drawing board how they are going to proceed in great detail. But often the leaders have sharpened their techniques as time goes by. Likewise, leaders of different groups may use the same technique.
One example on trickery is the use of the thought distortion called Truth by Authority.
There are today a vast amount of non-enlightened, self-proclaimed New Age/self-help gurus (in science of religion they actually have no numbers of this enormous market) who get authority by claiming, that their teaching/technique, either is coming from a state of enlightenment, is being channeled from some kind of divine source, or are coming from clairvoyant abilities (see my articles Paranormal phenomena seen in connection with channeling, and Paranormal phenomena seen in connection with clairvoyance).
They might very well have strange paranormal abilities, it doesn´t matter in this question, because if such teachers put their teaching forward in this way, you can be hundred procent sure, that this teacher has a problem with ego-inflation (if he is not directly a fraud -and them there are thousands of within New Age). Why? Because no real enlightened master would argue in this way. True enlightened masters, or sober spiritual teachers, speak from their own source, and are always characterized by humility. Just look at Dalai Lama, who incessantly claims, that he hasn´t reached the full Rigpa, and that he just is a beginner. True enlightened masters, as well as sober spiritual teachers, are also always philosophers, who are giving reasons and presenting arguments to support conclusions.
Truth by Authority is about taking statements to be true simply because an alleged authority (experts, teachers, states of enlightenment, divine sources, paranormal abilities, etc.) on the matter has said/justified that they are true. A level of critical thinking is always appropriate, because the statement may be based on different kinds of thought distortions, for example Nondual bias.
People, who in their arguments/teachings, again and again, have to defer to some authority (experts, teachers, states of enlightenment, divine sources, paranormal abilities) in order to justify their arguments/teachings, are hundred procent on the wrong track, even if they should have some paranormal abilities. Again it is interesting to see, that true enlightened masters, as well as sober spiritual teachers, never do this. And interesting, that probably most of the many people, who have made a business on being clairvoyants/mediums/channelers etc., will fall for Truth by Authority.
Revision of Personal History
There is a widespread practice in cults of having the long-term members tell their tales, that is, stand before the group and recount for their personal histories. Groups have different names for this exercise.
Such revision of history is used in both live-in and live-out cults, and the cults´ general purpose in the exercise is “to let members see why being with us is the right place to be.”
Former cult members told Singer that they quickly learned how to tell their own histories by listening to those who had been in the organization longer. New members got the idea right away that they were to tell only sad, negative, unwholesome events, recount only disastrous relationships, and end with praise about the group.
They were never to tell about good times, fine parents, loving siblings, hardworking relatives, or positive life experiences. Families had to be portrayed as abusive, alkoholic, uncaring, self-centered, bourgois or capitalistic, and otherwise despicable.
Since we are all prone to adapt to the environment in which we exist, it is not surprising that cult newcomers soon begin to revise their personal histories according to what they hear from others around them. With each telling, they will embellish how awful their families are; how meaningless their lives; how sinful, how drug-ridden, how selfish they were before joining the group.
There are several specific reasons why historical revision is important to cults. The group philosophy often rests on the idea that the cult is an elite organization, the new order, and made up of the most advanced beings. Therfore it is necessary for the leadership to make striking contrasts between group members and non-members in order to convince members that the outer world is bad and the group world is good.
New Age and psychotherapy cults are well known for their use of history revision to get members or “patients” to develop and accept a personal history that fits with and justifies the teachings of the cult.
Yet another kind of history revision occurs in groups that practice past-lives work. Various methods are used by the different groups, but as some point members learn they will be going back in time to “visualize and reexperience” their past lives (see my articles Regression psychotherapy, Paranormal Phenomena seen in relation with clairvoyance and Paranormal phenomena seen in relation with channeling, and the thought distortion Confabulation in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions).
Peer Pressure and Modeling
The old maxim “When in Rome do as the Romans do” underlies much of our adaption to new social groups. It is both convenient and congenial to adapt. We look around and see models, and we comport ourselves to be like them. Most cults train new members, either through overtly stated policies or by more implicit shaping, to act in ways desired by the group. To increase members´ recruiting potential, typically cults train members to smile, appear happy, be outgoing, and give attention to newcomers.
Peer pressure is an effective means to get people to fit their behavior to group norms. In cults, this works for new and old members alike, going far beyond what is generally seen in society at large. In an atmosphere that states or implies that there is only one way to be and this is it, it is most important to have models around to imitate.
When leaders do not browbeat members into conformity but instead make use of the way people in groups learn through what they see other group members doing, personal behavior and attitudinal changes are less noticeable to individuals. As one former cult member after another have told Singer, “I changed without being aware of it.” This unconscious change is partly due to the power of the contagion of mood in the groups. Cults induce feelings of guilt, shame and fear, and use sex and intimacy controls to keep members dependent of the group.
Psychotherapy cults provide good examples of cult leaders´ use of psychological persuasion techniques, in particular emotional manipulation and peer pressure. These cults tend to arise when ligitimate individual or group psychotherapy becomes corrupted, or when opportunistic nonprofessionals simply deceive and prey the unwary.
A major deviance in psychotherapy cults revolves around the therapeutic phenomenon known as transference. Transference is an important aspect of insight-oriented psychotherapy. Normally, the client and therapist examine together the attitudes the client transfers from earlier life experiences onto the therapist as well as onto other authority persons. Often these are positive expectations, of a “good daddy” for example, but some clients transfer negative attitudes. Both the positive and negative attitudes come out of clients´ own expectations and are not founded on the therapist´s conduct and attitudes.
In cultic situations, however, rather than study and understand the transferences, the therapists/leaders promote their idolization by their patients.
Instead of having their personal autonomy encouraged, patients are led into submissive, obedient, dependent relations with their therapists. The improprieties of the role violations are compounded by the therapists´ use of indirect, deceptive, and coersive influence techniques (or thought distortions as such), which are leading patients to comply with the therapists´ wishes.
All in all: Some of the most potent and common psychological techniques used by cult leaders are trance induction, guided imagery, and indirect suggestion. These methods use thought distortions, and setting to decrease critical, reflective, evaluative thinking. But my claim is that this is not only happening in cultic environments. The whole of what I call The Matrix Conspiracy is based on a war against critical thinking.
And again: in my article A Critique of Stanislav Grof and Holotropic Breathwork, I show why the effects of psychological persuasion techniques has nothing to do with spirituality - (though many of the descriptions sounds similar with true spiritual experiences) – and how they, on the contrary, are leading people on the wrong track.
3) Precautions in relation to New Psychotherapies (Where Do They Go Wrong?)
An inability on the part of the therapist to properly diagnose a client´s problem or determine appropriate treatment is a recurring pitfall. This hazard is often rooted in the practitioner´s “single cause – single cure” approach to therapy, which has led many a therapist down a dead-end trail and has created no end of problems for clients.
In life there can be many causes and contributing factors that bring on the various emotional disorders or discomforts that might lead a person to seek therapy. Each person´s problems are unique. Therefore, a therapist should be thought of more as a custom tailor than as an off-the-rack salesperson. The custom tailor looks at and measures the client, discusses and plans with the client what the garment will look like, how long it will take, how many fittings are needed, and so on, so that the final product is made to fit the specific person.
The One-Way-Only School of Treatment
Some therapists, however, fall into a modus operandi in which they proceed as if there were only one cause and one cure for all mental troubles. They might apply their one therapeutic approach to everyone who comes into their office (and also often to people around them).
A devotion to one-way-only notions of treatment often grows out of certain limitations in training programs, wherein many student therapists are exposed to only a very narrow range of treatment methods. The single-minded approach also seems to stem from the fact that during graduate school, residency programs, and anxiety-producing field placements, certain therapists-in-training solve their anxiety by simply following without question the dominant theory of their most powerful, best-loved, or most anxiety-provoking supervisor.
Increasingly, however, other sources of one-way-only approaches have been pop psychology books, weekend seminars, and “trainings” from self-proclaimed gurus. In these cases, the assumptions and beliefs are often deeply felt because they resonate within the therapist, who tends to identify with something in the “new” philosophy: being abused, abducted, repressed; feeling like less than a man or woman; having unhappy thoughts about his or her own childhood. Happy to find an instant cure, these therapists actually believe that these single cause-single cure ideas are true and effective.
Latching onto a pet theory of personality or human behavior does a great disservice to clients. Too often, clients are not told that there are many, many theories of psychology, behavior, and personality, each composed of numerous constructs and concepts. A theory, after all, is a mere formulation based on hypotheses; it is a creation, not a truth etched in stone.
Relying on Personal Beliefs and Assumptions
Beliefs and assumptions personally held by certain therapists are either inadvertently or intentionally imposed on the client following in this vein of single cause-single cure. The therapists cling to their assumptions, using them as rationales for carrying out a personally motivated therapy. I do not propose to debate or challenge the existence of UFOs, reincarnation, spirit entities, and other notions involved in some therapies. My point is that some therapists themselves become fascinated with, invested in, and personally committed to belief systems that they then inflict on clients as if the assumptions associated with those beliefs were universally accepted and agreed-upon single pathways to cure.
Some of the more common assumptions fall within the following several major themes
1) Extraterrestrials exist and are abducting and experimenting on humans on a regular basis, and there is a government conspiracy to cover up this information.
2) All humans have lived one or more past lives, aspects of which interfere with our current life. A subtheme is that various “entities” (human and nonhuman) – spirit beings from “the other side” – reside within individuals and are the cause of difficulties in a person´s life today.
3) Trauma and abuse experienced in early childhood is the root cause of all psychological and emotional problems. This includes having been subjected to incest and other forms of sexual abuse, having been raised by incompetent and “toxic” parents, and even having suffered through the trauma of the birth experience itself. A subtheme is that childhood sexual abuse, including participation in intergenerational Satanic ritual cults, is rampant.
4) It is possible to regress people to their birth moment, then “rebirth” them and bring them up correctly.
5) Emptying out the emotion attached to past and present experiences will cure people. The idea that catharsis brings cure, and especially that screaming out in anger or pain brings a curative release, sort of like an ex-lax for the mind.
6) Relieving traumatic experiences will cure people. The idea is to revivify and relive the remembrance, whether real or imagined.
7) It is acceptable for therapists and patients to have sexual relations, as it makes the patients feel better and is not harmful to them.
8) There is a human mental mechanism that prevents people who have suffered abuse and trauma from remembering this aspect of their lives, and certain techniques can help people retrieve these blocked memories. As visions of specific events come forth in more and more detail, they become like a motion picture of the past abuse and are to be accepted as valid memories.
9) The world is full of certain magical powers. These powers can reside in spirit guides and angels, symbols and archetypes, inanimate objects such as crystals and wands, and potions and herbal treatments. Special, gifted individuals can also have magical powers.
Using Simplistic Techniques
Taking the dearly held assumption, some therapists will then concoct a treatment (or will have learned one at a workshop) based on their preferred belief system. Some of these treaments are terrible simplistic and may play out as follows:
1) On the therapist´s urging, acknowledge that your parents had a terrible influence on you and, just as the therapist says, your mother was especially cold and unloving.
2) Let the therapist hold you like a baby.
3) Put on a diaper and drink from a baby bottle, which you should carry with you at all times.
4) Now you are better, if not cured.
1) Relax and let the therapist hypnotize you.
2) While in the trance state, go back to a past life (guided by the therapist) and describe who you are, where you are, and what is going on.
3) Look for and encounter the traumatic event that took place during this other lifetime.
4) Afterward, in discussion with the therapist, you will come to an “insight” about how your past-life experiences are interfering with present-day events and actions.
5) Now you are better, if not cured
1) Recall as much of the real-life incident that is troubling you as possible.
2) Imagine yourself back in the situation and feel the emotion you must have felt then.
3) “Let it all hang out” by expressing every primitive idea, emotion, and impulse that emerges, and this will make you spontaneous and free.
4) Now you are better, if not cured.
None of these techniques – neither A, B, or C, in and of itself – is a proven method of treatment.
Using faulty checklists
Some therapists´ opening maneuver is to get a brief history and then pull out one or another of the many checklists currently popular in the healing trades. Using the checklist, the therapist will indicate to the new patient that she meets many criteria of a person who has had certain specific past experiences and that therefore she suffers from x ailment, usually attributed from y past trauma.
Two factors are questionable here:
Checklists are heavily loaded with universal items to which most people might assent. On these checklists we see such phrases as “I dislike speaking before large audiences”; “I do not like going to the dentist”; “I frequently feel tired.”
Just about anybody could answer yes to many of these items, from which the therapist concludes patients are suffering from a particular disorder (maybe also one of the reasons why the victimization culture is spreading so much?).
Such lists resemple cold readings done by magicians and mentalists (about cold reading, see my article Paranormal phenomena seen in relation with clairvoyance).
Reasoning backwards from checklist responses is not an acceptable, scientific way to evaluate behavior or diagnose disorders. In essence, this approach leads to a “formula diagnosis,” and once again fails to consider clients´ individual differences. By making a snap diagnosis and asserting to the client, “You have features in common with persons who...,” certain therapists end up going off on ventures with their clients that tend to support the therapist´s idiosyncratic beliefs by essentially training the patient to fit preconceived patterns.
All in all: the one-way-only notion of treatment is characterized by the thought distortion called Hermeneutics of Suspicion (read my article The Hermeneutics of suspicion (the thought police of the self-help industry) and why I am an apostle of loafing).
In some New Age psychotherapies we see a pattern of abuse and harmful effects on clients. These are here described in no particular order, as the consequences may vary for each situation, but as far as I´m concerned, they´re dire on all counts:
Why Did This Happen?
Well, it is a part of what I call The Matrix Conspiracy as such (see my article The Matrix Conspiracy). I use the concept of The Matrix Conspiracy because there is no simple answer to the question of how and why we find ourselves in a society riddled with bizarre mental health offerings. In connection with New Age Psychotherapies Singer and Lalich can nevertheless identify three factors that have had a crucial influence: (1) the special nature of the relationship between client and therapist, (2) the emergence of the blame-and-change approach in the field of psychotherapy, and (3) the flight from rational thought in our society as a whole.
The Therapeutic Relationship
The relationship between patient and therapist is unique in important ways when compared to relationships between clients and other professionals, such as physicians, dentists, attorneys, and accountants. Consumers enter these relationships expecting that the training, expertise, and ethical obligations of the professional will keep the client´s best interest foremost. The consumer does not expect his accountant to lure him into accepting a new cosmology of how the world works or to “channel” financial information from “entities” who lived thousands of years ago; or for this dentist to induce him to believe that the status of his teeth was affected by an extraterrestrial experimenting on him. Nor does the patient expect the orthopedist to lead him to think the reason he fell and broke his arm was because ha was under the influence of a secret Satanic cult.
But seeing a therapist is a far different situation for the consumer. The key difference is present from first contact: it is not clearly understood exactly what will transpire. There is no other professional relationship in which consumers are more in the dark than when they first go to see a therapist. In meeting a therapist for the first time, most consumers are as blind as a bat about what will transpire between the two of them. At most, they might think they will talk to the therapist and perhaps get some feedback or suggestions for treatment. What clients might not be aware of is the gamut of training, the idiosyncratic notions, and the odd pratices they may be exposed to by certain practitioners.
Consumers are a vulnerable and trusting lot. And because of the special, unpredictable nature of the therapeutic relationship, it is easy for them to be taken advantage of. This makes it all the more incumbent on therapists to be especially ethical and aware of the power their role carries in our society. The misuse and abuse of power is one of the central factors in what goes wrong (see my article The ego-inflation in the New Age and Self-help environment).
Blame and Change
Parent bashing is a main theme that has permeated psychotherapy since Freud´s day. This development has for the most part gone unchallenged as a core feature of much psychotherapy. Underlying this approach is a heavy reliance on one of two notions: one, that getting insight will automatically change conduct (for example Regression psychotherapy); the other, that emotional catharsis will make you a more perfect being.
Using a blame-and-change approach, the therapist never has to have cognitive, behavioral, or psychoeducational methods to assist clients to learn new behaviors. Essentially, blame-and-change therapies imply to the client that if you find whom to blame for your miseries, you will automatically get well and feel better.
Best of all, blame-and-change therapists rarely or never have to confront clients about their characterological problems. These therapists are spared from hearing stories of conduct that might suggest a real lack of sympathy on the client´s part toward their partner, family, and fellow humans. Traits such as a sense of entitlement, self-centeredness, lack of compassion, greediness, lack of responsibility and lying require real skill of therapists to handle and help. But if the therapist is just doing blame and change, she doesn´t has to worry about these other sticky wickers.
(Note: in the area of positive thinking – New Thought, Law of Attraction, NLP, etc. – there is a lot of hypocrisy in relation to blame-and-change therapy, since the therapists/coaches within this area often are talking about that you should not blame. But mostly this is about that you should not blame/criticize their own approach. If you go into it you will soon learn how much they are resting on the blame-and-change model – see my articles The pseudoscience of reductionism and the problem of mind, and Self-help and The Mythology of Authenticity).
Looking for someone to blame, or something, to blame became a big part of therapy (and also coaching). The philosophy seeped into the thinking of many mental health professionals and other types of counselors. Interwoven were the other two main threads we have discussed: (1) search your soul or memory for that one key insight that will suddenly make everything clear and better (Regression Psychotherapy), or (2) enact, reenact, and feel and emote to purge yourself of the bad feelings, and that will suddenly make everything clear and better (Cathartic Psychotherapy). Each of these three points of views presumes that there is one way and one answer: single cause-single cure.
Gone unchecked, these therapeutic trands – blame and change, insight, and catharsis – have had direct influence on the development of most of the modern New Age psychotherepies. The result has been that certain therapists tend to skip over the reality of the client´s problems, because they do not have methods for realistically helping and can only apply one method of therapy. One size fits all.
Flight from Rational Thought
For the past several decades there has been a trend in our society away from science and rational thought and toward magical thinking. Much of this is a result of trends that began in the 1960s with antiestablishment and antiauthoritarian movements and came to be known as New Age. Concurrently there has been a growing interest in self-improvement and self-awareness. Much of this took shape during the 1960s and 1970s and came to be known as the human potential movement. Combined, we have the potential for both expanded awareness and disaster.
But the flight from rational thought into the magical thinking of subjectivism and relativism is not anything new. We saw precisely the same in ancient Greece, with the wandering teachers called “Sophists.” Into the crowded space of Periclean Athens came these wandering teachers, selling their “wisdom” to the bewildered populace. Any charlatan could make a killing, if enough people believed in him. Men like Gorgias and Protagoras, who wandered from house to house demanding fees for their instruction, preyed on the gullibility of a people made anxious by war.
To the young Plato, who observed their antics with outrage, these “Sophists” were a threat to the very soul of Athens. One alone among them seemed worthy of attention, and that one, the great Socrates whom Plato immortalised in his dialogues, was not a Sophist, but a true philosopher.
In order to go further into this “flight from rational thought” you will need to go into my concept of The Matrix Conspiracy (again: read my article The Matrix Conspiracy).
So, as mentioned in the start of this article: a common thread in the blame-and-change model is the belief that a person having problems is not likely to be responsible for those problems. This is, among other things, due to their root in reductionism (again: see my article The pseudoscience of reductionism and the problem of mind).
In general, if your therapist is telling you that you have to get worse before you get better, is tearing you apart rather than building you up, is letting group members insult and ridicule you, is insisting that you must go deeper and deeper and deeper to feel the feeling, or is doing anything that smacks of old-fashioned ventilation theories, get out as fast as you can and look for a supportive therapist who will listen and respond with human decency.
If you are treated with disdain for asking about what you are buying think ahead: how could this person lead you to feel better, plan better, or have more self-esteem if he begins by putting you down for being an alert consumer? Remember, you may be feeling bad, and even desperate, but there are thousands of mental health professionals, so if this one is not right, keep on phoning and searching.
All in all: you should not trust your therapist, regardless of his or her reputation, fame, diplomas, certificates, etc., if:
1) He or she tries to have sex with you or claims that having sex with one's therapist is "good therapy." Intimate sexual behavior, including erotic kissing, fondling or lovemaking, between therapist and patient is always inappropriate. (The Sexual Predator)
2) He or she tries to have you move in and do chores, keep the books, work the farm, have sex, etc. (The Exploiter)
3) He or she spends a lot of time during your sessions talking about his or her own personal problems, such as her husband's illness, his wife's frigidity, another patient's hang-ups, his sexual needs. (The Neurotic)
4) He or she requires as a condition for therapy that you cut off all relations with your spouse, children, parents and other loved ones. (The Cult Guru)
5) He or she claims to know what your problem is and how to fix it, even though no thorough history of you has been taken. (The Savant Idiot)
6) He or she claims that you must be hypnotized in order to discover either hidden memories or hiding entities which are causing your problems. (The Exorcist)
7) He or she specializes not in treating people for specific problems such as depression or anxiety, but rather in treating people as if all problems have an identical cause. (The Johnny-One-Note)
8) He or she claims to have a technique which works miracles or works like magic, curing those who had heretofore been considered hopeless. (The Miracle Worker)
9) He or she has a checklist which is claimed to be an excellent way to find out if you suffer from whatever the therapist specializes in, and you have enough checks to qualify. (The Scientist)
10) He or she requires as a condition for therapy that you accept certain religious, metaphysical or pseudoscientific notions. To have good therapy you should not be required to believe in God, reincarnation, alien abductions, possession by entities, inner children, Primal Pains, channeling, miracles, or any of the many pseudoscientific theories popular among therapists. (The New Age Pseudoscientist)
A critique of Stanislav Grof and Holotropic Breathwork
Hypnosis, hypnotherapy and the art of self-deception
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT)
A critique of Byron Katie and her therapeutic technique The Work
James Arthur Ray and the sweat lodge tragedy
A Critique of Diploma Mills (you should be aware of people who uses terms like Dr., MA, MD, PHD, as an extension of their names)
A Critique of coaching
A Critique of Self-help and the Mythology of Authenticity
Against Therapy - Emotional Tyranny and the Myth of Psychological Healing, by Jeffrey Masson.