Why did we reject psychotherapy?

A portrait of Sigmund Freud with a red X over his face.

Why did we create a new therapy instead of using a type of pyschotherapy that already exists?

For one reason: we wanted a better success rate than psychotherapy. Allow me to explain.

Bookshelves.

Researching what works

We were a group of therapists and patients determined to find therapies that can really help. So we looked at every type of emotional therapy on earth. Whenever published evidence showed that something didn’t work, we rejected it – no matter what it was!

We were shocked to discover that according to the research published in psychology journals, most talk-therapies do not work after a short time or do not work at all.

Published experiments reveal that:

  • On average, talk-therapy stops benefiting you after just 4 to 7 sessions.
  • No type of talk therapy is more “effective” than any other.
  • A person pretending to be a therapist is just as “effective” as a real therapist.
  • A first year psychology student is just as “effective” as their professor.

The evidence was overwhelming. Over 800 studies have been published over the past 60 years that confirm these facts; they involve tens of thousands of patients from all over the globe. Further, these facts are well-known among the scientific community, they are not secrets.

Our opinion changed forever

In our minds, psychotherapy was destroyed. Before we learned these facts, we believed that psychotherapy was “the answer”. Now we know that while many of its theories may be right, it is very bad at truly healing people.

These facts explain why many people are “stuck” in therapy for years and years without getting better – even after fully understanding the origins of their problems, and after hundreds of talk-therapy sessions! While psychology does have lots of interesting theories, it struggles to help people change – no matter how sincere an individual therapist might be.

A patient talks to her therapist, who looks at her with contempt.

Why don’t they do anything?

The psychotherapy community does little or nothing to address the problems with their therapies. Many deny that the problems exist and refuse to consider changes.

Some even twist facts and use statistical tricks to artificially inflate the helpfulness of their treatments. For example, one common trick is to commission “waiting list trials”. What are these?

These are experiments where one group of people gets psychotherapy while a second group is put on a waiting list. By the end of this ‘trial’ the results are added up and voilà, the people getting the psychotherapy feel much better than those on the waiting list. Do you see the problem?

Even magic beans would look like an “effective” therapy in this trial. How come? Those on the waiting list would never have a placebo effect, whereas those receiving a treatment would.

The truth is revealed when experiments compare psychotherapy to placebo (fake) treatments, or to talking with someone who has no special training. In these experiments they find no difference between psychotherapy and the placebos. Psychotherapy is therefore no more ‘effective’ at healing than sham therapies like magical crystals or faith healing.

Sometimes the therapists perform a little better, sometimes the placebos perform a little better, but when all results are added up together, both psychotherapy and placebo ‘work’ just as well.

What we did next

We rejected many therapies, such as crystal healing and faith healing, because the research said they are placebos. So, according to the evidence, we had to reject all talk-therapies too.

We had invested years – and large amounts of money – receiving and studying psychotherapy. Yet we had to swallow our pride and admit that we had been misled, that we had got it wrong.

Although it was difficult to do, we turned our backs on psychotherapy. Instead we embraced new ideas – whatever has good evidence or seems both promising and logical. So, what happened?

We discovered many things that work well and combined them together to form a new therapy which came to be called Self-Rewiring. People who were previously stuck in psychotherapy for years can now see real, measurable progress for the first time.

Try our therapy for yourself. If you like, you can still use psychotherapy at the same time.

A comical plastic figure of a stereotypical American car mechanic pulling a displeased face.

What does psychotherapy get right?

Many psychological theories are probably correct. The problem is that real change and healing doesn’t happen often enough.

It’s a bit like taking your broken car to a mechanic who is so skilled that he can diagnose your car simply by looking at it, without even opening it up or running tests.

Yet, after diagnosing the problem, he can’t do anything more. He wishes you well, bills you, and sends you away. Your car is still broken, but now you think you ‘understand it better’.

According to research, this is what happens in the majority of psychotherapy treatments. The patient gains some insight into their problem (which can be correct, but we can’t prove it), and then has to go home and live with it. The new understanding appears to help some people, but according to experiments it is no more helpful than if they’d consulted with someone pretending to be a therapist.

So yes, the insights and theories from psychotherapists are often correct. Many people find these insights to be very helpful. The problem is simply this: they can rarely do much more!

Does some psychotherapy work?

A small number of psychotherapists use effective techniques such as EMDR (similar to our “Move my eyes” technique) that actually can create true, measurable healing. However, the success rates of these sessions is often still low since therapists have to guess what subjects to use the EMDR upon. If their guesses are wrong, the EMDR will not do much good.

Some therapists will even combine EMDR (that works) with their traditional talk therapies (that don’t work) because they refuse to let go of their preferred methods.

Psychotherapists are useful for helping you to gain insight, although there is no scientific way to prove that their insights are correct. Beyond this, their usefulness is limited.

Further reading

  • House of Cards – Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth by Robyn M. Dawes
  • Against Therapy by Jeffrey Masson
  • The Freudian Fallacy – Freud and Cocaine by E M Thornton
  • Unauthorized Freud – Doubters Confront a Legend by Frederick Crews et al.
  • Beware the Talking Cure by Terence W Campbell