1. Dr. Jeff Schaler, independent columnist, has been
   on vacation, and has asked us to publish 
   Mr. Amos Gunsberg's comments below.

2. This issue's Fifth Column cites past communication
   about the article "Bad Therapy" on an Internet mailing
   list. Dr. Schaler has provided a (very long -- 84 kb!) 
   comprehensive personal log of the discussion which 
   can be retrieved together with the original article at

3. The "Bad Therapy" article, published by the InterPsych
   Newsletter (IPN) in the November 1995 Fifth Column, is 
   also available on the following web sites:
   http://www.cmhc.com/pni/;  http://www.mhnet.org/pni/

4. To provide a "neutral ground" for discussing this
   issue's Fifth Column, Mr. Gunsberg's comments will
   be posted to the email forum PSYCH-CI (Current Issues 
   in Psychology and Psychiatry) at the time of 
   distribution. PSYCH-CI listowner Ian Pitchford has
   graciously consented to host the debate on his forum.
   To subscribe, send a message to 
   listserv@sjuvm.stjohns.edu (subject line empty) with
   the message "subscribe psych-ci firstname lastname)".
   You may post to the forum at PSYCH-CI@SJUVM.stjohns.edu.


                          WE ACCUSE

                      by Amos Gunsberg

     It was October 1995.  The setting was a plenary session
in New Orleans at the First Annual International
Gestalt Therapy Conference of the Association for the
Advancement of Gestalt Therapy.  Three Gestalt
therapists worked live with three different
volunteers for approximately 30 minutes each.

     Dr. Schaler wrote a report on this, entitled "Bad
Therapy," published in the Interpsych Newsletter, Volume 2,
Issue 9, Nov. 1995.  None of the three Gestalt therapists
responded -- neither to the criticism voiced at the
conference, nor to Dr. Schaler's report.

     Other Gestalt therapists did respond on aagt@indy.net (now
aagt@netride.com), the internet discussion list of the Association
for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy (AAGT).  Upon reviewing those
responses, WE ACCUSE the AAGT members in general of an
attempt to cover up their inability or unwillingness to
distinguish psychopaths, psychotics, sadists, etc., and to
deny membership to them.  In this case, the attempt to cover
up took the form primarily of attacking the reporter.
Consider the following quotes from their responses on
     "You have quite a lot of energy for this master
therapist event and I wonder if you have explored your own
connection to this emotionally."
     "I find it ironic that Dr. Schaler admonishes the
'master' therapists for, among other things, bringing their
own issues to the table before those of their clients, when
in this alleged discussion he seems to be doing the same
thing.  There's just too much self-justifying and too much
heat there for an objective view of things."
     "But why all the anger and hostility?  Is there another
agenda here?"
     "What is with all this venom regarding the
demonstrations at the AAGT conference?"
     "You have posted two replies in regard to those
commenting on your article.  Neither really satisfied our
concern that your own issues have clouded the expression of
what would otherwise have been a very appropriate and
articulate statement of the shortcomings of the 'Masters'
     "His 'style' is attacking and at least to my ears and
eyes 'hostile.'"
     "Please add my name to the list of concerned therapists
who wonder if you might consider exploring your own anger
issues which appear to be getting in the way of this
discussion of professional therapeutic presentation ethics
and sidetracking finding a solution."

     The above quotes demonstrate the following positions:
"There is something wrong with you if you take a stand on
behalf of clients.  If you are at all outspoken about it, and
describe a sadistic therapist as a sadist, then there is
something VERY wrong with you.  AND, what is wrong with you
is SO POWERFUL that we are unable to do any diagnostic
classifications of our fellow members.  It's YOUR fault that
we are incompetent."

     WE ACCUSE the members of AAGT in general of viewing
themselves as a secret society of the super-elite, beyond
criticism.  Here are more comments by AAGT members responding
to Dr. Schaler's report:
     "You are an interloper."
     "Your original article served to stir distrust of
     "We went public and we were bashed.  I don't like that."
     "But in spite of all this, I still think the New Orleans
conference was a wonderful and almost miraculous event.  I'm
thrilled at its success, and extremely optimistic about the
future of Gestalt therapy.  No other therapy has the
combination of theoretical breadth and depth, or the wide
range of powerful methods, that Gestalt therapy has."

     WE ACCUSE the members of AAGT in general of showing
an abysmal lack of concern for the welfare of clients.  One
of the presenters betrayed his therapeutic trust by engaging
in an unceasing barrage calculated to destroy the volunteer's
sense of personhood.  Some people in the audience expressed
their outrage at the time.  The AAGT members' responses
ignored the issues of betrayal, abuse of power, sadism, etc.
They did not consider the question of the kind of character
it takes to DO what that therapist did...or the emotional
arrangement in that therapist's psyche.  There were some
pious platitudes, but as far as we can ascertain no sanctions
have been applied.  On the contrary:
     "I'm hopefully growing out of my false dichotomies and
so am willing to allow that the master therapists we saw are
capable of doing good work too."  (NOTE:  No mention of being
willing to enter into a warranty agreement, to back up the
"willing to allow.")

     WE ACCUSE the members of AAGT in general of copping a
plea of helplessness.  For example:
     "I also agree that clients do need to be protected from
poor therapy, though I am not sure how this is best
     "If not even psychiatrists can solve this problem, how
can we be expected to solve it in our groups when we don't
even have as much leverage.  I suggest we be careful about
the answer, because it is also possible to be destructive
with control mechanisms designed to prevent such problems."

     In copping a plea of helplessness, WE ACCUSE the members
of AAGT in general of deliberately avoiding the suggestions
made at the end of Dr. Schaler's Bad Therapy article:
          "For a therapist, supervisor, or teacher at
     a school of psychotherapy, the _primary
     qualifications_ are _good character_ and
     _emotional stability_.  Deficiencies in
     those areas are the main source of _damage_ to
     the patient.
          ...I advise clients, colleagues and the public
     about what to do with dangerous therapists.  Any
     therapist who has committed the kinds of acts described
     should terminate his or her practice and teaching of
     psychotherapy immediately.  He or she has no business
     being a therapist and/or a teacher of psychotherapy.
     Clients who feel damaged by a therapist's behavior are
     encouraged to seek reparation with the assistance of a
     third party.  If you are in doubt, tape your therapy
     sessions.  Do not work with a therapist who refuses to
     allow you to tape your sessions.  The therapist should
     supply the recorder, so that all you need bring is the
     tape.  Demand from your therapist copies of the ethical
     codes of the state, the school, the professional
         Therapists should muster the courage to censor
     unethical practices and speak out not only against
     specific individuals but also against the institutions
     and guilds that condone such behavior through silence or
     worse through self-serving rationalization.  Anything
     less is collaboration."

     In effect, those suggestions invited Gestalt therapists to solve
their problem by certifying the GOOD CHARACTER and EMOTIONAL
STABILITY of their members.  Apparently they are either
unwilling or unable to do so.
     As you can see from the above, prior responses to the Bad Therapy
article avoided the issue.  We welcome responses to this article,
providing you stick to the issues.

Amos Gunsberg is a psychotherapist in private practice.
Correspondence should be addressed to him at 61 West 74th
Street, New York, N.Y.  10023-2433, USA.  Jeff Schaler endorses
his position.