________________________________________________________________ VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3 PSYCHNEWS INTERNATIONAL June 1996 ________________________________________________________________ SECTION C: THE FIFTH COLUMN Notes: 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 http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~expert/DOCS/schaler_file 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 email@example.com (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 firstname.lastname@example.org (now email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org: "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' session." "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 Gestalt." "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 accomplished." "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 organization. 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.