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Good Friends, Not Therapists

·3 mins

One of my many unpopular opinions is that therapy is mostly a waste of money. To be clear, I’m referring to the kind of therapy where you pay someone for 45 minutes to an hour of their time to sit there, listen to your problems, and perhaps give you some kind of feedback or suggestions (or maybe they’ll just give you CBT book recommendations after they’ve extracted enough revenue from you).

I’ve noticed on the Internet that therapy has become the magic cure to everyone’s problems. As if, paying a therapist to listen to you is going to somehow change the world around you and make your employer give you a raise or lower the cost of living or whatever it might be.

Now, I’m not saying therapy is bad per se, and for some people it might even be necessary, but I suspect the problem most people suffer from is merely a lack of community, sense of purpose, and a whole lot of loneliness. What most people probably need is good friends, the kind of friends who will listen to your complaining, nod in agreement, sympathize with your problems, and have real empathy.

Therapists are pretty much just good friends you can rent. They’re (supposed to be) non-judgemental, and if they have good advice based on life experiences or whatever, then they’ll offer it. They also give you that “tough love” or reality checks that people sometimes need. However, good friends do that too.

Additionally, there’s a lot of pseudoscientific psychology BS floating around, most of which is perpetuated by people trying to sell stuff. The pharmaceutical industry is absolutely ripe with scams and ineffective remedies that get pushed onto patients in order to extract rents. SSRIs, for example, and the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression have been largely debunked (not to say SSRIs don’t work, but rather they won’t cure you).

I also have suggested many times that people try reading books before spending money on therapy. Or, if your health coverage allows it, spend the money so long as it’s coming out of someone else’s pocket. Most health plans don’t cover therapy because it probably won’t save the insurance company any money.

CBT is actually a super useful tool, and you should definitely learn it. You don’t need to pay anyone for that, just do some Internet searching and you can teach yourself CBT for no cost.

You can also learn a great deal from some guys who existed thousands of years ago, notably the stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Most of their writings are not protected by copyright law either, so you can find their stuff on Project Gutenberg without having to give more money to Jeffrey Bezos. Once you start learning about the stoics, it might lead you down the path toward Kafka and Camus as well.

In any case, you will get more value out of good friends who are able to cut the BS than the most expensive therapist in the world.