‘Therapy Tourism’ & Why Talking Doesn’t Help

Ten years after the September 2011 terrorist attacks, follow-up research shows that much post-trauma therapy is useless and possibly makes things worse.

Mental health professionals flooded [New York City] in a wave of ‘trauma tourism’ after two planes struck the World Trade Center in 2001 according to the report.

But the main psychological benefits were felt by the psychologists rather than the patients, said the study, which said experts greatly over-estimated the number of people who wanted treatment.

‘We did a case study in New York and couldn’t really tell if people had been helped by the providers – but the providers felt great about it,’ Patricia Watson, a co-author of the report who works at the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress told The New York Times.

‘It makes sense; we know that altruism makes people feel better.’

According to the report, therapy centres were set up in the offices of major employers and in fire stations after 9/11.

But for many survivors, the standard procedure at the time of asking them to talk through their experience was not helpful.

Researchers believe that the process can sometimes push people deeper into depression and worsen anxiety.

Of course, it will take a generation for this new insight to filter through the “helping professions.”



5 thoughts on “‘Therapy Tourism’ & Why Talking Doesn’t Help

  1. Pitch313

    Trauma affects the physical, the psychoemotional, the sociocultural, the ecoplanetary, and the spiritual realms. Trauma and recovering from trauma is complicated. And it takes time. What’s more, it may not be possible to recover from some sorts of trauma.

    But I do not think that the variability and complexity of trauma and its after effects–how difficult it may be for human efforts to assist in trauma recovery–means that we should not do what we can. Just because much of what we try may not succeed here is no reason to act out of compassion.

  2. “Just because much of what we try may not succeed here is no reason to act out of compassion.”

    Because, as the article states, it’s all about the therapist feeling good.

    For the afflicted, perhaps it’s better to pull up your socks and get on with life and purposeful activity.

  3. Pitch313

    A possible outcome of experiencing certain types of trauma–as a Pagan I’d describe what I know of such experiences of trauma as “coming very close to Death”–seems to preclude getting on with life and purposeful activity.

    Even when recovery is possible in the long run (not always the case) over a shorter term, some quality, ability, or energy may simply be absent. Trauma and its after effects may deliver us into the realm of profound absence. I have come to understand why Shamanism talks about retrieving lost parts of one’s spirit. Trauma can make comfortable, familiar, and self-shaping things about you be missing.

    Whatever therapists and and a one-size fits all approach we may take to trauma recovery, I hope that Pagans will hold compassion stronger in their hearts than will.

  4. I sense a false dichotomy being created here: love/passive/inner versus will/active/outer.

    But not so fast. Newer research–did you read the linked NY Times article–increasingly suggests that moving “outward” and helping others is better for trauma victims than hashing and re-hashing their own misery. Think of it as love in action.

    (Being married to a psychology professor, I am frequently furnished with these research updates.)

    Moving outward gives space for the “inner” to change and adapt. As is usual in magic, the key notion is to get out of your own way.

  5. My daughter is in Oslo right now. She experienced both the “before” and the “after” of that horrible terrorist attack. When she called me at first, I said that “everything would change” in Oslo now, because it previously was such a low-key city. Tonight she tells me that the barricades are down and that people are downright determined to go right back to Norwegian life as it always has been. Which is not perfect, but not paranoid either.

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