I have been thinking about about the vulnerability to exploitation that pervades the life of a person whose childhood has been one long experience of this.
Used and manipulated, but in such a way as to not recognize what has been done to them,is exploitation of one person by another.
We as therapists are in a prime position to continue this soul-anihalating offense upon our clients, wittingly or unwittingly.
What better environment for exploitation than in therapy ?
By reason of tradition, (unless we subscribe in fullest measure to what it means to be PERSON Centered ), the therapy takes place in an already one-upmanship settting.
The therapist, a trained professional, clinically competent by someone’s standards, faces a man, woman or child who is trying to sort out sane from insane, sense from senseless, help from harm, truth from lies, etc, pushing through, yet rarely being able to say “no”, because obedience to authority figures is paramount no matter what the cost. This last, because in the case of Sadistic/Satanic Ritual abuse, everything is FEAR-based.
Non-compliance means punishment and pain. Thus, the child, and later the adult, goes through life (unless they have confronted and worked through this issue) vulnerable to those whose antennae quiver when in contact with someone they can exploit.
As the years pass by, the connections between compliance and exploitation fades to an automatic obeying that is never questioned and most often not recognized as such.
It is, I think, the purpose of all abusers and perpetrators of exploitation to prevent their victims from being able to recognize this fact, that they are being exploited.
We can be, and are, exploited in our blind spots, our weaknesses, our Achilles’ heels. It is what abusers zone in on, look for, sometimes create and then exploit.
Some of the worst ways in which therapists can exploit clients that I can think of, are found in Paternalism, care-taking, advice-giving, personal agendas, using the power position of an authority figure, using labels to mention but a few.
How shocked, if not insulted, we therapists would feel if told we were abusing our clients, and yet we do, over and over again!
Telling them what they are thinking, feeling, how they are behaving, whether by interpretation or direct statements, just as they have been conditioned and brainwashed in abusive homes or by cult perpetrators using hideous means to ensure their victims understand their place and mental state, clearly.
I am sometimes appalled at the things I hear that therapists tell their clients or have them do, and shrink at the arrogance of ignorance.
I will quote what some therapists have told friends or former clients of mine (with their permission of course), and how they illustrate exploitation.
” I have been treating DID for twentyfive years and I know better than you what it is all about”
Paternalism is about TELLING another what to do, how to think, and how to be according to the speaker’s convictions. It leaves no space whatever for the voice of the listener or person discussed.
** It is a condescension that is both ignorant and yet appears to be all knowing.
** It is the father-figure admonitions to a person from someone with whom there are NO paternal ties, and if there are, the power position remains as a given inequality, seen by the teller as being justified by reason of age and experience, and by the receiver as an edict to obey regardless of personal opinions or convictions.
** It is the dismissal of any possible valid reasoning or contribution in any form from those deemed inferior to the status quo or traditional paradigms of agencies.
Those who seek to control and govern the world masses or individuals. These people can be in the political, religious, educational, Psychiatric/psychological or societal and cultural arenas.
Paternalism is also not limited to the patriach of the home. The, ” I know best”. “For your own good”. “Listen to me now”. mantras that assault ears young and old in the home can flow as easily from female lips as male, from the old and from the young who learn to emulate their elders.
So this disease, which in my mind it is, passes down from generation to generation and spreads out from the family to all interactions and relationships.
Paternalism is a topic in it own right, but I have wriiten more on it here than I will on other exploitive techniques,because I think it runs through most, if not all of them
I would be tempted to tell the therapist quoted above and all with the same opinion, that if they in truth know more about the condition than their client, they must be, or have been, stricken with the same diagnosis to have such firsthand knowledge. Example being DID ( Dissociative Identity Disorder), which in this case, was the topic of conversation and the statement was spoken to a Multiple.
If therapists have NOT walked in the proverbial shoes of their client, it is not only paternalistic to talk down to their client, it is crass assumption revealing an ignorance of great proportions and shows total disrespect for someone who is IN the war as opposed to the General sitting at his desk a thousand miles away from the battle front.
Paternalistic attitudes exploit because those who feel they have the answers need someone to look ignorant so their ignorance may never be revealed.
” I can see that because of your history of abuse and emotional unavailability from your parents you would be in denial of any thought of my truly caring for you “.
This reenacts the conditioning survivors feel, that failure and fault always is, and will be, their contribution to the situation.
It is full of assumptions and telling.
There is simply no way the therapist could know that refusal to believe his/her care was genuine or not,or had anything to do with deficits in the parents’ nurturance of their child.
Interpretation can be a great way for us as Therapists to avoid looking at our own issues and countertransference by reflecting any error back onto our client under the catchall umbrella of abuse.
We exploit the vulnerability of clients when we insist anything that might negatively affect us, pushes our buttons, offends or hurts us, be turned back onto the client to consciously or unconsiously avoid looking at ourselves.
We exploit the ingrained belief of the abused that their thinking must be distorted by reason of their abuse so they cannot perceive the good intentions of the therapist.
Our intentions may be good and genuine, and at the same time not conveyed in ways that are understood. It is up to US to clarify, NOT with interpretation but with learning from the client where we are failing to come across with whatever we are offering.
When we interpret to the exclusion of listening to how our client is thinking, we are exploiting their conditioning and we silence the voice that knows the truth.
This is not stating that some interpretation is not needed or appropriate, it speaks to how we, as therapists, can sometimes jump in with our pet theories and miss key issues due to dismissal of our client’s thinking. I have been guilty of this. I wonder how the reader therapist will react.
Perhaps one of the greatest exploitations that occurs during the healing journey of survivors is the matter of hospitalization and medication.
I have been incensed at times listening to story after story told by clients and friends, of the misuse of medication and blantant abuse perpetrated in mental health facilities. Not only in the “old days” where such was known but never spoken of, but in today’s society where it continues with impunity under the blanket of silence and cover up.
The exploitation of those whose voice does not, and will never, count because of the stigma of mental illness, because, ” they are out of control, so they need to be sedated”, because, ” We don’t know what to do with him/her, so he/she needs to be in a hospital, Gone psycho, if you ask me”, contiues still.
The excuses and rationales are quietly kept unrecorded for the most part, as is public knowledge of the exploitation.
There is no need to give graphic details of HOW abuse has been perpetrated not only in Mental Health Institutions, but in General Hospitals and Health Care Centers, by Doctors, Nursing and other staff.
Bottom line where complaint should be made,it is “their” word against “ours.”
Who is most likely to lose?
For those of us who work with clients seeking to recover from such traumas, we are left with whether we believe them, or join the ranks of the “silence of the lambs” and if we choose to send them to a psychological and emotional slaughter house because we have not learned how to manage our own distresses.
Even Patient Representatives in a hospital setting subscribe to patronizing.
“Patient” implies that whatever is on the table will be weighed towards the Doctor as authority figure whose knowledge must be superior to the patient’s understanding which will be blighted by their legacy of Abuse.
It is the same in Therapy. I cringe when I hear clients called “patients”, for in case of trial or accusation towards a therapist for inappropriate treatment or behavior, it is the word of the “authority” vs the “ignorant” that will most likely be heard. The connotation of the word “patient” vs “client” distinguishes between the former where power is given to the authority figure, and the latter where hopefully, there is respectful equality of status. Just as there would be between two CEO’s involved in a business transaction, one being the client of the other.
My personal belief that all men are equal in regard to the right to be heard with respect and due consideration but this is never an option in exploitation.
Where Medical treatment, and I might add, Therapeutic considerations arise, if there be fault or error, if there be a missing link in whatever is brought to attention, exploitaion of our clients relegated to Hospital or medicine regimes, will be according to the balance of power and can only fall on the ubiquitous comment, ” The doctor and the Therapist knows best”.
Oh, if we only could acknowledge and be honest enough to recognize how exploitive is this statement.
I have treated clients whose artistry in varied genres whether musical, literary,or drawing/painting skills, have been worthy of recording, publishing or hanging in a gallery.
I have personally had writings plaguarized and printed under another name with no reference to their origin. I have heard from not a few clients and survivors whose works have been taken by their therapists or complete strangers, exploiting the survivor’s financial straits and lack of self-worth and self-confidence, to take legal action and passing such talent off as their own. I find this inconsciable, and exploitation at one of its basest.
Exploitation, in my book, is always about agendas. The exploiters, so sure of their rightness, authority, position and thinking, find these beliefs underpin the aware or unaware “TELLING” others what,in their mind, they need to know.
Sometimes it is blatently obvious as in the first example of Paternalism, sometimes it is insidiously implanted in the softest of tones, the sweetest of contexts, but the personal agenda of the speaker is always the underlying motive.
I have done this time and time again, from conscious wanting my way to unconsciously imposing my view and thinking on another in a paternisltic manner that I am sure has been most distasteful to the hearer, and for which I have later been ashamed.
Being ashamed, however, is not a resolving of the issue nor do apologies from therapist to client wipe the therapist’s slate clean.
For me, I can never stop working at understanding when I am running my own agenda and owning when I am made aware. We are individually as accountable for our errors as the next person no matter who they are.
So very often we are not aware we have an agenda or that it is intruding into the session, but I take note of how my client or friend is reacting to my words and body langauge knowing these reflect how mine are being perceived, and this clues me into whose agenda is being followed.
When we deny our clients their voice, their world view, their frame of reference, their story and sense of Self because we are on a preset course of treatment, interpretation of our perception of what we are hearing, because we are convinced our theoretical approach will effect the optimum results, we are exploiting them.
Exploitation is arrogance that does not realize that clients know themselves the best.
Those who sit in our office may not be able to articulate their true needs, they may not understand the psychological implications of their condition and the diagnostic label filled in on Insurance forms, they may not be able to join the dots and fill in the gaps, make sense of the senseless, but that is our task. It is the challenge of therapy.
To help our clients find their way, their answers and which path they would like to walk is the work before us.
The answers lie in them, not us. We merely help them discover what they are.
This is not accomplished through rescueing, care-taking or advising, all of which are exploitive measures.
Exploitaton is abuse and abuse exploits.
Perhaps the few thoughts above will help us look more closely at our possible accountability in exploiting others.
I find it important to look at myself first when addressing these topics butI hope others will take up the challenge of self-examination, which, in my book, is the key to being an effective therapist and of discovering who we are and how much we possess of integrity and honesty.
Would that not be the best way to avoid exploitating others ?