- Those studies are often biased because they're almost always conducted by psychology PhDs. Consciously or unconsciously, they want to show that psychotherapy works; otherwise it invalidates all their years of training and work in their field.
- Not all therapy is alike. The major metaevaluations lump-together traditional psychotherapy that focuses on the childhood roots of one's unhappiness with the more effective cognitive-behavioral therapy, which corrects the irrational beliefs that keep a person stuck.
- Traditional psychotherapy too often keeps people stuck in their past. I've found, again and again, that all that analysis of their childhood actually makes people more inert: analysis paralysis. They seem less able to move forward than equally troubled people who have not been in therapy. One former therapy junkie told me, "Therapy gives you insight into yourself, but your life is no better."
My guess is that spending a lot of time examining one's bad past strengthens the brain's neural pathways associated with those negative thoughts. That makes those thoughts top-of-mind and thus continue to drag a person down.
I've found that people are more likely to have career and life success if, when a negative thought from their past intrudes, to simply say to themselves, "Stop! What baby step I can take right now to improve my life."
Therapists who advocate delving into your childhood argue that the above advice is simplistic. They'd say, "Before you can move forward, you need to understand where the fears and anxiety originated." But I'm convinced that, for the reason stated above, most people would be wise to simply push themselves harder to take action than to undergo childhood-analyzing psychotherapy. And doing that has none of these side effects:
- Psychotherapy too often discourages self-efficacy. Many therapists who see clients for more than a few sessions consciously or unconsciously make patients feel dependent on them. That's the opposite of what therapy should be doing: building self-efficacy.
- Psychotherapy too often encourages narcissism. I've noticed that many clients and friends who have had extensive psychotherapy are self-absorbed in conversation and less likely to care for others. The word narcissistic comes to mind.
- The cost.