lunas specto
Therapy trolling

Ever heard someone say something along the lines of “You clearly need therapy!” as a means of dismissal during a discussion? I like to call this therapy trolling.

Therapy trolling is a subset of concern trolling, the practice of pretending to care about someone’s well-being in order to silence or delegitimize them. Therapy trolling is a particularly common form of concern trolling, especially in response to someone who is discussing personal psychological experiences not shared by a majority of people. Terminating discussions by telling someone they need psychotherapy in this manner usually implies that whatever they are saying is too wrong, too disordered, to warrant a response. It is a way of giving up on a discussion or argument without acknowledging the substance of anything the other party has said.

Therapy trolling is a particularly heinous way of dismissing someone for several reasons:

  • The target of therapy trolling might actually be in psychotherapy. People often don’t mention their psychotherapy to casual acquaintances, so just because it hasn’t come up doesn’t mean a person isn’t in psychotherapy. They may have already discussed the issue at hand with their therapist. Their therapist may not think it’s even relevant to their mental health.
  • The target of therapy trolling might be desperately trying to get psychotherapy. Condescendingly telling somebody they need psychotherapy is pretty insulting when they’re already on a months-long waiting list for it or struggling to get it covered by health insurance.
  • Psychotherapy isn’t magic. Here in the U.S. at least, if a person is not in immediate life-threatening danger the most extensive mental health services they’re likely to receive are weekly one-hour out-patient sessions with a psychotherapist. That’s not nearly enough time for most people to discuss everything that might be weighing on their minds. An issue that’s really important to someone probably can’t be adequately discussed in only one hour per week. And even with extensive in-patient services, it can take years or even a whole lifetime to resolve a mental health issue.
  • Atypical experiences are not always disordered experiences. Mental health communities generally consider atypical thoughts, feelings, or behaviors disordered only if they prevent a person from performing basic activities of daily living, pose a serious danger of harm to somebody, or cause the person in question significant distress. Your thinking someone else’s experiences are weird does not make them disordered.
  • You might be part of the problem. Mental health crises are often triggered by life experiences, like being constantly dismissed or mocked by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
  • Whether another person is in psychotherapy or not is probably none of your business. If you’re ever about to tell someone they need psychotherapy, there’s a good chance you’re right, because some mental disorders are as prevalent as the common cold. For example, during any given two week period, 9% of U.S. adults experience clinically significant depression. However, people are allowed to make their own decisions about how to take care of their own health — mental health included.
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    After my personal experiences with the mental health system, I can testify that the hour long sessions are barely enough...
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