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This was the preoccupying question at a recent psychology conference that I attended in California in December. Speakers lamented the large discrepancy between those who need some form of psychological help (up to 25% of the population according to epidemiological studies) and those who actually go to therapy (conference estimates of only 15-25%).
Equally troubling were premature drop-outs rates for those who show-up. One British study revealed that 57% of clients never returned after the first visit with a psychologist. Sealing our collective depression were figures that indicated that things are getting worse rather than better, as more distressed people turn to alternate forms of “healing” such as psychic reading –apparently now a growth industry in the US.
However, not lacking in collective resiliency, several speakers advocated a path out of the darkness. According to the experts, we therapists should be willing and flexible to adopt whatever cognitive scaffolding the patient brings to therapy. So if a client wants to talk to his dead mother we should go along with the flow. More prevailing was the general philosophy away from that nasty business of solving real world problems to the safer redoubt of achieving an inner peace through a variety of creative meditative processes. One conference speaker had us attempt to cultivate an inward attentional focus to one’s viscera.
However before dashing off to purchase crystal balls, I suggest that we look at some simple and practical things we psychologists could do to attract and retain more clients. I’ve taken the liberty to list some of my ideas in the posts that follow.