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Dear Google, Is There a Shrink for That?

Call it boutique therapy: a swirl of contemporary tastes and consumer expectations that has yielded a collection of psychotherapeutic options specially designed for almost any circumstance in which humans could find themselves.


Stashed in: Psychology!, Mental Health, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mental Health

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Feels like we still don't know much about the human brain. 

"Undoubtedly, the Internet has contributed to the shifting therapeutic landscape. Where before, word of mouth was crucial to the search for a therapist, prospective patients are now likely to take to the web, and faced with thousands of anonymous possibilities, look for some way in which to determine who may be the best fit, whose boxes check their own boxes.

And many therapists, in turn, feel the pressure to fold themselves into recognizable categories. For Rachel Sussman, a psychologist in New York who self-describes as a “relationship specialist” (from first date to breakup), it seemed necessary to carefully brand herself to build a practice.

And then there are those therapists who become accidental specialists, stumbling into a niche, as Lawrence Josephs did, after appearing in a documentary that made its way to YouTube. “Thanks to Google I am getting more patients looking for someone they think of as an infidelity expert,” he wrote last year in The New York Times.

Like so much to do with psychotherapy itself, the new specialization is largely an urban phenomenon. Take Jocelyn Charnas, known as “the wedding doctor” in certain New York circles, who came to her specialty through personal experience.

In Los Altos, Calif., the psychologist Howard Scott Warshaw has developed his own brand as “The Silicon Valley Therapist,” specializing in everything that he says makes Silicon Valley unique: the particular personality type that is suited for computer programming but less adept at parsing human ambiguity, the environment that seems to expect nothing less than extraordinary achievement."

The good side about all of these specialists is increased understanding of particular situations that cause people anxiety and stress.

The bad side is that we as a society have so many different things now that cause people anxiety and stress!

"And because Mr. Warshaw was a computer engineer before he became a therapist, he believes he has the necessary knowledge to communicate with his clientele. “I’ve done the job they’ve done,” he said. “I’ve been in the pressures they’ve been in. I really understand what it is to go through a software development cycle. So I can hear them in a way that some therapists without this background simply can’t.” 

[And its counterpoint:]

"But many clinicians would contend that shared experience is irrelevant to the treatment of their patients. “This whole idea that when you walk in the door, there’s a template for: ‘We are the same, and out of that sameness we can build an immediate rapport,’ to me that seems like a very problematic notion,” said Michael Garfinkle, a psychoanalyst in New York. 

Similarly, Justin Shubert, a psychologist in Los Angeles and the director of Silver Lake Psychotherapy, is quick to note that seeing a therapist whose label matches your label is not without its hazards.

“It can be limiting because you may end up with someone with a narrower perspective,” Dr. Shubert said. “Just because someone understands what it’s like to work with a Hasidic Jew, doesn’t mean that they understand what it’s like to have two sisters, or to be depressed.”

It's a question of whether relatable empathy is needed, or whether being able to listen is good enough. 

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