Psychotherapy Without Makeup: Conversations on Psychotherapy Failures

This is an English title of my new book published last month in Polish. It consists of fourteen interviews – seven of them are my conversations with patients who have been hurt by psychotherapy and seven with famous Polish psychotherapists and who try to explain what has happened in each of presented case. As the whole book is in Polish, I didn’t intend to write about this book on an English language version of my blog until I received a message from one of my readers who made me aware that this book is somehow unique not only on the Polish book market but perhaps in the World. There are plenty of published interviews with psychotherapists, with patients during psychotherapy, there is even a book in which therapists relate how they were deceived by patients[1], but none similar to “Psychotherapy Without Makeup”. Perhaps… If you came across a similar book, please let me know.

It’s only been a month since the publication of the book, and I have already received a lot of positive feedback from readers. Especially from those who have bad experiences with psychotherapy and who feel ignored by their surroundings. In their opinion, this book spoke with their voices. Some of them suggested that it would be worth to translate it into English. I am not so enthusiastic about this idea, especially that every country has its own psychotherapeutic specifics. That is, what could be interesting for the Polish reader sometimes could be completely indifferent to the English one. But maybe it would be worth to translate some of the reviews and to conduct new conversations with patients and therapists from other countries? I know that among the readers of my blog are some people who had bad experiences with psychotherapy, so I am curious about your opinion on that idea. I would be grateful for your feedback.

As it often happens, as well as, in this case, I received a lot of ill-considered criticism and even hate. I do not care much about it. As Tana Dineen wrote in her wonderful book “Manufacturing Victims”:

But the Psychology Industry is not an ally at all; it is a self-serving business determined to extend its influence, expand its markets and increase its overall profits. It intends that people accept their need for psychology, assume an inferior and dependent role, and become “users.” It is through caring that psychologists create need, and through helping that they establish dependency.

The journalists and filmmakers received this book much warmer. Bartosz Panek, Prix Italia 2014 winner wrote:

Tomasz Witkowski proves once again that common sense is the greatest treasure of a man, and knowledge is still a sure investment.

Konrad Szołajski – film director and scenarist expressed his opinion about the book in this way:

Shocking stories about a sinister reality that we have no chance to see every day. Non-fiction, though one would like to believe that it’s just literary fiction.

More opinions about the book, reviews, interviews etc. you will find HERE.


[1] Kottler, Jeffrey A. and Carlson, Jon. Bad Therapy- Master Therapists Share Their Worst Failures. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2002.

16 responses to “Psychotherapy Without Makeup: Conversations on Psychotherapy Failures

  1. I think it would be amazing if you could expand the reach of this book and conduct interviews with people in other countries. I, for one, would be happy to volunteer my story! The capacity for abuse through betrayal and abandonment in therapy is so enormous – and so little considered by therapists. And, sadly, therapists themselves are all too often damaged people who choose their profession in order to get their own needs met. They are the last people on earth who should be allowed anywhere near a person who is vulnerable or suffering emotional pain.

  2. Pingback: Psychotherapy Without Makup « Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop·

  3. To my mind not only I think that your book is a very courageous and important work but I also believe it should be published in English so to reach a larger audience, particularly the American scenario where psychotherapy is merely a joke in most cases, and heavily permeated by all sort of mumbo jumbo such as faith based protocols for instance, or ”think positive” shallow approaches, or ”just-go-out-and-socialize-and-that’s-all” advice, not to mention new age / spiritual alike nonsense of all kind.

    Regarding this matter, to my mind most people seem to forget a few salient points, both patients/clients and the psychotherapists themselves, points like:
    -On the contrary of other sciences: psychotherapy is not something that can be tested in a lab therefore it’s very hard to provide solid evidence and sound accuracy on which one can base serious approaches.
    -Any psychological approach that neglects at least the basic notions of biology can easily result into deeply biased and even nonsensical suggestions, eventually even harmful ones.
    -Psychotherapy so often gets applied without any decent level of critical thinking skills, not deductive multi-logical approaches, neither a critical sociological comprehension of the conditioning, the memes and the fallacious common sense regarding the cultural background the patient/client possesses (and that he or she probably never or poorly questioned).

    • Thank you Diego very much for your comments. Re basic notions in biology. In my book there are two very serious cases of patients were medical diagnosis was neglected. Both cases were problems with thyroid. One of them attempted suicide. As a result, he is a disabled person now. Another one was treated by psychotherapists without any medical examinations. Finally, he found out that he has cancer. Very sad stories.

    • Sadly, this is also the situation in the UK. I am particularly concerned that more and more young people are being encouraged to go into psychotherapy and that CBT is held up as the ‘gold standard’ of treatment for any and every supposedly maladaptive thought.

  4. Tomasz, thank you for the enormous work done in this book. It is really a fundamental contribution to the solid formation of any therapist. It is a stimulus to keep the attention on the risks that we face when assisting a person with mental illnesses, who places in us his trust. It is also an incentive to maintain a critical and skeptical spirit, both on traditional theories and fashionable novelties. It would be great if an edition could be made in Spanish, because in my country, Argentina, the demand for psychological assistance is usual. And psychoanalysis, alternative therapies and other frauds take a daily toll. And one of the causes is the lack of training of therapists. Count on me if I can help you with something

    • Mariano, thank you very much for your warm words. I am afraid that it couldn’t be possible to translate it into Spanish. I know only few Spanish words! Unless you know the publisher who would be interested in translating and publishing this book. Thanks for your declaration of assistance. Best regards, Tom

  5. I think that book should be translated to several languages. This blog and all similar blogs, homepages should be read by many people.
    I do not trust that therapists will change for the better soon. In my opinion the system of therapy is corrupt. I think currently the only hope for change is if the end users (the clients) get more educated on the potential adverse effects of therapy.

    I have an MA in pychology, although I have never worked as a psychologist.
    In my country “psychotherapists” can only be psychologists or medical professionals. In case of medical professionals, the person has to have a medical specialization (e.g. radiologist) and can start to study psychotherapy.
    In case of psychologist, after having an MA in psychology, you have to study clinical psychology for 4 years. After that (9 years of studying psychology) the clinical psychologist can enroll to study psychotherapy. Only after completing all these studies can a psychologist call themselves psychotherapist. This requires a lot of money.
    I remember a student joking at the university that psychologists make money educating the future psychotherapists.

    So yes, there is a psychology industry. I guess a lot of psychotherapists after spending so much money and so many years on their education are eager the earn money finally.
    And I also agree that this industry creates more and more mental and emotional problems. Frequently it creates dependence in people instead of resilience.
    Also a lot of people instead of giving emotional support to their loved ones, they will rather send their family member to a therapist.

    I have had very bad experiences in therapy several times, and my first bad experience was with a psychotherapist of four decades of experience. She also taught therapy to future psychotherapists.
    She told me with whom I should have sex, what I should wear, etc. She pushed my into using psychological methods during the therapy sessions for which I was not ready.
    Years later I was traumatized by an alternative therapist so much, that I developed physical complaints. She had a busy practice, she was also a very popular and highly valued teacher in an alternative therapy school.
    Based on how she behaved during my “treatment”, she was the example of somebody who after having read a few pop-psychology books considered herself a “therapist”. E.g her communication style was double-bind, and she wanted her client to depend on her emotionally.

    Since then I have tried to get therapy for this latest trauma, but without success. It is strange, but the two times I had spoken to someone “professional” about these experiences, I felt that they did not understand, or somehow I was considered “bad” client.

    I have also heard negatve experiences of other people. One extreme case was where in a psychodrama group one of the leaders slapped in the face one participant. After that the leader explained that this was kind of an “educational slap”, and most of the group members accepted that explanation.

    I think it is really important what you do, since people with similar experiences can realize that probably it is not (only) their fault if the therapy does not work, or they even end up more broken and hurt after years of therapy.

    During all these years I have observed very similar patterns in “official” and alternative therapy environments. Almost all critical thoughts, doubts are dismissed. There is a new agey belief that if the clients really want to change/heal, then the therapy will be successful. If the therapy is unsuccesfull, well, then there must something wrong with the client.
    There is no room for discussion of the possible errors made by the therapist or even about the flaws of the method.

    I naively used to think that therapy’s’ main aim was to help the client to find their inner strength. Not to give them instructions on how to live, but to help them to figure out the best solutions for themselves. In my experience most of the therapies are all for manipulating the client which can be detrimental on the long term.

    • I am so sorry to hear about your experiences. Yes, i agree with everything you say about psychotherapy – it has the potential to be devastatingly dangerous. At best, I think it can only ever be a sticking plaster, patching over deep wounds. The imbalance of power in a therapeutic ‘relationship’ is at the root of the harm: the entire premise of psychotherapy is that which, in any other context, would be seen as an abusive relationship. I hope you find the peace of mind and healing you are looking for – and I hope you manage to find it somewhere else than in a therapist’s office x

      • Thank you for your kind words. I think I will never go again to a therapist’s office 🙂
        I agree with you. The imbalance of power, the assymmetry between the therapist and client is potentially dangerous and might lead to abuse.
        Unfortunately a lot of therapists have their own issues, mental/emotional problems. Often they are not aware of their problems, and project them to their clients: “everything that happens in therapy is about the client”.
        I think this is something really dangerous. This leads to the way of thinking by the therapist, where he considers himself perfect, and anything negative is the client’s fault. As you mentioned in other context this would be considered abusive behaviour.
        What also fascinates me that therapists use communication techniques which in everyday life would be considered manipulative. At the university we were taught that since Carl Rogers the three main elements in therapy are 1.empathy 2. unconditional positive regard 3. congruence. Well for me congruence would also mean that I do not try to manipulate the other person sneakily.

      • “This leads to the way of thinking by the therapist, where he considers himself perfect, and anything negative is the client’s fault.”
        A perfect environment for narcissistic personalities to thrive in! As I now know to my cost!! 😦 And since emotional detachment on the part of the therapist is mandated in most mainstream therapeutic models, it enables them to hide in plain sight – in fact, they are frequently regarded as being ‘good’ therapists!!!

      • I am sorry about your experiences, narcissistic therapists can cause a lot of damage 😦 I hope you find healing.
        It is really sad that there is not much talk about the damage done by therapists and therapies. I have even met therapists who believed that abuse in therapy does not exist and therapists never cause damage.
        Interestingly I have also seen many therapists, who were considered succesful (teaching courses, writing articles/books, etc), but the primary reason for their success was that they had very good self-marketing skills.

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