Monday, September 7, 2009
So you know that whole concept of speed dating in which you sit down with a complete stranger for no more than three minutes at a time, hoping to find a lasting connection that may develop into a relationship? Yeah, I never much bought into that (although I'll admit, it might be fun). The folks over in New York have taken it one step further, taking the concept of speed dating and translating it to therapy. I ran into an interesting article in the NY Times that explains how this works. Basically, people who need quick advice, or whose therapists are on vacation (I kid you not), can now walk into the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho and sit down with various therapists for three minutes at a time in what the article refers to as "speed-shrinking" (sounds like some warped machine coming out of a sci-fi movie to me). The therapists are either licensed psychiatrists or psychologists.
I'm not sure how to feel about this.
On the one hand, I always promote anything that makes others feels good and is therapeutic. I don't really care what kind of therapy is used (whether it be CBT, psychodynamic, behavioral, etc). Research has shown that all therapy modes are effective because they all employ the therapist-client bond. And spending three minutes at time with various therapists does allow you to shop around and see which kind of therapy and therapist might work for you (something that would be very costly and time consuming otherwise). But how can you bond in three minutes? Is this therapy? I'm not naive enough to think that everyone can afford traditional therapy, so this does seem like a nice alternative for those who have no where else to turn. I'm not a therapist (although I do often provide talk therapy at work), but I do now this: dispensing advice, especially as a therapist, and especially to someone you've only known for three minutes, is a slippery slope. You never know how much harm you can be doing with it. The fact that these professionals are dispensing quick answers in three minutes is a little scary. It also lead me to wonder: why are the therapists risking it by doing this? And then I ran into this short sentence meant mostly as a visual in the article:
"Each of the therapists, many sitting behind piles of business cards and books they had written, hoped to achieve chemistry with their newfound clients."
Ah, now it makes a little more sense.
We are free to do what we want, and if we want some quick advice we can get it in less than a minute from our friends, acquintances, etc. But as professional therapists, we also have a responsibility to protect, and I don't think this is achieving that.