Do Therapists Ever Think Their Clients are Unfixable?

Question from Quora:

Some people are utterly unfixable or even improvable, but they are quite rare.

There are clients who are just too far gone, and they cannot be helped at all. It is as if the person were a ceramic bowl that was dropped on a hard floor. The bowl is now in 100 pieces, and the person who dropped it is on the ground looking at the pieces and throwing up their hands. “Where do I start?” he asks in exasperation.

All sociopaths and psychopaths are unfixable by their very nature. We can’t cure the sociopathy and psychopathy because they don’t want to get better. They enjoy being antisocial, and they do not wish to change. However, we can get them to change their behavior. For instance, a homicidal sociopath may show up in the office. A good therapist may be able to convince this sociopath that acting on their homicidal fantasies would be one of the stupidest things that they could ever do. This sociopath may then be able to go through life without killing an innocent person. So we can’t fix sociopaths, but we can change their behavior somewhat, tone it down, or reduce the amount of damage they do to society.

All paraphilias are unfixable by their very nature. The paraphilia quite literally will not and cannot go away. It’s etched in stone.

Schizophrenia is largely unfixable. They need a great deal of medication, and even then in most cases, they are repeatedly hospitalized. A few can go on to lead somewhat normal or even successful lives, but these people still need continuous medication and regular psychotherapy. In addition, they need frequent interventions to stay out of the hospital.

Many illnesses such as OCD, Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Major Depression are unfixable by psychotherapy. Most of these people will need medication for the rest of their lives. However, psychotherapy can improve their conditions a lot at least in the first and last cases.

Long-term suicidality is very hard to fix. It tends to become chronic with repeated attempts over the years. The suicidal person is typically defiant and is furious with you for challenging their suicidality. You are expected to sympathize with their condition, which is actually a very bad idea. Most suicidal people are what I would call “defiantly suicidal.”

Personality disorders are generally incurable. Theoretically, they could be fixed, but these people almost never present for therapy, and when they do, it is often at the behest of others, and they do not really wish to be there or get anything done. People with personality disorders, like sociopaths, literally do not want to get better. They like their personality disorder, and they are incredibly resistant to change. There are some case reports of cures of personality disorders, but in general the prognosis is grave.

I have never been able to fix long term low self esteem, and I have tried with a few people. There is something about that condition that hammers itself into the brain as if into concrete. I do not know why, but long-term low self-esteem seems to be one of the hardest psychological problems to fix. Why this is, I have no idea. Perhaps someone else can offer some ideas.

In many cases, long-term mental disorders simply cannot be fixed or cured. However, with psychotherapy and drugs, people can often get much better than they were before. We need to stop thinking in terms of cures and start thinking in terms of amelioration.

I realize that many clinicians insist that most people can be fixed or cured of long-term conditions, but I think they are lying. They are probably trying to drum up business. Many clinicians fear that if word got out that a lot of long-term mentally ill people cannot be fixed or cured, people would stop coming in for therapy. There goes their paycheck. Therapists are a lot more money-oriented than most people believe, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I know this field very well.

Clinicians have nothing to worry about. Even if a lot of conditions could only be ameliorated and not fixed, I am sure a lot of folks would show up to try to get some improvement. Some mental disorders are so painful that any improvement feels like a miracle cure to the client. A lot of people have given up on being cured anyway, just want to at least get better and are quite happy to do so.

5 Comments

Filed under Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Health, Medicine, Mental Illness, Mood Disorders, OCD, Personality Disorders, Psychology, Psychopathology, Psychotherapy, Psychotic Disorders, Schizophrenia, Sex, Sociopathy

5 responses to “Do Therapists Ever Think Their Clients are Unfixable?

  1. Sun

    Agreed, especially with the last sentence. In many cases, diagnosis alone can be a huge improvement. It can make the person feel less alone, less “crazy”, less disoriented, and more in control of their destiny. These benefits can persist even amid continuing failed attempts to ameliorate the underlying condition.

    My mother meets your “shattered bowl” criteria. She should not seek therapy (not that she ever would). Professional advice for dealing with her has been to not sever the relationship, but instead to simply accept her on the level possible, no matter how shallow, and leave it at that.

    It sounds harsh, but once everyone adjusts it works great. Life-changing advice for dealing with these types of people!

  2. Mayur Varshne

    I sincerely wish, there was a cure for the compulsive liars. They are the ones who really get on my nerves, most of the times. What’s worse, they are utterly shameless and remorseless!

    Nut cases should seek solace in their passions i.e. work; life is too precious to be wasted away.

  3. Zuma

    I am a counselor and yes, there are essentially no cures in mental health. Treatment is not cure. Treatment for suicidal ideation is hospitalization, for example. Essentially keeping a person from killing themselves. Obviously, BPD is a nightmare to deal with and treat…as is all of the old Axis II stuff.

  4. Meg

    It’s heartbreaking and yet somehow reassuring that BPD really is as hopeless as it feels. I guess the only options are to deal with an extremely painful life or kill yourself.

  5. Some get better over time and a few even get cured. There is a psychiatric nurse on here who has worked with a lot of them over a 15 year period and she said quite a few got better over time.

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