GoodTherapy.org Mission and Vision
GoodTherapy.org unites therapists and the general public by disseminating mental health news and information, challenging mental health stigma, and promoting ethical therapy.
For the public, GoodTherapy.org...
- EDUCATES the public about mental health issues, treatment, the process of therapy, and the differences between healthy and unhealthy therapy.
- EMPOWERS all people’s wellness journeys through access to reliable, unbiased, and nonpathologizing mental health information as well as trained mental health professionals listed in our online therapist directory.
- CHALLENGES the myths, stereotypes, and stigmas that can surround mental health issues and treatment and prevent people from getting help.
For therapists, GoodTherapy.org...
- FACILITATES a community of therapists who believe in and adhere to principles of ethical therapy and are committed to reducing harm in therapy.
- SUPPORTS compassionate, collaborative therapists in their practices through access to quality continuing education events, up-to-date therapy news and information, and resources related to ethics and power dynamics in therapy.
- PROVIDES a leading online directory with strict membership standards, giving therapist members consistent referrals and other benefits that foster a thriving practice.
- We envision a mental health community in which therapists and counselors are guided by their hearts as much as their minds, have the self-awareness and courage to do their own therapy when appropriate, avoid using the people they work with in therapy to meet their own needs or abuse their power, adhere to ethical principles, and treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve.
- We envision a mental health community in which clinicians view all people as capable of change. Far too often, people are seen as deficient and lacking what it takes to be healthy and happy. We work to eliminate this destructive trend. We encourage therapists to give people the benefit of the doubt by holding to the wisdom that people are born lovable, loving, and vulnerable beings, and to understand that people are shaped by their experiences and circumstances.
- We envision a world in which all people have access to information and treatment that can help them improve their mental and emotional health and achieve harmony, thus promoting healthier families and communities.
Noah Rubinstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 25 years of experience working in mental health and social services, launched GoodTherapy.org in 2007 in response to his concerns about the state of mental health treatment in America. He wanted to create a community of mental health professionals dedicated to providing collaborative, ethical services to people seeking therapy, and he wanted to offer credible resources and information that would help people on their healing journeys. Here, Noah explains the reasons he started GoodTherapy.org and why therapy matters to him:
I started GoodTherapy.org to protect people in therapy, to protect the practice of psychotherapy, and to support therapists who work in collaborative, empowering, and nonpathologizing ways.
I care passionately about the potential for psychotherapy because my own therapy pretty much saved my life. As a therapist myself, I’ve also seen therapy transform the lives of others. If you’re a therapist, then you probably understand the honor it is to sit with and witness people begin to love and accept themselves. To guide people who have experienced little, if any, self-compassion in their lives, through the process of opening their hearts to themselves and coming to care for parts of themselves that they’ve disliked or struggled with for years, is incredibly rewarding. To witness lives changing through therapy gives me hope that all people have the potential to change and, on a broad scale, gives me hope for our world.
Certainly, there are many pathways to finding peace inside ourselves and in our world; therapy is just one way. However, therapy carries enormous potential to help people heal and grow. Although the majority of us come into the world equipped and ready to develop into healthy, happy human beings, suffering can’t be avoided. Pain happens. Along the course of our lives, most of us, if not all of us, are hurt and painfully mistreated. Most of us have felt rejected, criticized, shamed, and far too many people are emotionally, physically, or sexually abused, neglected, and/or abandoned. In order to survive in our world, we develop ways of protecting ourselves so we’re never hurt again.
For example, depression, anxiety, addiction, self-criticism, anger, eating issues, and many other conditions can all serve as ways of protecting ourselves from ever again feeling the way we felt when we were originally hurt, often in childhood. As one of my teachers, Dr. Richard Schwartz, wisely points out, these protective parts of ourselves—the ones that often bring people to therapy, the parts that can feel depressed, self-critical, angry, or do other things that inadvertently cause harm—are all actually “good.” They’re good because even though they may be self-destructive or hurtful to others, they're trying to help and they have a positive intention for the individual.
The problem is that if we spend our lives consciously or unconsciously guarding ourselves from being hurt again, we’re less in touch with our innate compassion for ourselves and others, less confident, less open, less curious, and less calm than we would be otherwise. Too many people live their lives stuck in their unhappiness without even realizing it, without knowing that events from the past have constrained them, without knowing that an alternative way of being exists. Therapy not only can help people to see that an alternative exists, it can help people to live that alternative.
The beauty and hope of the therapy process, to me, is that as a person begins to care for his or her wounds and to have more self-compassion, he or she in turn can have more compassion for those around him or her. When a person begins to feel more calm and compassion, it positively impacts his or her relationships and interactions with others, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in big ways. It can create a domino effect that spreads out in every direction, from person to person, impacting and improving relationships both internal and external.
In my own therapy, when I finally cared for the parts of myself that were burdened in childhood, I was filled with understanding and compassion for how tough my parents’ childhoods were and how they did the best they could to raise me. Instead of continuing to harbor anger and seek redemption from them, I was able to deeply forgive them. Without even talking to my parents about it, the quality of my relationship with them changed. It changed not because my parents were different, but because I was different. For me, this is an example of how changing ourselves can help to change the world around us. As Mahatma Gandhi so wisely said, we can “be the change” we want to see in the world.
I firmly believe that as we heal ourselves, we help to heal our world. I believe that if we could all heal the wounds we carry, most of our social problems—problems such as addiction, poverty, homelessness, racism, sexism, violent global conflicts, and many more—would eventually cease to plague us. I see psychotherapy as an opportunity to heal ourselves and to heal our communities; this is why I want to protect it.
In particular, I see four main threats to healthy therapy:
- The medical model of mental health. I’m deeply concerned with how the medical model is applied to mental and emotional issues that are often not medical in nature. Unfortunately, because of the medical model of health care, many who seek therapy are viewed as “disordered.” As I’ve written about before, the concept of disorder as applied to nonmedical emotional issues—the types of issues most people come to therapy for—is ill-conceived and inaccurate. The protective symptoms people struggle with do not lack order; they are actually orderly attempts at survival. Instead of pathologizing and deprecating the difficult emotions, behaviors, and thought patterns that people experience, these can be met with curiosity, respect, appreciation, and compassion. In therapy, we should not aim to get rid of parts of ourselves; instead, we should have compassion for them. As Carl Rogers once wrote, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” At GoodTherapy.org, we’re doing our best to share this perspective.
- Big pharma. I’m equally troubled by the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on mental health treatment. I recognize that medication can be helpful, even necessary, for some, especially if what you’re struggling with has physiological origins or symptoms. For example, if you’re so depressed that you can’t get out of bed in the morning or so paralyzed by anxiety that you can’t cope, it probably makes sense for your doctor to explore medication as a treatment option so you can function and get to the point where you can start to heal, perhaps through therapy. But in some cases, medication can be a way of amputating, avoiding, or neglecting the very parts that would heal if they were given positive attention, curiosity, respect, appreciation, and compassion. GoodTherapy.org is doing what it can to inform people about the opportunities and possibilities of therapy as a means of achieving positive, long-term change.
- Inaccurate myths and stigmas. Many people don’t understand how therapy works. Some are afraid to go to therapy, fearing it would mean they’re weak for seeking help. Some are afraid it will make them worse, or that their therapist will confirm their worst fear, that they are somehow fundamentally flawed or worthless. There are many myths about therapy that I’d like to stamp out. Reducing stigma around mental health issues and therapy would make it easier for people to reach out to get the help and guidance they need to be happy and content. At GoodTherapy.org, we’re challenging these myths and helping people to summon the courage to seek help.
- Harmful practitioners who practice unethically. Unfortunately, there’s a small number of therapists who practice unethically and cause harm to the people they work with. This is difficult for me to discuss because I don’t wish to frighten people away from therapy. Most therapists are well-intentioned, big-hearted people who care about ethics, do their best to “do no harm,” and commit themselves to always having the best interests of the people they work with in mind. However, we know from licensing revocations and suspensions that some clinicians fall short of providing healthy treatment. Some have let their own wounds and protective parts interfere with helping others. I’m troubled by the fact there are therapists who abuse their power and get their personal and emotional needs met at the expense of the people they work with in therapy. Sometimes power abuse happens in small ways, and other times it happens in extremely destructive ways—such as having romantic/sexual relationships with the people they work with. Though we can’t mandate therapists to do their own therapy, GoodTherapy.org’s mission to reduce harm in therapy is carried out by publishing information that equips people to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy therapy and by offering a directory of carefully screened mental health professionals who vow to adhere to working ethically.
Years after I started GoodTherapy.org, I still stand behind these goals to protect therapy and reduce harm. When I was struck with the idea to create an organization that would advocate for collaborative, nonpathologizing, ethical therapy and form a community of therapists committed to treating people as fundamentally capable rather than flawed and deficient, I never could have predicted GoodTherapy.org’s challenging and rewarding journey since. Almost daily, I am touched by different stories from professionals and nonprofessionals about how GoodTherapy.org has helped in ways I never would have guessed. Many visitors to our website have emailed or called to thank us for giving them the boost of courage and inspiration they needed to seek therapy and healing.
I hope you’ll join me and my team and support us in our mission and vision. Whether you’re a mental health professional or not, whether you’ve done therapy or are just considering it, I would love to have your support. I know it's a bit grandiose, but I hope that in addition to illuminating the differences between healthy and unhealthy therapy and helping people find trusted therapists, GoodTherapy.org might help the mental health field to rediscover what mental health is all about. And on a larger scale, I hope people will recognize that psychotherapy can be a path toward harmony—internally, externally, in our families, in our communities, and across the globe. I invite you to join me and my team in challenging unethical treatment practices as well as any fears, myths, and stigmas that keep some people from seeking the help they need to heal and thrive.
There are many ways you can get behind GoodTherapy.org. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter, share articles on The Good Therapy Blog far and wide, subscribe to our newsletter, let friends know about us, link to us from your website, talk to people about the benefits of ethical therapy, and more. If you're a therapist who meets our membership requirements, you can apply to join GoodTherapy.org here.
Thank you for your support!
Last Update: 08-19-2015