September brings a number of entertaining national aware..." /> September brings a number of entertaining national aware..." />

Join in Celebrating National Psychotherapy Day

National Psychotherapy Day logoSeptember brings a number of entertaining national awareness days, such as Defy Superstition Day, National Butterscotch Pudding Day, and Ask a Stupid Question Day. When perusing the latest list of awareness days, it’s hard not to wonder if there’s a formal process or if anyone can arbitrarily declare a new awareness. With only 365 days—366 in this leap year—and the potential for hundreds of organizations to compete against each other, it’s easy to be concerned about what’s going to happen when we run out of days … anarchy?

Sarcasm aside, there are a number of important and well-publicized awareness days observed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions. In recent years, awareness days such as Breast Cancer Awareness Day and Aids Awareness Day have achieved worldwide exposure and become a part of our social consciousness. These awareness days and others, as indicated by the number of their followers, bring significant attention and much-needed funding to important issues impacting us and our fellow human beings.

One of the most recent—and in my view, one of the most important—is National Psychotherapy Day, which takes place September 25. National Psychotherapy Day is the brainchild of Ryan Howes, PhD, ABPP, and was founded by Ryan and his three associates: Jenna Wierenga, MA, Barbod Salimi, MA, and Adrienne Meier, MA. These great folks also established The Psychotherapy Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising money to help support underfunded community mental health centers and low-fee psychotherapy clinics.

National Psychotherapy Day aims to bring awareness to the current challenges faced by the field of psychotherapy. These challenges, as summarized on the National Psychotherapy Day website, are:

  • Stigma remains for those who seek therapy.
  • The media present a distorted view of therapy and therapists.
  • Psychotherapy has no unified, active promotional campaign.
  • Low-income counseling options are sparse, underfunded, and overwhelmed.
  • Consumers aren’t aware of therapy’s proven, lasting effectiveness.

As founder and CEO of, deciding to put my organization’s support behind National Psychotherapy Day was a no-brainer. I launched in 2007 because I was fed up with hearing horror stories of therapists abusing their power and getting their own needs met at the expense of people in therapy. I realized early on that in addition to creating a directory with the highest membership standards, we also had to make efforts to educate consumers about the purposes, benefits, potential misuses, and myths about therapy. Reducing harm and promoting the benefits of psychotherapy is an enormous job, and it’s an honor to join forces with the folks at National Psychotherapy Day to stand with them in their efforts. There is a multitude of reasons to put your support behind this important day; here are the ones that resonate most with me:

1. The value of psychotherapy is at risk of depreciation and displacement by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical model.

The medical model is the perfect example of the old proverb: To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Sadly, the science that has eradicated plagues, created miracle drugs, and furthered the scientific method also has led itself to believe that syndromes such as depression, anxiety, and others are purely biochemical in nature. Ironically, the psychiatric community overlooks Occam’s razor, the idea that the best hypothesis is the one that makes the fewest assumptions. The psychiatric industry ignores this principle, in favor of something much more complicated and imperfect, by disregarding the fact most suffering is a result of life experience. You can see for yourself that some of the common experiences that trigger depression, such as divorce, losing a job, the death of a loved one, and rejection, are not caused by your biochemistry or hardware. Indeed, some people may have a predisposition to feel depressed under certain circumstances. Certainly there exist syndromes that are purely organic in etiology, but let’s face the fact once and for all that the biochemical changes that happen in the nervous system following painful experiences are symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself.

Sure, we can take a drug and feel better, but medication does not operate on the emotional level, where the depression exists, and thus cannot provide anything other than a temporary Band-Aid. There is no drug that will, in and of itself, completely undo the sad reality that you can’t get out of bed in the morning because you’re depressed about your husband leaving you. There also is no drug that will help you let go of the resentment you’ve been holding for three years as a result of your business partner having stolen your investment. And there is no drug that will finally allow you to accept and feel comfortable in your body. However, all of these issues can be worked through emotionally in psychotherapy. There is a place for medication—it can be helpful if you can’t function. It can help to get you back on your feet and provide the stability needed to do the deeper work in psychotherapy.

If there is one tell-tale sign showing the influence of the medical model, it’s that since the 1980s most modern-day psychiatrists, the professional ancestors of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, have not been trained in traditional psychotherapy. With the enormous profits to be made, big pharmaceuticals have sold the typical American consumer on the belief that nearly every medical and psychological condition, from restless leg syndrome to social phobia, can be cured with medication. It’s not that these conditions are not real; the problem is that the availability of medication and the false promises made by big pharma enable those who desire instant gratification and symptom relief to seek medication over psychotherapy as a permanent cure. However, using medication without psychotherapy to treat psychological issues is like stitching a bullet wound without taking the bullet out, and sadly most consumers are unaware of the benefits and efficacy of psychotherapy in producing long-term change.

Psychotherapy is not magic. It’s simply the art of caring for the hurts we’d rather not feel—something medicine will never be able to do without the use of another human being.

2. As a result of how psychotherapists are portrayed in the media, the benefits of psychotherapy are largely overlooked and misunderstood by most Americans.

In my view, the most damage to the reputation of psychotherapy has been caused by Dr. Phil. Based on the critical, confrontational, and know-it-all attitude with which Dr. Phil treats his “patients,” there is no doubt he has scared off a generation of Americans from considering therapy. In my experience, of those who are brave enough to enter therapy, most assume they will be analyzed, shamed, and blamed. Of course, blaming and shaming is not what happens in therapy. Additionally, the media in their portrayal of psychotherapy have contributed to another big myth about therapy—that answers are found outside of us. Most people new to therapy expect the therapist to solve their problems for them, to have all the answers, and to somehow bestow change, enlightenment, and happiness on them, as if it’s as easy as putting change into a vending machine and having it spit something out.

3. Many therapists are modern-day spiritual healers, and deserve recognition.

Psychotherapy practice requires intensive emotional work, processing, reflection, and personal growth on the part of both the person in therapy and the therapist. This internal work is necessary for therapists because people in therapy often bring in issues similar to ones the therapist has struggled with. In order to be helpful and effective, the therapist needs to constantly be clearing out countertransference in order to remain compassionate, calm, and curious. In my view, good therapists are obligated to themselves and the people they treat to work through these issues and triggers, for a therapist can’t truly be helpful without being self-aware and there is no other way to avoid emotional burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma. Thus, successful therapists who stay in the field for years must invest their own money and time taking good care of themselves, achieving deeper levels of self-awareness and participating in their own therapy.

In traditional tribal cultures, the heroes were typically the warrior, the chief, and the shaman. Modern western culture continues to worship the warriors and the chiefs, along with celebrities such as musicians, actors, and athletes. All of these roles take skill and talent. But if you ask me who my heroes are, it’s the therapists, the modern-day shamans who spend day-in and day-out trying to help people to release the burdens and repair the hurts inflicted upon us by humanity. Some might view the deep emotional work faced by therapists as an occupational hazard, others as a dream job. Either way, I have deep gratitude for therapists who have dedicated their life’s work to helping others heal and grow.

These are just a few of the many reasons I have chosen to join Ryan and The Psychotherapy Foundation in their mission. I would like to take this opportunity to call on my peers to help spread the word and support National Psychotherapy Day in their own way. As a practitioner, you can offer a pro-bono therapy slot, share this article with your professional network, or donate your hourly fee to a low-fee clinic. Perhaps you have a better idea. For more ways to stand behind this important cause, please visit

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Gavin

    September 18th, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    If everything could be solved by meds and therapy was not needed then even friends and family would not be needed.We could take meds to alter our moods and no real emotions and feelings would exist.

    But the reality is we are emotional beings, there is a lot more to us than just the physical aspect or even chemicals in us.And that is why therapy is important and is something that can do just so much that no amount of meds can achieve.

    I have gained a lot from therapy myself in the past and would gladly speak of its benefits with a friend or family member considering therapy.Sometimes you need that little help, sometimes you need to be heard,sometimes you just need therapy.A big thumbs up from me to the National Psychotherapy day and I just hope more people learn of the benefits that therapy can provide.

  • glen

    September 18th, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    This sounds like a wonderful cause to get behind.

    I only wish that there was a way to spread the word, because quite honestly had I not stumbled upon this announcement here then I am not sure that I would have even known that this was a real day for recognition!

  • Barry

    September 18th, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    It would be a very sad day from my point of view if therapy was allowed to be pushed aside by the evils of big pharma! their drugs aren’t to heal but rather to conceal. . . how can that kind of disception ever top the good and rehabilitation that can be achieved via a good psychotherapist and patient relationship? This need to always be making more of the ever mighty $$ never ceases to amaze me.

  • Jenna M

    September 19th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    How do they decide where the mone goes?

    Does the money for the underfunded clinics saty within theri geographic region or can centers apply for the money perhaps in the form of a grant?

    It would be great to know that the money had not geographic bounds.

  • selena

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    great to see organizations like The Psychotherapy Foundation and Good Therapy itself involve with an initiative like this. there is much need for spreading awareness on psychotherapy and especially so at a time when more and more people pop pills for just about anything while mental health problems are only increasing.

    hope to see some change happening due to initiatives such as these and that people learn about therapy and alternatives to the mighty big pharma, alternatives that are indeed better!

  • Robin Deal

    September 19th, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    I want to give a big ole THANK YOU to my therapist who has worked for me for so many years now helping me to move past the past and get on with the present. Here’s to you my friend, because with you who knows where I would be right now. I appreciate so much everything that you have done for me- you have given me the life that I have always wanted but never felt like I deserved. I can never thank you enough for teaching me the game of likfe and how to make it better than ever!

  • Craig

    September 19th, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Are therapists not given enough due? I certainly think so. But the reason for this is not a single one. rather it is a whole list of issues that do this, chief among which is the ever-visibility of pharmaceuticals and the need for INSTANT fixes that most people desire, no thought of long-term effects of therapy Vs pharmaceuticals in people, pharmaceuticals could get addictive and also the lack of awareness of the possibilities of therapy.

    A lot of people I know still think therapy is only something like school counselor helping the students get over their problems by giving an advice here and there and asking them to work on things like time management etc. This view needs to change. But that’s not going to happen unless and until we do something about it.

    This seems like an ideal platform to get people to learn about therapy and its various benefits.What is popular is what is often adopted and therapy certainly deserves to become more popular!

  • Ryan Howes

    September 19th, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    Thank you for your interest, everyone! This is exciting indeed, and it’s fun to see therapists and clients united in behind the common belief that therapy helps.

    Glen – good news! There is still plenty of time to spread the word. You can email this article to friends and colleagues, “like” the National Psychotherapy Day facebook page and share the information with your friends, and spread it by word of mouth. For an initiative like this, the last week is the most important time to promote, so have at it!

    Jenna – There is a form on the National Psychotherapy Day website for clinics to apply for a grant, regardless of their location (in the USA, for now). However, in this first year, we haven’t done much to promote this and recommend people instead donate to their local clinics and build the connection within their community.

    Everyone else – We appreciate your stories and opinions and we’re glad to have you as supporters of National Psychotherapy Day!

  • patience

    September 20th, 2012 at 4:12 AM

    A large part of promoting yourself and your profession as a whole will come from satisfied patients.

    You want to get the patients who have had a great experience with therapy to be your biggest fans, jump on the bandwagon and promote to others just how meaningful therapy has been for them.

    This is not something that we want to have to hide anymore. There needs to be no secrets or shame about going to therapy. Instead it should be viewed as a way to improve your life and to become a better person.

    If you have people who are happy with their own personal results, then they will tell others and magically the acceptance of personal psychotherapy as a whole should grow.

  • seal

    September 21st, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Do you ever think that we have so many of these special awareness days that many people just kind of tune out to it all? I mean, sometimes when we are inundated with these things they stop losing a little bit of their meaning.

  • Pearl

    September 24th, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    Just one more day to get the word out!

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