Oliver James: Shrink wrapped

There is not much I do not know about bad Psychodynamic Therapists. The first one I attended, once weekly for two years after having a bad LSD trip at university, barely ever spoke. I sat in a very freaked-out state saying little myself, gazing disconnectedly out of the window. Neither of my two subsequent psychoanalyses, begun a few years later, was hugely impressive either. The first was very conventionally Freudian and a very old (well into her seventies when we started) lady, to whom I went for four years, five times a week. Like her predecessor, she said little and what she did say was vague and obvious.

At least she was warm and friendly. After her I went in search of somebody more liable to tell me something I did not already know. Instead, I got a cold, frankly unpleasant man who, I later discovered, had a different training from the one he claimed - he was, in fact, a charlatan. It took me three years to realise this.

Given this history, you may be surprised that I recommend Psychodynamic Therapy (PT). I do because I know a great many people who fared a lot better than I did and several who were transformed by PT.

A few years ago my mum (who, along with my dad, was a psychoanalyst) and I sat down and tried to think of all the people we knew who had been analysed. It ran into the hundreds. True, there were a few people who were actually made worse by analysis. A prime case was Mum's gay brother, who was sent back to his unhappy marriage by his analyst and probably committed suicide as a result. But in most cases (described on pp 278-85 of my book Britain on the Couch ) more good than harm comes of it, and I have no doubt at all that if you can find someone who is really good, it can be life saving.

There is no simple answer to how to find that therapist, and, given my track record, you might reasonably doubt my credentials for advising you how to. However, I have had a great deal more success referring others than I have had with myself, and the conclusions I've come to are the following.

It's probably best to go to someone trained in one of the schemes run under the umbrella of the British Confederation of Psychotherapists (020 8830 5173 for lists). In addition, those trained at the London Centre for Psychotherapy and in Interpersonal Therapy are probably not nuts.

But the absolute key is to try to get someone who you know has helped someone already. Ideally, you would have known the person who was helped before they started treatment and, best of all, they would be the same gender as you and have had similar kinds of problems. Failing that, get three names and take the trouble to have consultations with all of them before picking one.

Perhaps most important of all, whatever scary things the shrink threatens you with, if it doesn't work after a year, do not hesitate to jack it in and look for someone else.

· Oliver James is unable to enter into any personal correspondence.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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