Recently, there has been a new age wave in the helping profession that I am finding both concerning and disturbing - I like to call them “insighters”. Those wanting to ‘spread their word’ on their meaning of life - or worse, tell you how you should live yours (for a small fee - of course). They come under many guises such as Action Coach, Life Expert, Life Specialist, Life Mentor, Motivator, Passion Driver, Positive Energy Consultant, just to name but a few. Sadly, all of who are unqualified, unregistered and certainly have no experience in mental health or well-being.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe there are roles for specific coaches and mentors in relevant fields. If you are looking for a Coach or Business Mentor there are many talented and reputable ones that have specialised industry knowledge or executive coaches who have had a successful career with a minimum of 5-10 years in a mid/large corporate in a senior position. There are also personal trainers or coaches, who hold the appropriate qualifications, targeting a specific need in your life ie to get into shape or be physically healthier. Fortunately, these professionals know where to draw the line in what they are trained in and what they are not.
I’m talking about the ones who fabricate their business upon attending a few “rah rah” events, a couple of marketing and networking functions, and reading the complete series of “self-help”books and articles, lifting the insights of accomplished others, such as the swelling trend for Dr Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra, Adrianna Huffington, Anthony Robbins, Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukov, Dr Phil, Rev TD Jakes and many other TED talkers. Their website and Facebook feeds are usually filled with platitudes – you know the ones that only belong on fridge magnets ie find your bliss, the world is yours for the taking, dare to suck, etc. They are clearly montaging others’ slogans, wise words, famous quotes, findings and insights. Academics call this plagiarism and this does not make them qualified professionals. WARNING - Don’t be sucked into the hype….
I’m seeing far too many people, particularly women, fallen victim to this hype and have, through their PAID “reach your full potential” process, made regrettable life decisions, broken valued relationships, lost family, friends and jobs. Here as just a few examples:-
“your spouse has been holding you back from reaching your full potential”
“Ignore your partners needs, you deserve to put “YOU” first”
“your friend was being 'negative' and they are 'toxic' and you must rid them from your life”.
“your family has to understand that you need to be more selfish and pursue your dream”.
“your children just have to come to terms that your ‘you’ time is essential for everyone to be happy’ – their needs are secondary”
I can’t begin to tell you how damaging these statements have been. Sadly, many of these NOW broken relationships, were loved ones being honest enough to tell them the truth, for which the client has come to recognise all too late. So, who ultimately pays the price and whose pockets are being lined…
A professional would help you to establish clear and healthy boundaries around ALL relationships – they would never suggest to “rid” people from your life. They work together with your partner to address the importance of your needs being met. A therapist would work closely with your family to establish priorities and schedules so that everyone has shared responsibility and time. As humans, we thrive on connectivity with others – not walking solo to your dreams where your personal successes will feel hollow.
Unbelievably, people are being hooked by the marketing of these sites, completely smothered in platitudes, stunning photography and promises of a whole new life. I was gobsmacked to learn that very few people look for professional qualifications when seeking help or guidance on such important issues. This concerns me on so many levels, but here is just a few: -
· Those that go looking for help or searching for answers, are at their most vulnerable hoping to find a magic bullet for their problems.
· Unfortunately, those without appropriate training and qualifications only see the potential dollars signs not the social, legal and ethical responsibility to act in the best interests of the client. Trained professionals are held accountable by their registered organisation.
· Clients that have experienced a traumatic event or loss such as a relationship breakdown, redundancy, loss of a family member, etc are left wide open for re-traumatisation from the approach of a non-experienced and untrained professional.
· Some people are feeling pressured to make a decision that they are uncomfortable with in search for “their true bliss” or under the auspices of being “authentic”.
· Not being emotionally prepared for such a directive approach may lead some clients into depression and/or anxiety.
· The feeling of being overwhelmed may have a negative impact on self-esteem or self-worth.
It’s never easy finding the right source or approach for help and unfortunately; no legislation prohibits these people from working from this platform. But here are four (4) hard and fast rules to follow to avoid falling victim:-
1. Look for their professional qualifications – not their marketing prowess. A minimum degree in psychology, counselling, social work or mental health should be a starting point. People work hard to obtain their educational qualifications, those that have it will display it proudly front and centre. If you’re struggling to find a clear recognised qualification – YOU’RE ON THE WRONG WEBSITE.
2. Look for their registration, for the counselling profession in Australia, look for memberships to either the Australian Counselling Association or members of PACFA. Each member has to obtain a minimum level of qualifications to be accredited with further ongoing professional development and supervision to maintain their registration. Those requiring a mental health plan via a psychologist can be referred by their family doctor.
3. Look for their expert experience usually the ‘about me’ section of their website should contain their resume of the what, when, where and how of their professional career. This should not be “how I was a drop down drunk and turned myself around”, or “I went all eat, pray, love and found myself”. Successful people are proud of their work achievements and will always highlight and showcase the details.
4. Look for their office address or professional offices. Unless YOUR special circumstances require it, most professionals will want to work with you in person. A big part of effective counselling is the working relationship between the client and the therapist.
Once the above is established, you have at least completed a filter that personally and professionally protects your mental and psychological well-being. If you’re looking for some inspiration and motivation in your life, save your money and do what the “insighters” do - make Google your best friend.
Warning – no plagiarism! But please – feel free to share (a lot).
Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Executive Coach
Grad. Dip, Counselling
© Narelle Brigden Counselling, 2014