Launch of the Therapist Project

Dr. Darrel Ray has been secretly laying the groundwork for a monumental undertaking.  Yesterday, it launched.

It is called “The Therapist Project” and it kicks the ass of literally every person on planet earth and their ancestors.

If you are looking for a secular mental health professional, this is the first place to look. Through this registry we hope you will find someone who can meet your needs or the needs of your loved ones. Using our system is simple and requires very little information from you. Our goal is to protect your confidentiality until you find a therapist to correspond with or to work with.

If you are a therapist, we encourage you to register with us. To make this project effective for secular clients, we need as many therapists as possible – a critical mass – that allows us to have therapists in every community.

This is both exciting and depressing.  It’s depressing because we shouldn’t even need this!  You go to a cardiologist and you expect them to use evidence-based treatment.  You go to a oncologist and you expect them to you use evidence-based treatment.

You want someone to treat your mental ills?  Time to go on the hunt for therapists who think evidence is just as effective as it is in all other medical branches.  And the more depressing news is that the problem runs deeper than I was aware (more on that later in the post).

The exciting part is that the Therapist Project at least makes the search easier (or at least it will soon, right now they’re still only registering therapists).

I did an email interview with Dr. Ray yesterday.  Here are some of the relevant excerpts.

What was your motivation for this?

After I published The God Virus in 2009, I was overwhelmed with requests from people asking for help to find a secular therapist, and it has not stopped since. I have heard dozens of stories from people saying that their therapist had a crucifix in his or her office or they advised me to go back to church, or they thought I should revisit my religious training “with an open mind.” One person told me, “My psychologist found out I was an atheist and berated me for not believing in Jesus, in Washington DC of all places.”  People need help, not Jesus or religion. My motivation is to connect them with therapists who are well trained and don’t rely on spiritual, religious or new age ideas.

What can mentally healthy people do to help?

They can do three things. First, if they know a good secular therapist, let them know about this project and urge them to get registered. Second, if they know someone who needs help and wants a secular therapist, have them search our site first. Third, go to recoveringfromreligion.org and donate. This effort costs time and money and so far we have done it on a shoe string. Anything would be appreciated and would help the over all mission of Recovering from Religion.

Who else is trying to fix this?

I know of no one who is doing anything like this. On the other side there are networks of Christian counselors. Some of the professional therapist associations even encourage spiritual, religious or fuzzy headed ideas and approaches. One therapist recounted to me her experience going to a national professional convention recently where over half of the talks and workshops involved spiritual, religious or new age ideas and methods. She came back and promptly resigned from the organization. Unfortunately, it is the main organization for her particular specialty. That means a huge number of members in that organization endorse and use methods that are not evidence-based.

Until now, no one seemed to be aware of this problem let alone trying to address it. The religious right has infiltrated or at least intimidated many academics into keeping their head down and at least pretending to be open to spiritual and religious ideas. Gone are the days when someone like Albert Ellis can aggressively advocate and train students in rational and evidence based methods. I don’t want to paint all academic therapy programs with the same brush, but the trend is unmistakable. Schools that were clearly teaching secular methods 20 years ago, now have instructors who defer to spiritual and religious students. There are still hard nosed, evidence-based, training programs, but they are being overwhelmed by graduates from religious institutions in many areas of the country.

How does one learn evidence-based methods if they attend a religious school whose mission is to perpetuate the religion? Here is Liberty University’s psychology department’s statement. In part it says:

“The study of psychology will teach students to interpret and influence human behavior, interactions and thinking so that God is served and honored.”

The description of the Marriage and Family graduate program has this sentence, “Emphasis is placed on the integration of faith into counseling practice…”

That is anything but evidence-based. How does one measure the effectiveness of faith-based therapy? Graduates of that program are eligible for state licensure as a Marriage and Family Counselor!  It is a growing problem as religious schools turn out therapists by the thousands and secular schools allow new age kinds of fuzzy headed thinking to creep into their training. Not all therapies are created equal. There are only a few that have any evidence of efficacy. In the Therapist Project, we are taking a hard stand against voodoo psychotherapy. New Age, Christian counseling, or Samaritan Counseling centers, all have religious ideas as the core of their approach.

On a final note, if you can, please recognize Han Hills of Humanists and Freethinkers of Cape Fear in North Carolina. He has worked hundreds of hours over six months to get the site up and ready. This would not be possible without his untiring efforts AND he did not receive a dime for his work. He does it because he knows how important this effort is.

It is no secret that purveyors of religion (especially Christianity) prey on the weak.  It’s why they visit people on the death beds, it’s why they try so hard to convert children.  They want people who have a hint of desperation who may convert for an empty promise of hope, since converting people through reason is a lost cause.  It should come as no surprise to me that they would put evangelists in a position of responsibility over others, like a therapist, in the interest of converting people under the guise of treating them.  As if people suffering from mental illness didn’t have enough to deal with.

That’s fucking low.  It places the interest of the pulpit above the well-being of the suffering.  This project is the antidote.  Spread word of it far and wide.

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