I have never been keen on the notion of therapy, maybe because those dishing it out seem to be as troubled as those receiving it, if not more so.
In the UK there is a big fuss about reorganisation of the NHS, few seem to be in support, but most people are challenging it on political grounds (back door privatisation) or economic grounds (efficiency vs costs).
I think it is interesting that people aren’t saying, quite simply, we know organisations of this size don’t work!
Another line of attack might be to do with the encompassing of everything under one organisation, so that if you are a business psychologist you have to register (and pay) with the Health Professions Council. I have not yet got the logic of that, but it brings me on to Landmark. Or Landmark ‘Education’ as is most known here.
Now education does not need to be registered with the Health Professions Council, in fact I don’t think it has to be registered anywhere, but Landmark Education provide personal development courses, workshops, which some have said are just like cults. You can find videos from the France5 TV if you look carefully.
Landmark has a huge following, but some things are worrying.
First, it is worrying that experts in ‘cults’ are really saying that Landmark is a Cult. They often backtrack when they look like being sued, but the statements are out there plain as day.
Second, if you watch the French Sessions with Alain Roth where he calls someone an ‘A..hole’ several times, that seems pretty dangerous, even outrageous behaviour from the leader to someone he doesn’t know at all, so where is the ‘protection’? Oh, they sign a form on which they declare they are not having any mental problems. Yeh!!!
Third, it is a business, and as a lot of people work for years as ‘volunteers’ someone must be getting pretty rich on the back of signing up people.
OK, so that is the ‘attack’ on Landmark, could I offer something in defence? I don’t feel I want to given what I have seen, but I like to be fair in my ‘judgement’, my sense of balance to be offered all folk.
They have people, lots of people, who say that Landmark has changed their lives, for the better. It is difficult to measure that kind of thing, as any organisation like NICE knows. But those who are volunteers seem to be pretty positive about the benefits. OK, so they may be ‘brainwashed’, whatever that means, but watching too many TV soaps does that too.
How different is Landmark from Evangelical religions? Maybe not a lot. The crowd management looks much the same. The message seems to be similar, you are a sinner, repent now, stay repentant and do good deeds and you will be redeemed. It has worked for a long time.
I would like now to return to the NHS. Is the NHS a cult?
I went to a seminar recently, on a new and exciting way to help people. The workshop presenter was really very good. He was not a bully in any way, he was really nice. He was clear, he spoke from experience, so it seemed a good session all round.
But I am worried about some things.
First, although he was very good I didn’t think much was new. In fact I wanted to say that I had a book from the 1960’=’s which seemed to say much the same thing? Not identical but close.
Second, looking round at the audience, it seemed to have the same group of people as Landmark. There were young people looking for something that would be useful. There were older people who wanted something new, and there were even older people who looked pretty desperate, well, that is what I felt.
These were all, or nearly all I guess, people who helped other people, professionally.
So was this a new cult forming? Well, not a cult but a group of people supporting something new which was not so new because they felt there was hope on the horizon?
The question then comes back to the reorganisation of the NHS. I would ask, do we need therapists at all? Maybe we do, but I think we need to question all therapists, Landmark included, in the same fair and balanced way.
Maybe we should be telling people they don’t need therapy? Maybe some need treatment because what they eat or drink has got them medically off the track, but for others the ‘therapy’ could be quite simple.
Over the last 20 years things called Brief Therapy or Solutions Focused Therapy have gained ground. They are pretty similar to what you were allowed to tell your friend/neighbour, family member before professions got in the way. They were what the parish priest or the milkman would help with, as a bit of ‘advice’. Don’t get me wrong, they work, but they work because Nanny 911 works, because some simple advice about what to do and how to stick with it works.
I think the reason Landmark gets advocates is because too many people think that their solutions were tough to deal with, but the were not. All they needed was someone to say, sort yourself out. Landmark does this seemingly by taking all the self esteem out of someone and imposing the solution from on high, but that seems not a lot different to the NHS? If you don’t solve the problem as a nurse you go to the GP who then goes to the hospital consultant, eventually you feel you are with the Guru who gives you tablets which cure you. So what else can you believe but the tablets cured you?
So how do we do a balanced review of Landmark, and the NHS?
I think we need to look under the carpet to see what has been swept there.