Misunderstood Psychology: Open Letter to Weekend Coaches

Misunderstood Psychology: Open Letter to Weekend Coaches

Psychology is a university career precisely because it is a very complex field of study. In this science there is nothing that is evident in itself, although judging how our lives have gone we may believe the opposite, that being happy and enjoying physical and mental well-being consists of following guidelines that are “common sense”.

That is why weekend coaches who base their training on workshops of a few months are so harmful . They are not so harmful because they use an English name instead of “psychologist” to get a better start in the job market, but because their practices are based on a lot of assumptions that are false.

Psychology is complex

Over the last few decades, the different tools available to psychotherapy have been improving and growing in number. What were initially considered as ways of addressing mental disorders today also include types of intervention in the general well-being of individuals. Psychologists can help improve social skills, learn effective forms of leadership, manage anxiety in stressful times, etc.

This kind of progress exists because all kinds of theories, hypotheses and complex research have been formulated about how we think, feel and act as human beings. In this way, deep-rooted and seemingly self-evident beliefs have been challenged, such as that we make purchasing decisions based on a rational cost-benefit logic. Reality is much more complicated than what common sense dictates .

Recently, however, there is a growing tendency to want to learn psychology and “ways to help others” simply through weekend courses or workshops that last a few months. These weekend coaches send out a very harmful message: that human psychology can be summed up as “doing what you really want” and getting closer to your goals by basically wanting it very badly and trying hard.

Blind faith in the will

If this conception of the human mind causes problems it is because it takes for granted a number of ideas that are not true. For example, that the solution to problems related to psychology is to stop making excuses and go for what you really want.

That is, it is assumed that many people’s discomfort is produced by the presence of self-imposed inhibitions and barriers . It is as if we all naturally tend towards happiness and the absence of it has been produced because we have strayed from the right path.

These kinds of approaches to psychological problems (whether they are disorders or not) basically put all the responsibility on the individual. They point out to him that he should try harder, that he should be happier, trust others more, and in general learn to focus on the good things in life for himself.

These kinds of proposals not only serve to make invisible the problems that are part of the environment in which the person lives; moreover, they are totally useless for a very simple reason: they do not provide any tool with which to move forward, they simply point out that the person has a problem that has not been solved. A description of what is happening is not an explanation of how to change that, and in order to know how to facilitate change, appropriate training is needed.

Coaching based on ambiguity

So, where a person with depressive symptoms, a weekend coach will try to help them by pointing out the importance of seeing the good in the bad , thinking about what they really want to do, etc. As if these kinds of processes are simple and you learn to do them on your own simply because you have privileged information about what is going on in your consciousness.

This idea that it is the client himself who knows most about himself and that the specialist should simply “encourage” the individual to reconcile himself with his own potential spontaneously is based on totally ambiguous and useless concepts.

As the weekend coach has not had time to learn the theory necessary to create a precise and adequate vocabulary about his work or to question the epistemological bases of his proposals, he will understand his work as a kind of art in which, without dominating too much, an emotional sensitivity must be developed (that is, not intellectual and that does not involve thinking about precise concepts) in order to connect with the mind of the other.

That’s why the weekend coach uses all kinds of terms that he doesn’t even know how to define without resorting to more totally ambiguous and confusing concepts: “to search inside oneself”, “to trust in one’s emotions”, “to heal one’s self” , etc. It is a way of working that does not even allow us to check if the sessions have served any purpose; how can we know if someone has managed to connect with their “inner self”?

Weekend coaches? Better with studies

Psychology is not an art, nor is it based on training to connect emotionally with others. These are characteristics that anyone could claim for themselves, including shamans or people who offer pseudo-scientific solutions such as family constellations.

Psychology is what it is because it is concerned with creating theories, hypotheses and theoretical models that can neither be learned in a single day nor use ambiguous language that means something different for each person. Practice is essential in this discipline, but theory is also essential.

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