• There’s a big difference between tolerating your best friend’s bad advice and accepting the psychiatric services of a random guy in Chicago.
  • Unfortunately, unlicensed mental health providers can slip through the cracks and wreak havoc on a person’s psyche.
  • These three true-life stories showcase how important it is to check a therapist’s credentials before scheduling a session.
  • You can trust Thriveworks to hire only fully licensed, experienced, exceptional mental health providers.

You don’t often hear about outlaw mental health providers in the news. After all, aren’t we all amateur counselors when it comes to listening to and supporting our friends and family? We’ve all given and received some rogue guidance about our jobs, goals, behaviors, and relationships. How much damage can an unlicensed mental health practitioner do?

3 Times When People Really Should Have Checked Their Therapist’s Credentials

Well, it turns out that they can do a lot of damage. Just ask the traumatized teenager in Boston who had to fight off the high school “counselors” who were determined to hug out his pain. Or ask the nine-year-old girl who was prescribed psychiatric medication from “Dr. Dre,” a con artist who was eventually arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Or, most tragically, ask the scarred survivors of the 1978 massacre in Jonestown. 

If there’s one lesson to take from the following horror stories, it’s that you should only accept psychological treatment from fully licensed, thoroughly ethical professionals (such as the top-rated providers at Thriveworks). 

Emotional Abuse of Teens in Boston

For at least 15 years, public high school students in Boston were subjected to group psychotherapy sessions led by unlicensed program leaders. These sessions were called “Re-evaluation Counseling,” or RC, and they often coerced kids into crying, yelling, screaming, and essentially reliving their acute personal hardships with no professional follow-up. In fact, legitimate counseling or psychiatric treatment was discouraged. Some students described the RC sessions as “emotional abuse.” One black high school sophomore had to flee a school gym one night when several white adults tried (literally) to “wrestle out his emotions” and “purge his trauma from experiencing racism.”

No. Just, no.  

Eventually the students rebelled. They called a press conference to tell the world how harmful the RC sessions had been, and the school board shut down the program. Forcing kids to open up about their deepest psychological traumas in the company of their school peers and strange, unlicensed adults is not good therapeutic practice.

Surprise!: No, “Dr. Dre” Does Not Have a Real Medical Degree

The millionaire rapper and entrepreneur Dr. Dre has never claimed to be a medical doctor, but the other Dr. Dre, aka Scott Redman, who wrote 71 illegal prescriptions for victims in Chicago, was convicted in 2016 of unlawfully posing as a licensed psychiatrist. When DEA agents interrogated him, Redman confessed to prescribing psychiatric drugs for people suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and panic attacks. 

Just so everyone knows, it takes about 12 years of higher learning to become a licensed psychiatrist: four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, and four years of residency. You tend to learn a lot about the complexities of human psychology and physiology during those 12 years. Therefore, if you think you might benefit from the services of a psychiatrist or any other physician, please do not trust anyone with the first name “Dr.” Always look for that shiny “MD” after their name. 

Cult Leaders Do Not Give Good Psychological Advice 

Cults are notorious for emotional manipulation. Cult leaders can exploit an individual’s need to belong by providing them with a built-in “family”. They can make promises about self-actualization, spiritual fulfillment, and salvation, all while psychologically programming people into blind loyalty and servitude. 

An individual might reach out to a cult leader for the same reason they reach out to a psychotherapist. Maybe they feel fragile, distressed, confused, or hungry for something more in life. Unfortunately, a cult leader lacks the professional ethics and expert knowledge to make anything but a destructive dent in someone’s psyche. 

For example, the cult leader Jim Jones (of the Peoples’ Temple cult and the Jonestown Massacre) demanded that his tragic followers write down all their fears and mistakes. This might seem like a harmless enough exercise in a licensed therapist’s office, but in the remote jungle of Guyana, South America, Jones used his followers’ emotional honesty against them with terror and public humiliation. 

Counseling with a License: Here’s What Can Go Right

When you book a session with a licensed mental health provider at Thriveworks, you can expect to receive evidence-based, compassionate treatment that can give your mind and body a legitimate boost. Schedule an appointment at your local office today and you can meet with a counselor online or in-person as early as tomorrow.

And remember, if someone claims to be a “board-certified hypnotherapist,” you might want to ask what board. And what certification.