Beginner's Luck: Why I'm Glad I Started with Nathaniel

When I decided to give psychotherapy a try in order to figure out how to become a happier person, I think it was "beginner's luck" that led me to Nathaniel Branden. I had no experience whatsoever with psychology or psychiatry or what is today referred to as the mental health system -- I just knew that I wasn't very happy and thought maybe I could do something about it. But by going to someone who turned out to be an outsider, not exactly a practitioner of mainstream therapy, I feel that I avoided a number of complications that might have dampened my enthusiasm for the whole experience, as well as possibly reducing my overall success. Here's what I mean by this.

There is a patronizing or paternalistic mindset within the so-called therapeutic state, of which the mental health system is an essential component, that pretty much assumes that it knows best, that their practitioners have the answers, and they will share these answers with you. If you are not happy, it is very likely an indication of some kind of a defect within you, which they will be only too happy to help you discover.

It is quite possible, of course, that your problem will require medication. There is so much information online about psychiatric medications and their ill effects that it would be redundant for me to duplicate the information here. But this is a big part of their armory.

The other thing that I avoided entirely by avoiding the mainstream mental health industry was any possibility of coercion. In my case it is doubtful that this would have been a factor since I never had anything that could be considered a psychic break or any real overt crisis; just the same, being involved with a system in which the practitioners have the power to impose their remedies on you by force if necessary is inherently troubling. At least it is to me, and if the profusion of websites dedicated to getting out from under the problems caused by traditional psychiatry is any indication, it is troubling to many others as well.

The third major component that I believe I was wise to avoid is the entire aspect of government or third-party involvement. This might sound like pure heresy in this age of "affordable care" and all of that type thinking, but the simple act of paying for my own help was in fact part of the cure. The majority of what I did was one form or another of group therapy, so the expenses involved were not nearly as outlandish as they could have been. But if I had gone the government route, the various decisions about what kinds of help I would receive and who the providers would be would have not been up to me. It seems self-evident that a primary goal of any kind of personal growth attempt would be to attain more autonomy and more control over one's own life. Giving up this control in the name of accomplishing this is inherently contradictory. Of course, this is the same society that at one time declared that we needed to destroy Vietnam in order to save it, so I guess this should not be too surprising.

These are some of the difficulties that I believe I avoided as a result of choosing Nathaniel Branden as my therapist. I don't mean to imply that Branden was somehow unique in all the world and the only one with "the answers" -- but he certainly had an unusual and somewhat controversial approach that I and many many others found extraordinarily powerful.

So here's the problem: Nathaniel Branden, unfortunately, is no longer with us. Someone looking for the kind of help that he spent his career providing can of course read many of his books, watch any number of his videos, and listen to a variety of recorded lectures. But what if you want to actually work with someone? If you, like me, are somewhat suspicious of many of the mainstream approaches to "mental health"-and if in fact you prefer personal growth to mental health note to myself link to the article about personal growth versus mental health-what can you do? How can you locate others who are providing some of the same kinds of alternative forms of assistance, that are outside of the propaganda-driven mental health system and with a more positive agenda?

This is one of the important functions I hope to provide here on thebranden I have believed for just about all of my life that many many people would benefit from some kind of help in making the most of their lives-and it frustrates me continually to realize that many if not most people seem to be highly skeptical of the entire segment of our society dedicated to providing this kind of help. And of course here I go, contradicting myself, because I just a few sentences ago was talking about the propaganda and other unfortunate agendas of the mental health industry, which I am certain has a lot to do with the negative perception many have of the entire undertaking.

So, rather than just stand by and watch the proverbial baby get thrown out with the proverbial bathwater, I am going to do my best to provide an ongoing list of products and services and providers that I believe are in line and spiritually compatible with the kinds of things Nathaniel Branden provided. It is actually a good time to be doing something like this, as more and more individuals as well as professionals are questioning the long-standing tradition of psychiatry and its coercive, pharmaceutical laden approach to solving people's problems. I can think of a number of practitioners already who will probably wind up on my list, and I hope to come up with many more on an ongoing basis.

However, I also realize that even with an excellent, non-mainstream therapist, getting involved with therapy as such is not for everybody, for any number of reasons. Part of it might simply be timing: like anything new, some people would probably prefer to take it a step at a time; jumping into a whole new experience like therapy, with its commitments of time and energy and resources, can be kind of a big deal. I think it might be helpful for those who are curious but not really committed if there was some kind of an intermediate step available. This is something else I am intend to do with this website and my companion site, conflict is I will provide some of those alternatives.

Someone else in the human potential field that I have a lot of respect for even though I never worked with him or met him for that matter is Peter Breggin, a libertarian psychiatrist. He has made several references in a couple of his books to his belief that in many cases, an individual can benefit greatly if they simply have an opportunity to discuss some of what is on their mind. This can be just a casual conversation, not necessarily with a therapist or any kind of a professional but with someone who is interested in what they have to say and willing to be a careful and considerate listener. Dr. Breggin has gone on to say that for most people the only opportunity for the only kinds of people they are able to really discuss the important aspects of their lives with, or at least the troubling aspects of their lives, are therapists or clergymen. This is where I hope to provide a third alternative.