I wanted to share this link to the Secular Therapist Project with you, my secular friends and well-wishers. I hadn’t previously heard about this until reading a post by Greta Christina today called 7 forms of atheist support you may never have heard of. There are lots of great links on there, and there are several things that make me happy about this list, but the Secular Therapist Project is definitely the tops for me, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m not normal.
Okay, none of us is. There is no psychological definition of normal, just a vague understanding we all have of the term. Many years ago, my ex-wife suggested to me that I might have a bit of Arrested Development. I was the victim of a traumatic experience many years ago, and she was worried that it might have had lasting footprints. I didn’t really think that to be the case, but seeing a therapist has always been something I’ve thought I ought to do, if only to get the stamp of approval that I really am this awesome (or broken).
A few days later, I was sitting in a therapist’s office. At the start of our first session, I told her that I was an atheist. I explained that it wasn’t something I thought would interfere with the therapy sessions, but I wanted her to be aware that if she expected me to Ohm my way to chakra alignment, give my sorrows up to God, or any other spiritual stuff, then this relationship was destined to fail. She then told me that she was a very devout Christian, and asked if that was a problem for me. I told her that many of my all time favorite people were Christians of various levels of devotion, and that I was used to living in a world where many had beliefs I didn’t share. So long as her faith stayed on the outside of our sessions, I couldn’t care less what she believed.
And honestly, that’s not even all that true. When I meet new people, especially people who are close in age to me, I can’t help but be a little let down if they explain that they are religious or woo-ful. I don’t allow that to cloud my overall judgement, but I do have an arrogant part of my brain that wonders why everyone doesn’t immediately believe the same things I do, and questions just how smart anyone is who isn’t just like me. Note the word arrogant. I get that this is my failing and not theirs. But I’m being honest here, and when a therapist tells me that she’s a devout Christian, I automatically wonder just how good a therapist they can be. But I counter that with knowledge that this is my arrogance and judgemental thinking, and I look past it.
So no, I didn’t give a greasy green shit if she was a person of faith, just so long as she didn’t use our sessions to attempt a conversion. I wasn’t about to pay someone money to show me the light.
The rest of the session went well, and I walked away sincerely doubting that I was in any way less than perfect. Remember that arrogance? Yeah, still there. At the end of the appointment, we made another appointment. I wouldn’t say I was eagerly awaiting it, but I had enjoyed the session and was positive about the whole thing.
When we met again, I sat down and she immediately blew it. “I wanted to touch on something you brought up in our last session.” I knew instinctively where this was going. “You said you are not very religious.” By the way, I’m using quotes, but I’m paraphrasing and not actually directly quoting.
“No, I said I was an atheist. I do not believe in God or Gods because I see no reason to believe in God or Gods. I don’t believe in horoscopes, magic potions, or alien conspiracies either.”
“And why do you think that you don’t have faith?”
And thus we spent the next hour on my dime talking about how she felt that faith was important. She clearly explained that this meant faith in The One True God, who she was fortunate enough to have learned about as a child while all the other heathen children learned wrong. She told me that spirituality was an important aspect of human development, and that anyone who didn’t have faith would need to address this through therapy in order to become a complete person. She told me a lot of crap, and most of it I just didn’t care to remember.
I paid her the money for the session, and she asked when we should get together again. I told her that I didn’t feel that was going to be worthwhile. I had been up front about my lack of faith merely to establish that as a direction I would not be willing to take, and she hadn’t respected that. And that was that.
Today, I should be in therapy. Honest answer is I can’t afford it, and as much as therapy is much needed to help me get over a lot of stuff that has happened of late, it just isn’t in the cards. I soldier on and deal with what I can, and I’m not walking around all wounded or anything. But if I suddenly could afford to see a therapist, I would be seeking one who will not bring my lack of faith in as a thing we needed to work on. It’s great to see that there are starting to be options for us faithless monsters.