13 Reasons Why: A (somehow) critical overview

I honestly wasn’t going to watch the latest trendy Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”. I had heard various criticism from different areas in my life and I honestly didn’t want to watch TV to feel upset. But after many people also recommended me to watch it, “because you are a therapist”, I thought it would actually be good to understand how society may be seeing some of these issues.

And aside from being a “binge-worthy” kind of show, and being an artistic and cinematographically well done show, it has some very problematic representation of many issues. These issues by themselves would be difficult to tackle in a show, but together send some very confusing ideas. I would like to go over some of the most important ones and share how, in my opinion, the show gets it right and wrong. I will try to not give away major spoilers other than general story themes.

It is definitely not a show for teenagers

Netflix categorizes this show as “TV-MA”, or “for mature audiences”, adding “it may not be suitable for children 17 and under”. It speaks to me about the irony of a story that is lived by people under 17 that cannot be watched by them, as if what teenagers usually live is almost unbearable given their maturity.

Bullying

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Bullying is a big topic on the show and although it may touch on some components, it does little help to shed light on the issue. Sure, the show is not a documentary and has every right to be sensationalist, but I still think some aspects could have been brought up.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 40 to 80 percent of children will be bullied at one point of their school career. According to them:

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.

The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.

So without going much deeper on the topic I see a couple of misinterpretations that the show does. One of the worst factors of bullying is the factor of repetition that we see in the definition. We may see some of that on the show, but not through the same people always, it’s almost like it’s separate incidents that make someone feel bad. It is not usually the case.

Another important detail in the definition is that the person being bullied does nothing to cause it. This is very unclear in the show as the protagonist is reminded of how she is “bringing this to herself”. Very dangerous statement that I see constantly brought up again.

If you are interested in learning more, check out The Bully Project to access tons of resources on the topic for educators, parents or students. They have help for many things, like what to do if you are being bullied as well as a toolkit for educators to bring to their schools.

Suicide and Mental Health

The topic of suicide is represented throughout the TV show with some (but little) understanding of the phenomenon of suicide. This is such an important topic that I believe it would need a separate post. Mental health in general is not represented in any realistic or useful way. I don’t want to spoil the show but definitely the portrayal of the counselor is not the best we could have gotten (and yes, I am biased on this one) and it could make other teenagers think that they should not ask for help.

A quick search on google scared me, as the first websites when searching for suicide content are not very well founded. I personally disagree with the notion of blaming and scaring youth to not kill themselves. It has proven to be an unsuccessful method (quick google search of news) and I personally think it’s counterproductive to wanting adolescents to have honest and meaningful conversations with adults.

On the basics of what you need to know, suicide is more complicated than just deciding to kill yourself or not. It is true that it can be prevented, if the person goes to counseling, takes medication and/or has a good support network that can notice the warning signs. However, even with those strength factors, someone may decide to kill themselves. It is also true that bullying, sexual assault and stress can be risk factors for teenagers who are already struggling with their sense of “being”.

One thing I was very against of is the depiction of the actual suicide with the method. Multiple researches (this or this for example) have found that depiction of suicide in media and news actually increases suicidality in the target population of that media. To do this in the show for artistic purposes is very irresponsible, in my opinion.

If you or anybody you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, remember the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or check out their website.

Sexual Assault

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The show does poorly in representing sexual assault in any useful way. We all should know by know that women are not believed and slut shamed when they come forward with allegations of sexual assault. By representing the same idea, and by showing rape in a very graphic way, the show does nothing to help on this issue. It does represent rape culture in the way that many of us have gotten to know it. But by itself, it becomes more of a problem than anything else.

I do think 13 Reasons Why represents sexuality in a more realistic way than other shows. Through the eyes of hormoned teenagers we learn about fluidity, exploration and about the difficulties that come from understanding one-self and our needs. If anything, it exemplifies (through the act of not addressing it), that consent is something that needs to be taught in schools, prior to the ages in which adolescents are sexually interested.

If you want more info about sexual assault, RAINN is doing great work on a national level. If you need help, visit their website or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).

Adolescence

How well is adolescence represented in the show?

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These people are the generation ‘Z’ers, those whom some adults have described as the saviors of the wrongs that all the previous generations have done. But what we see depicted is more of the old ‘millennials be millennials’ content. They are represented as entitled, spoiled, struggling, self-serving, selfish, sex and drug oriented youth. Is this all true? Without wanting to talk for them (although my answer is a clear no) this great article of non other but Teen Vogue has some brief commentary from teenagers themselves.

What can we do?

So, I have explored some of these issues and given you just a couple of resources to get more information for you, your children, or your students.  I think it is great that many people are reflecting on these issues and talking about it. It’s really good if our teenagers are talking to us about it. But, I also believe wholeheartedly that, awareness, for the sake of it, it’s useless. Prevention, however, is useful. And awareness campaigns are usually in the very beginning of prevention, but they are not enough.

For all of these issues, we need to educate ourselves if we are privileged enough to have access to information. If you can contribute into other people having this education, do! This goes from crating training for teachers about bullying, legislating for sexual education, creating caring environments in our schools, or as simple as making sure that no child goes to school hungry. I am sure that the writers of the show did not expect to change the world with 13 Reasons Why, but they sure should have given it more thought into what they could have done to better help our society in some of these problems.

If you want to contact me for anything, you can do so here, or in the comments bellow!

 

Types of therapies: Psychoanalysis

In the last post I was telling you about the mini series of posts that I am creating. For the first post of the series, I have decided to write about psychoanalysis, as it is probably the oldest theory in psychotherapy, and the most known.

It is, however, very misunderstood by the lay people, because of the multiple references to it in pop culture and movies.

Briefly

Sigmund Freud is known as the founder of this theoretical orientation, and he developed it partly practicing with himself. He is most known for his psychosexual development theories, that were, and still are, controversial for many people. However, he did contribute many things to the field of psychology, creating a shift towards therapy that wasn’t so focused on the brain and the science behind our behavior.

I believe one of the most important contributions of psychoanalytic theories was the introduction of the unconscious. The unconscious would be a part of ourselves that we do not know, but that impacts greatly in the way we feel, think and behave. Through analysis, Freud believed, we can start to unwrap some of the mysteries of the unconscious, and create change by learning the truth of ourselves.

He also created the theory of personality, which you have probably heard or read about: the id, ego and superego (click here for extended info).

He and his followers also believed in the importance of childhood and parents. Thus, analysis would focus most of its time in learning about past experiences that might have created problems for our present self.

From Clínica Picazo

If you are thinking about engaging in this kind of therapy you should know that this is generally a long term therapy, with usual meeting sessions every week or twice weekly.

Therapist

The classical psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapists are trained to be a blank slate and to not self disclose anything. This might come off as coldness, but they believe that by being completely blank, the client will project their own life’s characteristics and problems into the therapist.

Client

What the therapist wants from the client is for them to talk openly all the time. By talking without any context or questions, the client engages in a process of free association, which psychoanalysts believe is important to obtain the information that the unconscious is trying to hide.

*Modern approaches- psychodynamic orientations

After Freudian psychoanalysis, there were many other theories that evolved from it like attachment theories or object relationship theories. The more modern approaches of the practice are not as orthodox regarding self disclosure or being completely blank. What’s more, many therapists of other orientations use psychodynamic understandings for their practice.

Resources

American Psychoanalytic Association

For more info on the theory: APsA.

To find a therapist: find help.

If you have any questions, as always, contact me.

 

Mini series: types of therapy and therapists

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Hello everyone!

Wow, it’s been a long time! If you are wondering why it took me so long to write more, the reason is, I am in a master’s degree and that is taking so much time! Related to that, now you can check the about page, where you will find general information about this blog and about myself.

That said, today I am bringing some fresh ideas. It occurred to me- better said, to my partner- that there was a real need for people who decide to go to therapy and don’t know what kind of therapist they should search for. Based on that, I would like to create a series of posts that will mainly concentrate in the style of therapy that each theories have. Today I am going to talk about why having this information is important-at least to me.

Why is it important to choose a (good) therapist

The truth is, it might not be so important to you. If you think you could get along with any kind of person, or if you are very open to try different styles, or if you have the security that any person with good will is able to help you, then you don’t need anything else!

However, many people who go to therapy end up not liking their therapist, or the style of therapy, and stop going to therapy and never try again. The reasons can be several, but in many cases I will dare to say that the connection between therapist and client wasn’t working. Therapist and client need to connect, in my opinion, as friends, classmates, partners or coworkers do.

But the truth is, you are not going to know your therapist before the first session. In fact, even after many time you may not know your therapist at all. So how are we suppose to choose with which therapy to go? Here is where knowing his or her theoretical orientation will help. Theoretical orientation is the base in which therapist base our treatments and actions. When we subscribe to a theory, the theory guides us in how to treat the client, the treatments to follow, techniques to use etc.

How the mini series will contribute

I am not going to mention every kind of therapy (there are around 300 different therapies out there) but the most relevant ones or the ones that are gonna make a difference in how the session is held. However, if there is any therapy that you heard about and you would like to learn more about just let me know, I will be glad to help.

My idea is that knowing the theory will let you know a lot about how things might be in session.

What if I don’t know the theoretical orientation?

Many therapists will not disclose this information. Well this might be a bit controversial, but they have to tell you. There is no possible good way of working in therapy without having a theoretical orientation. It is where we base not only treatment but also ethics.

It might happen that the therapist says he is integrative. Many professionals integrate more than one theory to they work, that is usual and completely fine. They will still probably subscribe to one theory, if you have any doubts, just ask them.

Other things to take into consideration

I am not going to be a snob and say that theory is everything and that you should be only guided by that. There are plenty reasons to choose a therapist. For example, she lives near you, she is a woman, he is black, he is older than you are, has cheap sessions or can conduct therapy through Skype. If any of these reasons or others are good enough for you to choose a therapist, just do it!

Before the first session you are going to be able to collect some information. Call this person, take a look at their website if they have one, ask them all the questions you need before the first day. I think that therapist fail to share this information in a way that is understandable and transparent.

After having this information you will be able to know more or less if this is the right therapy for you, or not. The truth is that not every therapy is for everyone, and you don’t have to like every therapist either.

In the next post I will talk about Psychoanalytic therapy, subscribe to receive the post as soon as it’s published!

Thanks for reading!

Psychology for dummies: 10 misconceptions about psychology.

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Although starting the first post of the blog insulting my readers may not sound like a good idea, let’s face it: we don’t know much about psychology!

If you are a psychologist you probably already know the typical sentences with which everyone comes to you after knowing your profession. If you are not here are some examples:

  • I don’t believe in psychology
  • Every psychologist s crazy
  • Are you gonna read my mind?
  • Psychoanalyze me!
  • If the psychiatrist can give you medicine, why go to the psychologist?
  • I dreamt… what does it mean?
  • Psychologist must be rich!
  • Only crazy people go to therapy

After dealing myself with people that don’t know what psychology is, rather than being just mad at them, I thought, “why not explain what it really is?”. So I ended up picking up some of-in my opinion- the worst misconceptions about psychology. of course they are not the only ones, and this is no official parameter, it’s my own opinion. Let’s go step by step. Continue reading