Something really ridiculous just occurred to me after listening to a documentary on the Synanon cult and it’s one of those “glad that didn’t go anywhere” moments, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
For various reasons I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression for a long time. I don’t know how much may be brain chemistry, how much may be environment (a LOT of it is definitely environment!) and how much may be dealing with past traumatic incidents. Back when I was attending Florida International University, they actually had a pretty good student health system that included mental health services that helped me out a lot for a while.
That is….. until the psychologist I was seeing was arrested due to involvement with Cuban espionage.
I mean— this was Miami, so could anyone be surprised? That’s a hell of a gray area. As various federal agencies came in performing parts of the investigation they COMPLETELY TRASHED the counseling and psychological services department of the student health and wellness services. Student and employee files were all seized and never returned, employees AND PATIENTS were all placed under ridiculous amounts of surveillance (yes, to the point that patient confidentiality was compromised), and most of the staff quit over it. This all basically happened over a summer semester when I wasn’t taking any classes at the university, and I came back not too long afterwards to try to see someone.
Well, that didn’t go great.
I was invited instead to join an “experimental, unstructured group therapy” model they were working on.
So this is where Synanon comes in, sadly. One of the tools the Synanon cult used for mind control and “treatment” of their members was something they called “The Game”*. This was a system of attack therapy in which participants were encouraged to confront one another and target weaknesses in an attempt to ……. improve aspects of their personalities and thinking? I don’t even know. I’m sure someone must have some bullshit non-peer-reviewed academic preprints on how this is actually supposed to *work*, but all it turns out to be is a massively traumatic experience, at least how we came out from it.
I remember of the two sessions I attended, there was no attempt whatsoever to guide the direction away from this – it was pretty much me and four other people in the group eventually just wanting nothing more to do with it as three others got very confrontational and the rest of us wondering what they were even there for.
One of the unusually bizarre aspects of this was that we were required to have no contact outside of these sessions, and it was quickly proven that we were being observed outside of them by other members of staff and clients who had been put to the task… so those of us who actually did feel any sort of connection and tried to speak outside of that first session were torn down for it at the next.
And this shit happened in a public university, of all places, which was trying to branch out into being a school of various medical disciplines. Glorious….
Needless to say this was a COLOSSAL failure, but worse, it made me feel like I couldn’t turn to anyone for help in the next few years because I was seeing a lot of private practices around the South Florida area turning to group sessions…. primarily because they were, unsurprisingly, more profitable to run. I couldn’t really imagine this going much better.
I’ve had pretty much zero luck with trying to seek any assistance since then. Usually I’ll find someone whose private practice is covered by my insurance, wait a number of months, and find that either they decide to stop accepting new patients and cancel on me, or I’m able to go in for an initial consultation after 4-7 months only to have the practice cease to exist shortly after that initial consultation. The best to date was the practice in Jupiter, Florida, which blinked out of existence due to Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” claiming its office space for Secret Service detail and a failed office move to an abandoned tapas bar. You can’t beat that for being a classic South Florida Sucks tale, can you? Unfortunately I’ve had nothing but similar false starts since I moved to California, it just seems to be the normal state of healthcare services in America.
* Not to be confused with a particularly annoying and content-free meme from a few years back. Trust me, it’s dead and you’re all free from it now.