I’d like to try it myself, although I doubt I ever will; I understand its expensive and I feel no pressing psychological need, no potential mental illness or neurosis that needs to be examined. I suppose I could get it through the VA, but I have no real justification for taking up the time of a therapist just to satisfy my own curiosity when there are others who really need help with real problems.
I’ve always been a very introspective person, I’m curious about what I know, and how I know what I know, and I’m honest enough with myself to know I’ve often acted irrationally in the past. I have no way of guaranteeing I’m not doing so now. Besides, I spend a lot of time inside my head looking around, and I have a feeling an experienced and educated guide might help me see something I’ve missed–or refused to see. At my age you spend a lot of time examining your life, your past experiences, and trying to rethink some of the conclusions you have arrived at, some of the opinions and prejudices you have embraced.
Like most people with a background in the hard sciences, I’ve always been suspicious of the social sciences in general and psychology in particular. There are just too many competing schools of thought and lack of consensus among practitioners in the field. There seems to be no generally agreed-upon theory to guide the student. Consistent theories can be valuable, even if they are dead wrong! Even Ptolemaic astronomy helped pave the world for Copernicus and Kepler. I get the impression psychiatry is now at the same point medicine was about 500 years ago. We don’t yet know infections are caused by microbes and that the blood circulates through the veins and arteries, pumped by the heart and oxygenized in the lungs. We’re still convinced that there are “humors” and that when they are unbalanced the body gets sick and we have to bleed or leech patients to restore the balance. Still, even in the middle ages, doctors knew quite a bit, and could treat many injuries and diseases. There was a lot of trial and error and a lot of guesswork, and a lot of nonsense, but there was a lot of sound observation and intelligence, too. As Carl Sagan once pointed out, when bitten by a poisonous snake in the jungle, if a physician and antivenin are not available, the local witch doctor is better than nothing.
Psychology is not physics, but a psychiatrist has an education, the accumulated experience of centuries, and is (hopefully) aware of the recent research in his field. He also has his intelligence and intuition, and the experience he has gained from years of clinical practice. Surely, that must count for something. Surely he knows things I don’t. If I go prowling around the attic, it would be nice to have someone with me who’s been in other attics before.
Maybe I should see a priest. Many are highly intelligent and have extensive experience in counseling, but I suspect a hardened skeptic like myself might have trouble finding common ground, or even taking good advice.