Mental Therapy in Second Life

Practicing psychiatry in SL is probably not possible. The difference is psychiatrists are dealing with pathological problems; hormone imbalance, physical brain damage, developmental issues, and other problems that can be treated with drugs or surgery. A need for blood and other lab tests are needed to guide treatment. Psychologists typically refer such patients to psychiatrists.

Dr. Fletcher’s description of people in Second Life is framed from a perspective those outside the field of psychology may not be aware of. Training in psychology removes many of a person’s aversions to societies taboos.

Consider. A foundational aspect of counseling is being able to hold the client in high positive regard. Carl Rogers, a psychologist – 1902-1987, considered the counselor’s regard of the client as one of the most influential aspects of counseling. How would one counsel a child molester, rapist, or a serial killer and have ‘high positive regard’ for them? Only by being able to separate the act from the person. If the ‘act’ over whelms a counselor’s thinking creating an aversion then they are useless as a counselor in that area.

The whole point of removing aversions is to allow counselors to see past the surface and deal with the mental issues that lead to problem behaviors. As a byproduct of that training there is little that knee-jerk-offends counselors. Also, concepts of right and wrong are probably less an issue for mental health professions. That doesn’t mean they will tolerate continuing molestation or abuse that violates laws. But, the issue usually isn’t so much ‘what is legal or illegal’ as it is: ‘what helps or benefits people?’ That means client/patient and third parties. Protecting children while counseling a molester is part of the process. That can lead to serious ethical dilemmas and is why most counselors have counselors to keep things in balance.

Psychological counseling is about getting a person to a place where they can understand what is holding them back or causing mental distress then helping them change. Most of such efforts are verbal. The counselor is limited in some ways by not being able to see the body language of the client. On the other hand, as Drax points out, the anonymity of the client is likely to reduce the inhibitions of the client.

The biggest problem for both the counselor and the client is figuring out if everyone is for real. Facebook thinks having real names is crucial for keeping a civil online environment. OK, they are supposed to be free to think that. We have studies that strongly suggest that is true. Being able to verify real names could have advantages for virtual counseling. I agree with Facebook management that having your real name known can modify behavior. But, it doesn’t work for everyone or all situations. Especially for minorities fighting oppressive governments.

Trying to have the government or a democratic process (decision by committee?) sort this out, will be a disaster. It generally has been. Freedom has its risks, but also offers the possibility of greater potential for people to find their way to new ways of resolving the problems. Government reducing freedom by imposing control is never the answer.

Consider. In the 50 years since 1965 – the start of the war on poverty, U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. Adjusted for inflation, this spending (which does not include Social Security or Medicare) is three times the cost of all U.S. military wars since the American Revolution.

The interesting thing about poverty numbers is they declined most before the government got involved. Since 1965 when the war on poverty began and government got involved in a big way the number of people living in poverty as a percentage of population has pretty much remained the same or slightly increased. The government has effectively locked a percentage of people into living in poverty. (Reference) The goal to reduce the number of people living in poverty has not and there is no indication it ever will be achieved. But, because it is government, we can’t move on to something with a chance of lifting people out of poverty.

When a rationalization of why some should be forced to behave as the majority or a minority thinks they should is based on ‘discrimination’ the argument has generally moved toward government enforcement. Our laws are setup to keep the government from discriminating, not citizens or businesses.

As we corrected racial abuses and prejudices the idea of discrimination became a political tool. Now it is a hammer that treats every issue as a nail. Facebook doesn’t discriminate. They don’t care who or what you are, they want everybody’s real name. But, those wanting things their way with little thought to personal freedoms quickly roll out the name calling and misrepresentation saying Facebook discriminates against drag queens…

2 thoughts on “Mental Therapy in Second Life

  1. There is no where to go for counseling about things that have to do with SL except for SL because RL people don’t get it.

    • I suspect I understand your thinking. I think it is probably not completely true, but I suspect for many counselors it would be. Good counselors don’t really have to understand someone’s issues to help them. Think of what they do as holding a mirror for you while you do your make up. They wouldn’t need to be a make up specialist or even know how you wanted your look to help.

      By definition it is not a psychologist’s job to ‘fix’ a person, they aren’t broke. Think of it as giving map directions to a lost person. They aren’t broken, just lost. They know where they want to go (who or how they want to be), they just don’t know how to get there.

      I can’t imagine any issue in SL that does not have a similar RL issue, other than the technical ones like how to take a good picture or recover inventory.

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