I won’t deny that it was a treat to see The New Yorker finally take on group therapy, even if accidentally. The New Yorker magazine, of course, is about as ubiquitous in New York City psychotherapy offices as Oriental rugs, over-sized plastic paddles stamped “MEN” and “WOMEN” attached to tiny keys, and the static drone of those off-white, domed noise-making machines. Every issue seems to have at least one therapy scene, sketched out in that New Yorker style and with that particular New Yorker “everyone in New York is in therapy, so we all get the joke” humor.
It is quaint how the scenes inevitably display a pen-grasping therapist seated behind (and just out of view of) a reclined patient. In NYC, at least, life does imitate art; these scenes are barely updated dioramas of that famous treatment room in Vienna inhabited by the intellectual grandfather and great-grandfather of the therapists depicted. Either because psychoanalysis is still the therapy mode du jure among The New Yorker set, or because it’s just so darn fun to pick on, it’s always there in the waiting room to provide a smile when you’ve got just enough time to flip through the cartoons before your therapist beckons.
Ha! That’s rich!
Wouldn’t it be hil-arious, this joke implies, if your therapy were crowdsourced just like all those techies are doing with programing and design?
Well, I’m not sure it’d be hilarious or not, Mr. Sipress, but it sure makes for great therapy.
Crowdsourcing is a relatively new term for a very old idea. Posting a series of head shots on Facebook with the caption, “Which ones do you like best?” is a ubiquitous contemporary example of crowdsourcing. In the pre-social-networking Stone Age it was a simple show of hands in a decision making process or a, “Hey, which skirt looks best for my date tonight?” Crowdsourcing is used in everything from graphic design to computer programing. Probably the most important and successful example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia where people from around the world collaboratively create and edit content.
So, crowdsourcing? In therapy?
You bet. Just as having a network of opinions can be helpful online, having a therapy group can be a powerful creative force in building your life. Having a group provides you with more question askers, thought provokers, system testers. You’ve got more to work with. Even when your therapist is terrific, group therapy gives you so many more options.
Not just any crowd
You wouldn’t just leave it up to your friends on Facebook or Twitter to pick the new logo for your business. There’s an art to taking in and making use of the opinions of a well-informed crowd. In group therapy, you’re still the one making decisions about how you live your life. And, the stronger your relationship with your crowd (the therapy group) the more likely it’ll be that their help is useful.
Group therapy: An innovation?
Much like crowdsourcing, group therapy is both new and old. On the one hand, getting help from a group of people (a family, a team, a tribe) is about as old as humankind. On the other hand, group therapy as a model of therapy has come and gone over the years, but has increased in popularity again over the last 15 years. Which is to say, in spite of The New Yorker’s stance, it’s hardly new.
But I’m pleased to see The New Yorker catching up. I hope this means there’ll be more slandering of group therapists in future issues. Even if it means being subjected to more comedic ridicule, I can’t wait!