Conspiracy Theories in the Therapy Encounter

Conspiracy Theories in the Therapy Encounter

By Psychotherapy Networker

July/August 2021

Back in February, we asked our social media followers about an issue dominating the cultural conversation: conspiracy theories. We wanted to know if conspiracy theories—which might be considered a dangerous kind of delusion—were showing up in the consulting room and how therapists were handling them. Boy, did that generate some buzz! Trying to fit every response in the pages of this magazine would be, well, practically delusional of us. But in the spirit of continuing the conversation and highlighting the range of viewpoints, we’ve collected some of our most popular ones here.

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When my clients talk excitedly about political conspiracy theories and fears, my mind wanders to the stages of early childhood development. I’m reminded of a preschooler having a tantrum.

In that moment of overwhelm, there’s little cognition to mitigate the child’s feelings. I consider what a parent’s options are at these times: wait for the storm to pass; get pulled down into the child’s vortex; or ideally, help the child integrate thought with those primitive feelings.

After a tantrum, parents can help children build in cognition by processing the experience, reflecting on the effectiveness of a tantrum versus words, and discussing the logical rationale for the limit that was set—such as no cookie before…

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