When Cybertherapy Goes Bad
Although Brandon knew he was not licensed, she says she was eager to listen
to him because he told her that increasing her ability to function was more
important than integrating her personalities -- something she wanted to hear.
"He told me to give the various personalities time and let them do whatever
they wanted. This was not good therapy. But he made it all sound so
Relying on the online "psychoanalyst," Brandon says she didn't get
the professional help she really needed. Eventually, confused and depressed,
she took an overdose of a tranquilizer. It wasn't enough to kill her, but the
experience led her to check into a mental hospital where she finally began to
get effective treatment.
Local police began an investigation of the self-proclaimed
"psychoanalyst," but he left that state before it was completed. The
entire incident infuriated the online community of people with multiple
personality disorder; one person posted a web page dedicated to exposing the
In his discussion with WebMD, this man offered glowing references from other
people he had helped. He pointed out that he doesn't charge for his therapy.
And he has continued to offer counseling on his own web site.
Incidents like these show that chat rooms are clearly not the place to go
for therapy, says Storm King of the International Society for Mental Health
Online. Seriously depressed or ill people like Brandon need intensive therapy,
face to face. "It's okay to try online therapy and see if it fits for
you," says King. "But don't assume it's going to always work real
Barbara Burgower Hordern is a freelance writer based in
Missouri City, Texas, a Houston suburb. Her work appears in publications
ranging from Money to Biography to Ladies Home