The Therapy-Industrial Complex

When ‘help’ doesn’t help
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021


The therapy-industrial complex has imposed a Marxist view of mental health on our major institutions. Education, human resources, law enforcement, the media, and, of course, health care have all embraced the “disease model” of mental health. It asserts that good feelings come effortlessly to “normal” people, so bad feelings are evidence of a disease.

To cure the disease, you only need to “accept help” from the therapy-industrial complex.

The disease model is ostensibly based on science, but it’s clearly based on Marxist thought. It suggests that happiness is unfairly distributed because those who have it did nothing for it. It insists that the government must provide “access” to “help” those unjustly deprived of happiness, and when that doesn’t work, more and more “treatment” is the only solution.

The disease model has created a terrible mess.

It leads most people to believe they are broken because happiness doesn’t come effortlessly.

Behaviors that harm mental health are tolerated because the disease model makes other causes taboo.

Treatment has a low success rate, so endless rounds of treatment with troubling side effects result.

Identity groups build around disease labels, putting the focus on “advocacy” for “accommodation,” instead of mental health.

The most important problem, of course, is that the disease model distracts us from actions that promote mental health.

If you question the disease model of mental health, you are condemned as a hater, a stigmatizer, and an anti-science nut. So most people just accept it. In fact, most people don’t notice it the way a fish doesn’t notice water because you don’t hear alternatives.

Here is an alternative:

Happiness is a skill that must be learned. If you didn’t learn yesterday, you can learn today. “Help” is good when it helps you learn the skill of managing your emotions. “Help” doesn’t help when it distracts you from internal skill-building by supporting your tendency to blame externals.

Good feelings are hard to get from this brain we’ve inherited. Our happy brain chemicals aren’t designed to flow all the time for no reason. Our brain saves them for moments when needed to motivate survival behavior. But our brain defines survival in a quirky way: with neural pathways built by past experience, and with a mammal brain that prioritizes the survival of your genes.

As a result, we’re all tempted to do quirky things to stimulate our happy chemicals. Managing these impulses is the challenge that comes with the gift of life. The government can’t manage your impulses for you. The therapy-industrial complex can’t manage them for you. When people fail to manage their impulses, it isn’t the fault of people who are managing their impulses.

Unhappy brain chemicals complicate life further. They make us feel like our survival is threatened even when we don’t consciously believe that. Threat chemicals tell your rational brain to look for evidence of a threat, so we are very good at finding evidence of threat. Repetition builds neural pathways that make it easier to feel threatened in the future. Bad feelings spiral unless we learn to manage them.

Humans have struggled to manage this quirky brain since our species began. Every culture develops ways to help people manage their emotions. The Marxist mindset has brought us a new way: to see yourself as a victim of a disorder.

Therapists may be well-intentioned individuals who are just doing what it takes to keep their jobs. But the greater good isn’t served by a theory that trains people to believe they are broken and must be fixed by an expert, as though you were getting your tooth or car fixed.

The therapy-industrial complex now defines mental health in your school, your workplace, your law enforcement, your media, and your health care system.

Your choices are limited in these institutions. But in the privacy of your mind, you still have a choice. You can refuse to see happiness as an entitlement and focus on building emotion-regulation skills instead.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Loretta Breuning
Loretta Breuning
Loretta G. Breuning, Ph.D., is founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay. She is the author of many personal development books, including “Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels" and "How I Escaped Political Correctness, And You Can Too.” Dr. Breuning’s work has been translated into eight languages and is cited in major media. Before teaching, she worked for the United Nations in Africa. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Tufts. Her website is