Therapy On The Couch

In Saturday's Mail, agony aunt Virginia Ironside triggered a fierce debate when she condemned therapy as a fraud. She wrote that having spent £54,000 on different therapist over many years, almost nothing had alleviated her depression. So is she right that the thousands of Britons who spend millions on counselling every year are wasting their money? Here, four celebrities who have been through therapy give their own trenchant opinions on both sides of the debate. 

Performer Toyah Willcox, 47, has had a long-distance marriage with guitarist Robert Fripp, 59, for 19 years. His playboy past drove her to a therapist, but it failed to help. In their unusual relationship, she lives in a 17th-century manor house in Worcestershire while he is based thousands of miles away in the US. They have no children. She is currently rehearsing to appear in a pantomime in Milton Keynes. 

I came to the same conclusion as Virginia Ironside after seeking help for the deep-rooted jealousy I experienced about my husband's past. 

When I met Robert, I had only had two serious relationships, whereas he was a bachelor who had famously been quoted as saying he'd slept with seven women a day when he was touring in the seventies. 

After we announced our marriage and I moved in with him, I found his phone never stopped ringing, even in the middle of the night, with old girlfriends calling him up. They typically asked if he fancied one last fling, or whether he was doing the right thing getting married. 

I knew Robert loved me and was finally, at the age of 40, ready to settle down, but I got so upset about it I ended up in tears. 

I told Robert how I felt and he reassured me and suggested I talk through my anxieties with a psychotherapist he recommended. 

I agreed, thinking it would help curb my feelings of distrust for Robert, which were making me aggressive towards him. The therapist, a man at least a decade older than me, only asked for a small voluntary payment of £15. 

He let me talk about my concerns, but then suggested it was unnatural for a woman to be so possessive of her man. He even tried to make me belive that should my husband stray, I would be to blame. 

He was a very successful, respected therapist and had I been a more vulnerable or fragile person, I might have listened to him. Instead, after my second session, I just felt belligerent. The therapist again tried to tell me that my instincts were wrong, and even had the audacity to ask me what was wrong with infidelity. 

It became very clear he condoned extra-marital relationships, and I actually felt I was being primed to be a stay-at-home wife who should turn a blind eye to any infidelities. The therapist was following his own agenda, not mine, and his behaviour was remarkably dangerous. I don't like to think what might happen if he gets hold of a weaker character. 

Fortunately, I stopped our sessions there and then. Later, I doscovered he'd had an affair with at least one of his female patients, so my instincts had been correct. 

Robert and I did survive because we spent a few days seeing an American relationship counsellor together, who talked common sense and made us realise that we both had to acknowledge each other's history and move on together, which we have done very happily. 

That kind of positive help can be useful. It's the counselling which makes you feel worse about yourself which is so damaging. 

Daily Mail
25th November 2005
Thanks to Alec kelly