Several months ago, I wrote an op-ed for The New York Times titled "In Therapy Forever? Enough Already." In it, I came down hard on my profession -- arguing that people get stuck in therapy, and in many cases the therapist is to blame. I urged people who are in therapy and not getting better to move on.
The reaction to the article was polarizing. Within hours, I had dozens of people calling my office wanting to be my patient. By week's end, I had received more than 60 such calls -- and to this day, I still get calls stemming from the article. I was invited to speak to organizations and was discussed on major media outlets, including "The Today Show."
I was also harshly criticized by hundreds of therapists -- many of whom publicly lied and said I don't have a degree or license -- and they also sent threatening letters. Some of the e-mails I got included comments such as: "Go to hell." "The article is dangerous." "You're going to ruin our business model." And a Forbes blogger used the salacious headline: "Jonathan Alpert's Misstatements and Possible Misconduct." An NYU commencement speaker also made negative remarks about me.
This experience reinforced what I have long believed: If you feel strongly about something, then stick to it. Do not panic, jump to conclusions or cast aspersions on the naysayers. Doing so will only weaken your original message and make you look bad.
My experience with the aftermath reminded me of what a lot of my patients deal with: fear of criticism. I see it in many aspects of peoples' lives.
Here’s how to deal with criticism:
Focus on what you believe in and what you did right. Had I taken to heart the criticism that I received from my New York Times piece, it would have brought me down. Instead, I focused on the praise I received. Doing this helped to diminish the negative comments and keep me focused on what’s most important: my views and beliefs.
Speak your mind. Don’t be deterred by opposing views or criticism. Doing so will make you weaker, not stronger. Know what you believe in and stand firm.
Accept the notion that there will be some people who love you and others who don’t. You can’t please everybody.
Change your self-talk. Instead of thinking, “I can’t deal with this,” or “Maybe they are right about me,” think: “I am strong and can roll with the punches” and “Others don’t define me; I define me.”
– Jonathan Alpert is a licensed psychotherapist. His book, “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” is available now. E-mail him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.