Therapists to Miners: We'll Come to Your Emotional Rescue


Brendan O'Neill describes the recently rescued Chilean miners' struggles with the therapists charged with managing their mental health:

Why won't those blockheads talk with me?

One of the medical experts at San Jose—part of a team of 300 people that oversaw the men's health and needs—said there was a 'daily arm wrestle' between the miners and the psychology team. That isn't surprising. The mental-health experts overground used a system of 'prizes and punishments' to try to control the men's behaviour—for their own good, of course. So when the men assented to hour-long phone calls with the mental-health team, as they did when they were first found to be alive 17 days after getting trapped, they were rewarded with prizes such as access to TV shows. But when they refused to talk to the psychologists, as they started to do in mid-September when their health and body weight were improving as a result of sent-down food and they insisted that 'we are well', the psychology team would deprive them of luxuries. As one on-site doctor put it: 'We have to say, "OK, you don't want to speak with psychologists? Perfect. That day you get no TV, there is no music—because we administer these things."'

The psychology team became judge and jury of what the men could do for enjoyment and even how they could communicate with their families. When the men asked for cigarettes and alcohol, saying that these small pleasures would help them cope better than their daily phone call with the experts, the psychology team begrudgingly agreed to send down cigarettes but not booze—because 'the average miner consumes large quantities of alcohol', one of the psychologists said, and there is no telling how they will behave when inebriated in hot, cramped conditions. The men were furious. But only because they don't understand the dangers of drinking, one of the on-site doctors snootily declared. 'These are not PhD scientists, they are rough-and-tumble miners', he said, giving a glimpse into the experts' deep disdain for the men they were supposed to be helping.

But the thing that really tore the miners and their mental-health betters apart—the thing that ensured 'the honeymoon was over', as the lead on-site psychologist put it—was the psychology team's 'widespread censorship' of family letters to the men. Early on, every time a family member wrote a letter it had to be submitted for psychological evaluation first, before being sent down the so-called umbilical cord to the men underground, so that any material judged 'psychologically inappropriate' could be removed. There was uproar when the families discovered that there was a backlog of letters waiting to be okayed. One of the miners had asked his wife during a video link-up: 'Why don't you write to me anymore?' In fact she had been writing everyday, but her letters were awaiting 'psychological approval'. Eventually government officials stepped in and ended the vetting of the letters.

Society as a whole is more and more splitting into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Shrinks and Proletariat.

The men rebelled against these measures in any way they could. At one stage they delayed taking vaccines that had been sent down until they got something they wanted. And as they regained weight courtesy of the food sent down the umbilical cord, 'their antagonism to the daily psychology sessions increased', as one report put it. That is, the healthier they got, the closer they became through their own methods of bonding, the more they looked upon the psycho-sessions as an unnecessary irritation.

NEXT: Agent Pays Broke, Starving College Football Players. The Horror!

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  1. So basically what you’re saying is that Michael Bloomberg’s ultimate dream is to force all of us to live in a collapsed mine in Chile?

    1. Pretty much.

    2. No, the PATH station under the Trade Towers.

      Too soon?

    3. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

      C. S. Lewis

  2. Reason should be all over this story about a family of 11 moving back into their foreclosed home as squaters even after it was sold to a new family.

  3. But when they refused to talk to the psychologists, as they started to do in mid-September when their health and body weight were improving as a result of sent-down food and they insisted that ‘we are well’, the psychology team would deprive them of luxuries.

    The psychologists were playing the role of resident jailers. How gulag.

  4. I was hoping Reason would be covering this angle to the trapped miners story.

  5. Jesus tapdancing Christ. It’s the modern therapeutic state write large.

    Is this real? Has this been verified? This is like health-care oriented progressivism ramped up to factor eleven.

    It’s like what life would be like for everyone if the Ministry of Health became the largest government agency on earth.

    1. Jesus tapdancing Christ. It’s the modern therapeutic state write large.

      Exactly why would having economists running our lives be an improvement over psychologists?

      1. I ask myself that question everytime Paul Krugman opens his mouth.

  6. Early on, every time a family member wrote a letter it had to be submitted for psychological evaluation first, before being sent down the so-called umbilical cord to the men underground, so that any material judged ‘psychologically inappropriate’ could be removed.


    1. This reminded me of my childhood in Poland during the seventies. Most of the mail we’d receive from relatives in the U.S. had been steamed open and resealed with tape. None ever had portions redacted – at least not to my knowledge – but it still felt really strange knowing that someone had the authority, let alone interest to do so.

    2. I’m going to laugh my ass off if the miners form squads to hunt down and brutalize every last one of these sinister fucks.

      1. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh!

        Also, what would your mother say if she knew you entertained such bizarre violent fantasies?

        1. You kidding? She’s leading the first assault.

        2. She’d laugh her ass off as she passed me the ammo.

        3. Tell me something about my family.

      2. This.

        Old joke: How many psychologist does it take to change a lightbulb?

        Old punchline: Just one, but the bulb has to really want to change.

        New punchline: Three hundred and they need control of the bulbs access to the outside world.

        Arrogant assholes.

        1. Good one.

      3. Maybe they should send them down the hole into the mine, and let them sit there and think about what they did for about 70 days or so.


  7. This is just like NASA treats its astronauts in space. There are staff psychologists whose job is to worry about the mental health of the astronauts. But rather than treat their role as one to use only in the event something goes wrong, they feel the need to engineer the astronauts’ mental health. Awful.

    And then these same psychologists consult in Chile and get interviewed on NPR.

    1. We need to schedule some time for these guys to get some sleep.

      1. I am sick and tired of the entire western world knowing how my kidneys are functioning!

    2. Yeah, it’s like a real life I Dream of Jeannie.

  8. This is so creepy, I can’t even make fun of it.

  9. Is this really true? My God, that’s horrible! And I bet some of our statist friends think it’s just a lovely idea.

  10. Remember kids, you can’t spell therapist without rapist.

    1. Therapist = the rapist
      Hat tip to Benny Hill.

    2. I’ll have you know that they are analrapists.

      1. Has Steve Smith been seen in Chile lately?

      2. It’s not the pronunciation that I’m worried about.

      3. Better or worse than fullonrapist? Discuss.

        1. Charlie vs. Tobias: I vote for Charlie. He ate a block of cheese, after all.

          1. Charlie’s hilarious, but Tobias wins that one.

          2. Huh? You’ll have to speak up. My damn cat is stomping around my apartment like the fucking Waffen.

    3. If the Chilean government would have let me anywhere near that shaft, I would have entered that deep, dark hole and analraped every single one of those miners!

  11. In all fairness, I can understand not sending them down booze.

    1. In all seriousness, why not? I’m not talking a quart a day per man. But a few shots? Where’s the harm in that?

      And the psychologists sound like world-class pricks. I’m wondering, were there any of them who had any qualms about treating these men like lab rats in the world’s biggest Skinner box?

      1. In all seriousness, why not?

        Probably because of dehydration concerns in such an environment. It’s far more understandable than parsing their mail for Bad Thoughts.

        1. They should have sent down some weed instead. Apparently smoke wasn’t an issue.

          1. That probably would have been a great idea. I know a lot of people who would probably voluntarily get shut in a dark hole for two months if they had all the weed they could smoke (and the psychologists would leave them the fuck alone).

          2. Fuckin’ a. Between weed and TV, they wouldn’t even have to rescue the dudes.

        2. Bullshit. It was only 90 degrees down there. People lived in hot climates on nothing but rum punch for centuries.

          1. When you think about it, there situation wasn’t much different from a 19th century sailing ship. 33 dudes in close quarters for an indefintie time. And those guys drank grog rations.

          2. I didn’t claim to support them being denied alcohol. It was just a guess at what a plausible explanation for the decision might look like.

          3. That sounds awfully gay, John.

            1. “Oh, you’re not going to like Thursdays, then.”

        3. Probably because of dehydration concerns in such an environment. It’s far more understandable than parsing their mail for Bad Thoughts.

          I call BS. The amount of Booze that they could send down could be perfectly reasonable and safe. If they agreed to send down cigarettes, they certainly could have sent down booze. In a survival situation, cigarettes are a surplus item. By virtue of the fact that they even could send down cigarettes tells you that ability to get them the staples needed for survival wasn’t compromised in any way.

          When you have a bunch of miners trapped under ground for 60 days, and you can get them all the supplies they need to survive, provide them some fucking creature comforts, you fucking health nazi asshats. Not you Michael, but the Therepauetic State fuckwits.

        4. “”Probably because of dehydration concerns in such an environment. “”

          Ok, throw in a couple bottles of water too.

      2. Honestly. Send down two cold beers each or something like that.

      3. One story I heard on npr was about sending down food for some fest day (Chilean Independence Day I think, maybe). It really sounded good about how the authorities above ground had put together as much of the traditional food as possible in ration or box -lunch style to get it down the veery small vent and supply shaft.

        That is, it all sounded good until the end when it came up that on this particular day, it is traditional to drink a glass of red wine. Then the benefactors got a authority-like. No red wine for you, they said. No reason was given except that it was for the miners’ own good.

        And here I though that maybe the nanny state hadn’t reached that far yet.

        Pricks, I thought, what fucking pricks.

        1. Well, therein lies the key: Don’t need the authoritarians, and in many Central/South American countries, they leave you pretty much alone.

    2. It was 90 degrees round the clock down there–denial of beer is like a human rights violation.

      1. ^^THIS^^^

  12. I’m sure having a common enemy helped the miners bond and they could spend hours bitching about the psychologists. Maybe play out fantasies of what they’d do to them when they were free.

    1. The NASA psychologist interviewed on NPR made this point. They found it healthy for the miners to direct anger and frustration at the doctors, not at each other.

      Whatever. There has to be a better way to do that than actively make the miners angry.

      1. So, being a therapist is like being a professional dick? I’ll never lack for work!

      2. It almost sounds like a recreation of the Stanford prisoner experiment.

    2. “Maybe play out fantasies of what they’d do to them when they were free.”

      One can only hop they come to fruition.

    3. Control. Manipulation. Because men can’t possibly get along without being forced to.

  13. I wonder how many psychoquacks would fit back down that mine shaft.

    And the award for professions that have the most smug, overexaggerated sense of self-importance goes to…

  14. “That is, the healthier they got, the closer they became through their own methods of bonding, the more they looked upon the psycho-sessions as an unnecessary irritation.”

    Ah, the good ole spontaneous order in action, outcompeting the authorities’ central planning.

    1. That may have been the point of the psycho sessions. It works in boot camp.

      1. No it doesn’t.

    2. Ungrateful bastards. If you accept government largesse, you dance to the government’s tune…

  15. “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”

  16. I can’t wait to read Scientology’s take on this story.

  17. I’m picturing large shipments of feces being sent back up the umbilical chord addressed to the therapy team. Although I suppose it’s best to choose one’s insults wisely when trapped a mile below the earth’s surface.

  18. It’s alright, guys. The mining company had a second rescue hole that they kept secret from the govt that was used for booze, etc. They told us to act pissed at the worthless psychologists so they wouldn’t catch on.


  19. Anyone notice that “Therapists” can be turned to something rather descriptive with the strategic addition of a space?

    1. Goddammit! Beaten by Gobbler and The Other Kevin.

      1. I just read a Popular Mechanics article that mentioned some research at Ohio State but referred to the school as “Ohio State University.” I laughed and laughed at the angst and gnashing of teeth that I know that caused.

        1. Curses!!

          1. I can envision the university sending a forceful letter now.

            As much as I mock my former employer for its pretensions, at least they don’t refer to themselves as “The U.” That’s so stupid that it could be in a movie about a college for stupid people.

            1. Didn’t ESPN just do that movie in their “30 for 30” series?

              Speaking of which, “The Two Escobars”, about the collision of the World Cup and soccer in general with the Colombian campaign of the Drug War, was quite well done.

              1. Did it feature the “University” of Miami?

                1. Which one? 🙂

                  1. Exactly. They aren’t even unique in their name. What a screwed up mess that school is!

                    1. Seriously, though, “The Two Escobars” was surprisingly good. Don’t be afraid: it’s not over soccer-fied.

                    2. I like soccer. Not sure about soccer movies.

                    3. Well, it’s not one in the traditional sense, so you’re safe.

                      Lots of interviews with Pablo & Andres Escobar’s acquaintances and families.

                    4. Timon-I liked that one, and the one the other night about Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic was also very good.

        2. I don’t get it. I thought that was the official name. Doesn’t “Ohio State” =

          1. They’ve got this ridiculous idea that they must be THE Ohio State University.

            1. Hey!

              It’s correct. My degree says “The” on it, dammit!

              1. And my UF diploma says “The.” Michigan uses the “The”, too. But neither school feels obsessive about it.

                I think it’s because OSU fears OU.

                1. There is no fear of the Bobkitty.

                  Just because M*ch*gan is too un-self-aware to use “The” and UF is…UF, doesn’t mean Ohio State is obsessive.

                  1. Yes it does.

                  2. You know what would be funny? If Obama went around insisting that he lives in THE White House and that he was THE President. And you’d better believe that it is THE United States of America.

                    1. TUSA! TUSA!

  20. Have psychiatry ever done anyone in the world any good? Seriously. I don’t see any hard evidence that any of this shit has ever worked. It is nothing but a cargo cult.

    1. Not so fast, John. Psychiatry at least involves medication that might work. Psychiatrists are doctors.

      Psychology, on the other hand, is 98% bullshit.

      1. 96%, thank you very much.

        God the BS flows around here on “Reason”.

        1. You’d like to trap us in a hole in the ground and make us do your bidding, wouldn’t you?

          The most impressed I ever was with psychology was when I took a behavioral conditioning course. Through positive reinforcement, I trained a rat to jump 28 inches straight up on command. It was like being a god. Of rats.

          1. You’re Willard?

            1. I said “like.” Willard actually was a god of rats. Wonder if he got that way majoring in psychology?

          2. Damn. I don’t think I would ever give up training rats if I got one to do that.

            1. It was pretty friggin’ awesome. My mom (we mostly trained them at home), couldn’t believe it. And the rat would do it without a treat after a while–just a few “Good rat” comments seemed to be enough.

          3. Through positive negative reinforcement, I trained a rat libertarians to jump 28 inches straight up on command.

            Piece of cake.

      2. I was thinking more of therapy. Yeah, some psychiatric drugs do seem to help some people.

        1. Yeah, never confuse the two. Psychiatrists are actual MDs and they can prescribe medicine. Medicine that has measurable, scientific effects on the patients.

          Psychologists on the other hand…

          1. “Medicine that has measurable, scientific effects on the patients.”

            Laughable. They have no fuckig idea what it’s going to. Except the long list of side effects which opens the door to another round of drugs to address. Which has side affects which other drugs handle.

            1. No, the effects are measurable. The mechanisms may be unknown, ie, they’re not sure why certain drugs work, but they know what they do.

              Repairing the human mind actually is harder than rocket science, and I have a lot of respect for Psychiatrists, because between the two professions (psychiatry/psychology), only one is reasonably effective.

              Psychiatrists recognize schizophrenia as a disease.

              A psychologist foists theories about schizophrenia being caused by infant breast fantasy.

              Now who’s “laughable”?

              1. Both are laughable.

                Psychs are merely drug pushers. They will put you on a drug without the least idea of what the problem is or whether it will fix the problem. After it doesn’t work, they try another and another.

                The entire subject would be laughable if only they didn’t harm so many people. I’ve seen their victims, the people they “helped” who are fucked up beyond recognition. My brother is one of them. What they do is criminal in my opinion.

                1. “”They will put you on a drug without the least idea of what the problem is or whether it will fix the problem.””

                  Bullshit, and you are taking a long view of the word fix. Insulin isn’t a cure for diabeties, but it helps people with diabeties. Are you going to bitch about how Insulin is bullshit because it’s not a cure?

                  SSRIs are helpful for those with serotonin deficiencies.

                  1. The above goes to your post below.

                2. The only option for many people, including your brother is to stop taking his medication.

                  Depending on the severity of the psychosis, that in and of itself could be a death sentence.

                  I’m not trying to suggest that Psychiatrists are curing droves of people, because they’re not. Psychiatry is probably about where the rest of medicine was two or three hundred years ago. Fifty plus years ago, a lot of what was going on actually was criminal, with forced lobotomies and the like.

                  The side-effects of anti-psychocs are, yes, horrible… often times worse than the disease. There are no easy answers.

                  Remember, modern medicine still can’t “cure” the common cold. The mind is a very tricky thing. And we’re still a long way off from understanding it.

        2. Are you serious?

      3. WTF? Medications that might work. They don’t work.

        Ask a psychiatrist if he has ever cured anyone of anything. They actulally admit quite openly that they don’t cure shit.

        The best they can do is to make them drug addicted auomotons.

        1. fucked up automaton pretty badly.

      4. Talking to your minister, a bartender, or a trusted friend is just as effective as psychology sessions and whole fuck of a lot cheaper.

        1. I’m going to go with bartender here.

          1. Who is also licensed to dispense mind and mood-altering chemicals.

            1. Actually, the bartender himself is not licensed. It’s the establishment that’s licensed. This lack of bartender licensing is something the government might want to look into.

              1. Don’t ruin my jokes with facts.

      5. Psychiatrists are doctors.

        Well technically. They have MDs but it pretty much ends there.

      6. Maybe closer to 100% BS per Robert Whitaker’s recent book “Anatomy of an Epidemic.” He points out a (European study) that proved the FDA-approved psychotic drugs don’t work. The ‘chemical imbalance’ theory is a total myth, as there has never been any proof. Conclusion: no neurochemical explanation for psychotic disorder, even schizo.

      7. Why do you think that?

    2. Answer to your question- no.

  21. So what your saying is we can expect a cruel mine disaster therapist to turn up dead on Law & Order this season…

    1. If Law & Order is anything like I remember it from the 90s, then yes. And the Miner who did it will be jailed for life while being slammed by a prosecution as an ungrateful sonofabitch who must serve as an example to all those who stand in the way of civil progress.

      1. Sadly(?), Law & Order original recipe is no more. All they have left is Sexy Victims Unit and the new L&O Los Angeles aka LOLA. L&O Criminal Intent is now on USA.

        It’s actually kind of a shame. Last season was better than it had been in a long time, and they just randomly cancelled it.

    2. Law & Order is gone.

      SVU still exists, so perhaps we’ll seen an episode on sex crimes between trapped miners.

      1. Apparently you haven’t been paying attention to the wife/mistress angle. My wife and mistress got together while I was trapped in the mine, and started doing the hokey pokey, but they got themselves turned around. Originally, they were going to divy up the settlement money and live happily ever after with each other, but when it turned out I’d be rescued, one of them had to get rid of the competition for my paycheck.

        There ya go: An SVU plot in 2 sentences. Complete with girl-on-girl action.

        1. Nothing is complete without girl-on-girl action.

          1. Especially hot latin girl-on-girl action.

            1. Though a sezzy myself, I didn’t know my girl friend was one until several weeks after we started dating when I discovered her premarital surname. I assumed with a name like Baker the hot little brunette was just a hot brunette. Plus, her ass is white girl, even Asian girl, tiny.

              1. “Plus, her ass is white girl, even Asian girl, tiny.”

                Sorry to hear that.

    3. The cruel therapist would be working for the greedy mine owner, and manipulating the situation to increase profits in some way.

  22. The psychologists who engaged in this experimentation are sure to write a LOT of papers about it, and those papers will be used to show how “science” has proven that similar controls need to be imposed on the rest of US.

    More psycho-science….

  23. See, if a normal human being found himself dispensing rewards and punishments to grown-ass men as if they were small children, he would begin to question if that’s what he should be doing. Not a psychologist, though.

  24. They should have piped the Pax down the vents. What were the chances of one of the miners turning into a Reaver? Acceptable risk, if you ask me (and probably the psychologists).

  25. they were rewarded with prizes such as access to TV shows.

    Sounds like punishment to me.

  26. I think this is my favorite story so far:

    Five Mistresses Were At Chilean Mine

    1. What the hell? Was Bill Clinton down there?

      1. Once he heard about the five mistresses he was.

  27. The psychology team became judge and jury of what the men could do for enjoyment and even how they could communicate with their families.

    It’s an old joke:

    What’s the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn’t think he’s a doctor.

  28. One of the miners had asked his wife during a video link-up: ‘Why don’t you write to me anymore?’ In fact she had been writing everyday, but her letters were awaiting ‘psychological approval’.

    We’re now monitoring him especially closely.

    Latent PTSD, don’t you know ….

    1. If I was that guy and found out they were doing that. I’d punch someone in the face. That says a lot coming from a guy who rarely promotes violence.

      1. Now they’re all perfectly well-balanced, fully functional individuals, thanks to being reprogrammed by these wise, wise men.

  29. And nothing ever ever bad will ever again happen to another miner ever in Chile even never again. Pinky promise.

  30. I’ve always been suspicious of the Grief-Counseling racket.

  31. At least they drop them out of airplanes like Milton Friedman’s protege Allende did.

  32. The ‘therapists’ should be sent down the hole to spend two months and the miners can provide the therapy.

  33. What was that college experiment in the 70’s where half the kids were prisoners and half jailers. After 5 days the prisoners were going insane and the jailers had turned into monsters. Sounds about the same.

    1. The Stanford Prison experiment–it was run by Philip Zimbardo who wrote about it at length in his book “The Lucifer Effect” which was one of the most important and disturbing books I ever read. Basically it explains how ordinary people can do evil things, given the right circumstances. Just as importantly it discusses how oridnary people can resist such influences and develop a moral blueprint that allows them to do so.

  34. Please tell me this came from Onion. Because if not, it confirms a really horrible fear that had been inchoate until now.

    Until now, I’d thought the friendly tyranny that exists throughout the Free World was a result of historic accidents. But now it seems that just a random sampling of experts, given the ability to tyrannize people for their own good, will do so, good and hard.

    Ice Trey’s college experiment doesn’t count, because everyone knew it was fake. This is real.

    We’re doomed. Self gov’t is no protection. Benevolence is no protection. Hyper-vigilance by all the free press the world can handle is no protection. Death may be the only escape, but if dead people wind up being subjects to other dead people, even that won’t work, and reincarnation would just get you more of the same, unless you’re no longer like a human being.

    This may be the worst news I’ve ever read here, or anywhere.

  35. Maybe it’s just me, but if I spent 70 days trapped in a mine with some douchebag shrink trying to tell me what to do, the first thing I’d do when I got out would be to knock him out cold.


  36. This reminds me of the helpful counselors when there were serious forest fires north of Kamloops BC a few years ago.

    The area was evacuated, and many homes burnt. The helpful authorities prevented the news media from broadcasting aerial images in case someone recognized their home before the grief counselors were there. Of course, what that meant was a rather complicated and long process of identifying the burnt homes, figuring out where the people were, setting up a safe place to tell them. This was days later. Finally the families created enough fuss that they backed down. People got the information they needed, dealt with it and moved on. It was amazing to hear how puzzled the helpful people were about this.

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