Saturday, 24 November 2012
Bring back knowledge!
I went to the dentist recently and was profoundly grateful to find a skilful, experienced and probably highly trained dentist. I really wouldn't have been happy with someone who said that they knew all about dentistry because they had been on a whole weekend course in how to do it, had had couple of fillings themselves and had even read a books on it!
When it comes to psychotherapy, it seems to be very different. Many people seem to believe that they know what psychotherapy is and how it should be done and are perfectly happy to set up as therapist; others are happy to go. It is based more on belief, fashion and conviction than on knowledge or experience. I suppose that this is part of a post-modern, pluralist world suspicious of expertise and hegemony. Reluctantly, after nearly thirty years as a therapist, I have come to the conclusion that most people really don't know what psychotherapy is; they confuse it with personal growth or development or some particular ideology that they subscribe to which often boils down to willpower or belief. They are offered self-help books, quick-fix courses and the encouragement to become powerful, discover themselves and follow their own truth. If fits with a culture of instant change, instant expertise lack of respect for experience (as if human distress has really changed that radically). There is scant understanding of the difference between the pre-personal; the personal and the transpersonal that Ken Wilber writes of.
What many will say is that the State should licence therapists but this requires us to trust the government. No thanks! In Soviet Russia, Freud's works were secretly printed and circulated underground. The present government's love affair with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is only slowly coming to an end. The alternative is for people to become more discriminating.
To evaluate a therapist, as well as trusting your intuition ask them how long they have seen some clients for; (warning; less isn't better some people take quite a time). Ask they about how they deal with suicidal clients, how they understand dissociation and embodied trauma; what their experience of long term therapy as a client was like, if they have good regular supervision; their understanding of ego-strength and how it can be built. Ask about what they can do between sessions and what support is offered.