and organizations might try to tell you otherwise, the science of psychology,
and its clinical application in psychotherapy,
have their definite limits. Here are some of them.
can reveal to you what you unconsciously desire, but
it has no right to tell you what you should desire. Even the concept
of reprogramming is just psychobabble and has no place in
psychotherapy. Who, after all, will do this reprogramming? What
will be the basis for and substance of this reprogramming? And by what
authority will this all be done? The psychotherapeutic encounter must
be just that: a genuine encounter with the unconscious
through free will and personal responsibility.
research might be able to describe what happens when a person experiences
a particular event, but neither psychology as a general science nor any
psychological organization has any authority to say that anything in particular
does no harm morally or that it should be advocated politically
Politics is an
adversarial system in which individuals obstruct their opponents goals
with the hope of eliminating the opponents altogether. Psychology, however,
must be based in the hope of making peace with your internal
enemies so as to find healing; its not about getting
rid of pain or blaming others. Therefore, nothing
in psychology needs to be expressed in political terms because psychology
is about helping you find out what you want to do, not about
telling you what to do. Or, to say it another way, whereas politics
tries to dictate the behavior of others, psychology helps you willingly
change your own behavior.
So remember that
its simply not possible to use blame, hatred, and aggression to make
someone elseor yourselfact with kindness. And for that very reason,
political correctness has no place in the consultation office.
Theres room only for three persons: you, your psychotherapist, and
(or counselling in British English) should be distinguished from
psychotherapy because the two processes are different aspects of
and have different ethics, or underlying philosophies. Neither
ethic is better than the other; you should, however, understand
the difference. I, in fact, have an MSE in Counseling as well as a PhD in
Clinical Psychologyand I sometimes mix the two approaches of counseling
and psychotherapy when I provide
Direction. So the difference between counseling and psychotherapy is
not just a simple matter of more or less education or training.
counselorwhether a school counselor, a drug and alcohol counselor,
or any other counseloris, in the end, trying to get you
to do something. Are you using drugs? Then the drug counselor will try to
get you to stop. Are you disrupting the corporation? Then the job counselor
will try to get you to obey the regulations. As such, a counselors
ethic is about getting you to adapt to and function smoothly in a
particular social role.
Although a poorly
trained psychotherapist is not much different from a counselor in terms
of ethics, a well-trained psychotherapist should have an ethical system
directed to helping you to disentangle yourself from the desires of the world
around you, rather than adhere to the psychotherapists desire. (Note,
however, that certain forms of brief psychotherapy, as in
Care, are not much different ethically than counseling.)
between the approaches of psychotherapy and counseling can be subtle, and
sometimes the counseling approach may be preferred, and even necessary, as
in beginning substance abuse treatment.
But lets suppose a person is having problems dealing with the death
of a close family member.
A counseling approach would attempt to lessen the symptoms in order to get
the person back to work as soon as possible.
A psychotherapeutic approach would focus on stabilization, at first, but
it might also be led (by the clients
and other associations) to work on underlying (and often
unconscious) issues such as old guilt feelings or
long-standing personality and relationship problems.
In this approach, the client might discover issues that have been hidden
away all these years and are now becoming more troubling. In learning
to acknowledge themto be more honest with his or her limitations, and
to trust his or her creative potentialthe client might end up discovering
a whole new way of living. Andironically (who knows?)there is
always the risk that the client might even decide to quit his or her job
in the process of finding a more meaningful life.
But lets not be deceived into thinking that psychotherapy can reveal
to you some deep, inner mystery of a true
Psychotherapy can show you how to live your humanness with
and integrity. What you do then is anybodys guess. Psychotherapy simply
makes a gamblea bet on the unconsciousthat the therapeutic journey
into the unknown will be worthwhile. The ethic of counseling,
on the other hand, relies on the proven limits of a safe and well-known party
The Desire of
of psychology is, after all, a job, and your psychotherapist should have
only one desire: to help you get close to your
motivations, and to change them if they are causing you problems. Your
psychotherapist should want nothing from you except fair payment for a job
well doneand this demands a well-defined
psychotherapist works for an agency or in a government setting that is more
concerned with its own needs than yours. You would be well advised to recognize
this and to understand exactly whose desire your treatment is
You have a right to know how your psychotherapist or counselor
thinks about these points. I, myself, would not want to entrust the guidance
of my life to anyone who wasnt perfectly clear about the nature and
limits of his or her job.
thing: the world is unfair, and your psychotherapist or counselor should
be helping you to cope with an unfair world, not to pretend that he or she
can make the world less unfair.
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .
Jacques Lacan, The signification of
the phallus. In Écrits: A selection, trans. Alan Sheridan
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1977). See p. 287:
In any case, man cannot aim at
being whole (the total personality is another of the deviant
premises of modern psychotherapy), while ever the play of displacement and
condensation to which he is doomed in the exercise of his functions marks
his relation as as subject to the signifier.
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Honesty in Psychotherapy
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Psychology: Clinical or Counseling or...?
Questions and Answers
Types of Treatment
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