Allen is a Professor Emeritus at Duke University.
His perspective differs in some important respects from the writer’s – and she wholeheartedly agrees with some of his key statements, which closely reflect how we work at this service:-
‘….a good relationship is much more important in promoting good outcome than the specific psychotherapy techniques that are used..’
‘…the major focus of effective therapy should be to establish a powerfully healing relationship and to inspire hope. Specific techniques help when they enhance the primary focus on the relationship, they hurt when they distract from it.
The paradox is that therapists are increasingly schooled in specific techniques to the detriment of learning how to heal. The reason is clear — it is easy to manualize technique, hard to teach great healing.’
NHS ‘CBT by numbers’ practitioners/supporters and box-tickers everywhere take note….
None of this is new – the research has been there for years. Culturally we seem to have huge resistance to the obvious learning.
At this service, we chose our therapists primarily on our sense of how ready/able they are to offer real human relationship with all its risks, complexities and mystery. That involves commitment, presence, authenticity, empathy, deep valuing of other/self. How far a therapist (or anyone) can bring these qualities to relationship depends largely in turn on how much of their own process work they have done.
We would not consider taking on a therapist who subscribes to manualized therapy, nor one who believes therapy is for others, not for them – and we do meet those through our therapist selection process. It often feels sad and ironic to witness a training or newly qualified therapist at ‘interview’, intent on presenting us with the values and beliefs their training has inculcated, with a view to gaining a place here – when in fact we as a service are focused on their ability to offer warmth/real human relationship, and to encounter their own vulnerability.
We can relate to Allen’s closing comments:-
‘Some of the best natural therapists I have known have been ruined by psychotherapy training – becoming so preoccupied learning and implementing technique that they lost the healing warmth of their personalities.
Therapy should always be an exciting adventure – an intense meeting of hearts and minds. You can’t learn to be an effective therapist by reading a manual and applying it mechanically.’
Thanks to Brent Dean Robbins and the Society for Humanistic Psychology, Division 32 on Facebook for the link to this.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994