Thursday, April 26, 2007

Power to the People

Psychotherapy is supposed to be a collaboration - therapist and client working as equal partners to achieve the client's goals. This is the ideal. But all too often, it's not the reality.

Why? Consider this: therapists have from two to eight years of graduate training learning their role in the therapist chair. They have thousands of hours of experience honing their craft. There are roughly 500 recognized theoretical orientations (approaches to problems and their origins) for them to choose, practice, and perfect. The client entering therapy for the first time has none of this training and experience.

This imbalance results in countless hours of frustration for numerous clients - and therapists, too. It's like pairing Tiger Woods with someone who's never picked up a club and expecting them to win the tournament. The gap in skill, training, and experience is often too great. For many, the first few months of therapy is spent raising the client's therapeutic aptitude to a workable level. Even then, the client is adopting the orientation of the therapist - which may or may not be the best approach for the client's personality or issue.

It's time for a change. Clients need to be empowered to know what they want, ask for it, and participate in the process. We're stuck in a medical model mindset where the patient is passive recipient of the doctor's intervention. This doesn't work in therapy. In fact, there is a movement in medicine to make patients their own case managers - equipped with more information about themselves and their condition (thanks to the internet), patients want to take control of their treatment away from the MD's and insurance companies. Shouldn't this be even more the case in psychotherapy? Collaboration requires client empowerment, not passivity.

I'm hoping this idea of client empowerment shakes some people up. Especially therapists.

Check back as the plan for this revolution unfolds.

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