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CHAPTER FOUR: The road to self-discovery

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

Oak Park, Chicago was the birthplace of Carl Rogers (1902–1987), still one of the most influential figures in psychotherapy today. Rogers pioneered a move away from traditional methodologies. In contrast to Freud’s rather gloomy view of human nature as a cauldron of sexuality and aggressive tendencies, manifested in the id and the ego, which the super-ego struggled to keep under control, Rogers took a very different view of humanity. Perhaps because for a time he studied to be a priest, he saw people as fundamentally healthy and believed that we all have the ability to develop our potential to the fullest extent, provided that conditions are in place for us to do so.

A plant trying to grow in a dim and musty cellar will send out tendrils towards the light it needs if it is to survive. But, significantly, if the plant is moved and placed in an environment conducive to healthy growth it will automatically thrive. This is the essence of Rogers’ therapeutic approach. He was intrigued by the way that even if conditions are harsh, this tendency will endow the organism with the capacity to make the very best of what is available to sustain itself. Thus, mushrooms can push up paving stones, birds migrate for thousands of miles, and humans can create works of art, utilize atomic energy, and invent the cuckoo clock.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Automatic thoughts and irrational beliefs

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

It’s not what happens to you; but how you react to it that matters.

—Epictetus, philosopher, AD 55–136

When you think about it, this declaration by the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, is extraordinarily powerful. It implies that no one but ourselves has authority over how we should think or feel. And with that authority comes the empowerment to decide how we will respond to any given situation, positive or negative. It is this capacity within us that was recognized by the initiators of a new approach to counselling—the cognitive therapies.

As already discussed, George Kelly held that we build constructs from our earliest childhood. These constructs influence our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviour. Kelly also recognized that this is an active process, in that we continually adjust our thinking according to experience, so as to enable us to anticipate events and respond to them productively. He saw us as scientists, using practical data to arrive at a consensus of how best to lead our lives. We have to make judgements and act on them, for, if we didn’t, we would never learn. But whether our learning is always productive is another matter.

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CHAPTER FIVE: How we construct our world

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

In physical medicine the diagnosis of a set of symptoms will usually point to a particular disorder. Unfortunately, psychotherapy offers no such straightforward process. In an attempt to create some set of ground rules, many of the pioneers drew up charts of how we could be expected to think and act at different periods of our lives. Bowlby and Winnicott explored mainly evolution in the early years. Jung developed the idea of four stages of development and consciousness from childhood through youth, middle life, and old age. The Danish psychoanalyst, Eric Erikson (1902–1994), later created his psychosocial theory, The Eight Stages of Man—our psychological development from birth to the end of our lives. Daniel Levinson (1920–), an American psychiatrist, came up with a hypothesis in which he predicted that the pattern of an individual’s progress at any given point in time will be the product of their social and physical environment. In this, he distinguished between men and women in two books, The Seasons of a Man’s Life (1978) and The Seasons of a Woman’s Life (1996).

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CHAPTER SIX: Inter-relationships

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

On the face of it, Eric Berne (1910–1970) might not have been expected to bring about a significant new approach to psychotherapy. He had wanted to practice psychoanalysis, and trained at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute. But when he completed his course in 1956, he was loftily advised that he was not yet ready for membership of the academy and should do further study before reapplying. This was far from the disaster that it might have been, as Eric Berne was spurred into pursuing his long-held ambition to develop a completely new approach to psychotherapy.

He was in accord with Freud that human nature is comprised of interlinked components which affect our behaviour and attitudes. Freud, you will recall, identified three such elements: the id, ego, and super-ego. The id he saw as the basic animal in us; the ego, a part of us that devises strategies to achieve the demands of the id; and the super-ego, which represents our conscience and moral code.

But Berne wanted to move away from abstract analogies and metaphors. For him if a theory was to have true validity, it must be observable; that is, you had to be able to see it in action. Perhaps even more importantly, Berne wanted to make psychotherapy more accessible by using concepts and colloquial language that could be understood by everyone, professionals and clients alike. After years of development, he came up with a new approach to psychotherapy, which he called Transactional Analysis, or TA.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: How long does it take?

Jonathan Ingrams Karnac Books ePub

THIS IS SOMETHING of a “piece of string” question. As the unfulfilled Alvy, in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall, decides after fifteen years on the psychiatrist's couch: “I'm going to give my analyst one more year and then I'm going to Lourdes!”

A number of factors will affect the overall time you spend in counselling. If you are experiencing difficulties in just one area in your life, then sessions are likely to be quite focused and results may be achieved sooner than if you need to address more complex matters. Single issues can be very stubborn, however, whilst seemingly intractable problems can sometimes take on the properties of a log jam in which the release of a one psychological obstructioncan create beneficial knock-on effects across a broad spectrum.

The way your counsellor works can also affect the duration of therapy. Psychodynamic counselling, which aims predominately to bring to the surface painful feelings held deep in the unconscious mind, can be a long process. The cognitive behavioural therapies tend to focus on the here and now, and are more directive than other methods. Cognitive approaches are usually associated with shorter periods of therapy. But there are no rules, and all modalities now take into account that practitioners may have only a short period to work in.

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