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Relational Therapies
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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan, Transcend Art and Peace
Created: November 21, 2001
Latest Update: November 21, 2001

E-Mail jeannecurran@habermas.org
E-Mail takata@uwp.edu
E-Mail Olivier Urbain, Soka University

Respecting Self and Other

Teaching and Review Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata: November 2001.
and Individual Authors. "Fair Use" encouraged.

This essay is based on There Are Only Three Kinds of Psychotherapy by Paul Genova, M.D. Psychiatric Times. November 2001, Vol. XVIII, Issue 11. backup

I know this sounds a little far afield for some of you. But actually it fits right into the discussions we've been having about the importance of critical thinking in the present global context. Dr. Genova suggests that the three main types of pscyhotherapy utilize traditional power relationships. He suggests that the most effective in terms of getting the analysand into control of his/her own life (agency) is that of relationship therapy, in which the power relationship is one of therapist and patient working together in a climate of respect and non-glorification of authority.

Note particularly that Dr. Genova relates these perceptions of therapy to social theory:

"The language of Martin Buber's "I-Thou" dialogue, Jurgen Habermas' "communicative action" or Winnicott's ingenuous term "object use" (which is really about subjects), all aptly describe such a relationship. Therapy takes the form of questions and statements about one's experience of self and other, and its power lies chiefly in the immediate interaction regardless of how much importance the therapist attributes to constructs such as transference, the unconscious, developmental issues, the Gestalt cycle of experience and so on. We all have our favorite constructs, our own ways of skinning a cat.

"Because honest reciprocal dialogue fosters autonomy, independent thinking and acceptance of one's own emotional reality, it is subversive to the social status quo and its usual power arrangement of Expert and object. While patients retain, even improve upon, their ability to get help (including medical care) through relational therapy, its premise encourages them to become the ultimate Experts and Authorities on their own mental and interpersonal lives."

Scroll about half way down the file to find this.



Discussion Topics

  1. Compare Dr. Genova's concept of relationship therapy to teaching.

    jeanne's comments:

    Consider the difference between what Freire would called "banking education," recitation of factual information, in which the teacher is the authority and the student is the learner, and education for critical thinking, in which the student and teacher share in learning.

  2. Nearly three-fourths of the way down the file, Dr. Genova says:
    "Relational therapy remains to be described, and it is as important not to idealize it as it is not to devalue the other two forms. It does not fit all or even most patients' needs, and its irresponsible application can be not only "contraindicated," but cruel. However, it is the only form of therapy whose power narrative allows both doctor and patient to be subjects engaged in an unpredictable process, rather than an Expert and the object of their technique. . . ."

    In what ways could this approach be "contraindicated" or "cruel" in either therapy or teaching?

    jeanne's comments:

    Consider the student who is under considerable stress, has mastered the traditional "banking education" approach to learning, i.e. reciting what he/she is supposed to have learned, who is suddenly faced with the demand to summon enough self-respect to learn "with" the teacher, not "from" the teacher. In therapy, consider the patient who is so emotionally distraught, all he/she can handle is someone taking over to care or help. Demanding a situation of mutual decision-making could drastically increase the stress.

  3. Dr. Genova says that relational therapy "does not fit all or even most patients' needs. . ." Does that apply also to relational teaching?

    jeanne's comments:

    Consider Freire's philosophy that oppression harms both the oppressed and the oppressor, and his solution of empowering the oppressed to think critically and assume agency. Consider also Freire's concept of "bankind education" as disabling agency.



    Related References