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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: January 21, 2006
Latest Update: January 21, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Links Between Teaching and Therapy

Talking therapy works if the therapist and the client are open to listening in good faith, respecting the Other's perspective, and allowing the client to choose from their collaborative insights the awareness and understanding that fits the client. It may work under other circumstances that I have never encountered, but this is the approach that works for me in my encounters through teaching. Of course, in teaching there are no clients, just students. And there is no set time for long one-on-one talks. But there is time for listening in good faith, respecting the Other's perspective, and allowing the answerability that permits the student to choose what works for him/her.

School counseling has been approaching this inclusion of "therapy" with programs that I know only superficially from my e-mail lists. My understanding is that somewhere some school counselors are being trained to "welcome students," listen to them to understand them, and then accept them, and assure them of this "acceptance." I have some resrvations about this "acceptance," particularly when a counselor asks if that means "lying to a student" if you don't really accept her/him.

You can see where illocutionary discourse would resolve my concern about lying about acceptance. Here's what I wrote recently to one of my lists on this issue:

"I would redefine acknowledge and accept to give them an illocutionary discourse meaning. Maria Pia Lara, a Mexican philosopher, explains illocutionary discourse in Moral Textures. What I believe she means by that, and what I mean when I teach it, is that we listen in good faith and offer our own skills to reach some kind of understanding as to why the person feels as he/she does, why they support a given validity claim. Then by 'accept,' I, at least, mean that I accept the other's answerability, the other's voice - following Bakhtin's 'What shall I say, if I know the Other can answer?' (rephrased - not a quote) - for the Other's feelings are valid for the Other. What I accept is our difference; but this illocutionary discourse does not mean that I agree with the Other. For a variety of reasons, I may not agree, but I respect our differences. Surely there is a way to tell the students that one accepts our mutual differences, without suggesting that we agree with their position. It takes my students a while to recognize that answerability means respecting the Other's perspective WITHOUT necessarily agreeing with the Other. Once they 'get it,' they're much more willing to enter into dialog. And I should think that's what our middle schools want - a meaningful dialog."

Some of the most recent dialogs on transform_dom will illustrate how illucutionary discourse works. Look at our discussions on UCLA's alumni watchdog team on liberal professors. Don't miss Greg Dwyer's response to Jason's alert and jeanne's complaint about debate and bickering. If there is going to be peace in our world, we're going to have to learn to listen to one another, even when it pisses jeanne off because she's exhausted and debate isn't what we're about. Then notice Jason's sharing of an article and his weighing his own opinion on WalMart. None of these issues is simple. Learning to engage in dialog is important.

I keep complaining about the bickering. It's hard enough facing retirement that doesn't give way to less work, and even harder in adapting to living with cancer survival. I just don't like angry hostile vibes. I don't need them, especially right now. They also tend to have a bullying effect to those who are dealing with real world conficting demands, and for many who were simply taught to polite and caring. I'm willing to entertain as many perspectives as people wish to advance validity claims for. But I don't want to debate anyone. I just want to seek out information and make us aware. I don't even want phony acceptance. Illocutionary discourse doesn't require that. I want you to make up your own minds about real issues of criminal and social justice. Goodness knows there are enough of them.

But you know what? Thomas Szaz said, according to Pat, who is my authority on Szaz, that therapy is about having firends and/or family who listen to you in good faith and try to understand and help you understand the problems you're facing.

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