Tuesday, February 28, 2006

psychotherapy & the past

New research has shown that therapists do not need to dive into their client's past in order to help them in the present.
For most of the 20th century, therapists in America agreed on a single truth. To cure patients, it was necessary to explore and talk through the origins of their problems. In other words, they had to come to terms with the past to move forward in the present.

Thousands of hours and countless dollars were spent in this pursuit. Therapists listened diligently as their patients recounted elaborate narratives of family dysfunction — the alcoholic father, the mother too absorbed in her own unhappiness to attend to her children's needs — certain that this process would ultimately produce relief.

But returning to the past has fallen out of fashion among mental health professionals over the last 15 years. Research has convinced many therapists that understanding the past is not required for healing. (NY Times)

Of course, the biggest factor here is what insurance companies are willing to pay for:
Insurance companies likewise often prefer consumers to select cognitive behavioral therapists, rather than psychodynamically oriented practitioners. In the companies' view, scientific studies have shown that cognitive therapy can produce results in less than half the time of traditional therapies.
Exactly. For the past 10-15 years, insurance companies have increasingly dictated the types of treatment to be offered, as well as the length of time a person can meet with a counselor. Brief therapy (the new phrase seems to be possibility therapy) has grown out of that. Insurance companies would much rather pay for fewer sessions than more, so naturally they are going to look at research on cognitive-behavioral therapies, which are much more short-term than psychodynamic therapies.

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