The Politics of Psychotherapy: New Perspectives

The Politics of Psychotherapy: New Perspectives

The Politics of Psychotherapy: New Perspectives

The Politics of Psychotherapy: New Perspectives


This unique collection by leading authors explores the links between therapy and the political world, and their contribution to each other. Topics covered include: Psychotherapy in the political sphere, including the roots of conflict, social trauma, and ecopsychology Political dimensions of psychotherapy practice, such as discrimination, power, sexuality, and postcolonial issues Psychotherapy, the state and institutions, including the law and ethics, and psychotherapy in healthcare Working at the interface, examples of therapy in political action from Croatia, the USA, the UK and Israel/Palestine How to 'place' political issues in therapy is highly controversial ndash; for example, whether political themes should be interpreted psychologically in the consulting room, or respected as valid in their own right: similar issues arise for the role of therapeutic insights in political reality. This book provides a map through these complex and demanding areas for therapists and counsellors in training, as well as for experienced practitioners or other interested readers. Contributors: Lane Arye, Arlene Audergon, Emanuel Berman, Sandra Bloom, Jocelyn Chaplin, Petruska Clarkson, Chess Denman, Dawn Freshwater, Kate Gentile, John Lees, Renos Papadopoulos, Hilary Prentice, Mary-Jayne Rust, Judy Ryde, Andrew Samuels, Nick Totton.


The ontological structure of the human being imposes
insurmountable constraints upon any form of social organization
and any political project.

(Castoriadis 1999: 409)

Upstream runners and instream waders

There is an old Buddhist story (or if there isn't, there should be): two monks are walking beside a fast-flowing river. Suddenly, they hear a shout and see a man being carried helplessly downstream. Wading into the water, they manage to pull him out and are tending to him on the bank when they hear a woman's voice and realize that she too is struggling in the torrent. Again, they manage to pull her out; but then they see a whole group of people being swept along. One of the monks is about to wade in for the third time when he realizes that his companion is not with him; instead she is running upstream as fast as she can. 'Where are you off to?' he demands. 'These people need help!' Without slowing, the other monk shouts over her shoulder, 'I'm going to find the bastard who's throwing them in!'

This pretty much sums up one central justification for bringing politics together with psychotherapy: that it is not possible properly to understand, or address, individual suffering (people being carried downstream) without looking at the context of power relationships in which it occurs (someone throwing them in). There are some complexities embedded in the story, however. It is fairly clear what the 'upstream runner's' position is: it is less important to relieve immediate drowning than to identify and resolve underlying causative factors leading to drowning. But how would the 'instream wader' respond?

He might argue that what happens upstream is none of his business: he is trained and specialized in rescuing drowning people, not in abstruse analysis of how they got there. (For an explicit statement of this view, see Johnson 2001a, b.) He might say that, as a compassionate human being, he is compelled to try to save the drowning, whatever the reasons for their being there (and he might prefer to supply life jackets rather than pull them . . .

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