Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

From the Editor

Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

From the Editor

Article excerpt

From the Editor

Therapists have always loved stories about dramatic in-session breakthroughs, those rare times when clients unexpectedly experience what seem like epiphanies--sudden insights about themselves and their lives, after which nothing will ever be the same for them. This kind of transformative moment can make the slow, painful slog of therapy feel worthwhile, and it's a welcome counterbalance to the frustrations of a difficult, underpaid, underappreciated vocation. As a teary-eyed, beaming client waves a grateful good-bye, "That," we can say, "is why we do therapy!" . . . Or so the fantasy goes.

The idea that such breakthroughs really happen, or that they mean very much, has taken a beating over the past few decades. The cognitive-behavioral tradition, in particular, has represented a standing reproach to this kind of romanticism. Therapy, any sensible person knows, is about the steady acquisition of cognitive skills that help clients override their self-destructive thoughts and runaway emotions. Change happens as a result of setting reasonable goals and engaging in the dogged practice of good thinking habits---10,000 reps of a certain kind of self-talk, for example, so you can walk into a subway car without freaking out. The idea that the therapist can somehow flip a switch and evoke a kind of psychological rebirth smacks of New Age gurus who practice woo-woo tactics.

Or does it? At the moment, there seems to be something of an enthusiastic revival of the idea that sudden, remarkable breakthroughs---to use the b-word---can occur during therapy, and that significant change can happen in a remarkably short time. Part of the evidence for this newâ[euro]"old idea is emerging from brain science. After all, what new thinking about therapy doesn't have at least one foot in neuroscience? …

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