R. D. Laing: What Was Therapeutic about That?

By Clark, Carlton F. | Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, July 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

R. D. Laing: What Was Therapeutic about That?


Clark, Carlton F., Journal of Transpersonal Psychology


ABSTRACT: In 1985 R. D. Laing, M. D. conducted a public interview with a homeless woman diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. The several thousand psychotherapists witnessing the event were dramatically split in their assessment of the encounter, some denouncing and some praising it. No comments were made suggesting that the interview was a transpersonally-inspired one, nor was there an in-depth examination of the responses of the therapist and client. This article offers such a discussion using a model of clinical supervision in which client adaptations are assessed to understand what is therapeutic (or not) in an encounter. It gives one author's view of R. D. Laing's approach, and demonstrates how both therapist and client bring intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal concerns to a session of transpersonal psychotherapy.

INTRODUCTION

Long-time practitioners and students of transpersonal psychotherapy have a strong body of theoretical materials (Almaas, 1990; Assagioli, 1991; Boorstein, 1980, 1997; Grof & Grof, 1990; Quinn, 1997; Scotton, Chinen & Battista, 1996; Tart, 1975, 1996a; Wilber, 1985, and many others), an emerging volume of published research (Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990; Lukoff, Turner & Lu, 1992; Lukoff, Turner, & Lu, 1993) and research constructs (MacDonald, LeClair, Holland, Alter, & Friedman, 1995; MacDonald, Friedman, & Kuentzel, 1999) to further their work. Many of these materials contain case studies, but few are moment-by-moment clinical transcripts.

Recorded clinical dialogues offer us another kind of canvas on which to paint impressions about the nature of genuinely effective psychotherapy. By studying the actual phenomena in these dialogues we can witness and assess immediate client and therapist reaction to one another and attempt to differentiate therapeutic from non-therapeutic activities. In the long run, of course, client response over time is the ultimate clinical supervisor. But even in the short run, observations can be made that suggest how the moments of psychotherapy are being received.

A most remarkable session of transpersonal psychotherapy on the record like this occurred in a cavernous convention center in downtown Phoenix, Arizona on December 13, 1985. Several thousand of us at The Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference watched on a large screen as R. D. Laing, M.D. interviewed "Christy," a woman who was described as paranoid schizophrenic, homeless, and not taking her medication. The two were sheltered off-stage in a small curtained 'room' made for the occasion, perhaps to diminish the impact of thousands of observers on them. A live video feed was shown to us as the session unfolded.

At the close of the interview, many of the professionals in the audience were angry and baffled, and many were enraptured and in tears. Several arose to excoriate that session that Laing held with Christy, and others including Salvadore Minuchin spoke in its defense. Said a later author (Amantea, 1989, p. 56) describing the clash: "It is a conflict as old, really, as the one that finally split Freud and Jung. It is the one that rages between those who choose to see psychotherapy as a rational science, with scientific parameters, and teachable techniques; and-on the other hand-those who see it as a process which is either instinctual, or, even more bizarre, a mystical transference of thoughts and feelings between client and therapist."

One challenger's voice echoed in that large hall and in my mind over the twenty years since: "I was wondering what you thought really went on therapeutically in that interview?" she asked. "What do YOU think went on therapeutically?" Dr. Laing shot back. Clearly he was not foolish enough, as I am here, to speculate on such a significant topic. But he did offer some ideas about the videotape of the session four years later, when the verbal text of the meeting was published (Laing, 1989a, pp. 141-142):

The main point is in the rhythm, the tempo - the timbre and pitch of the words that are in the paralinguistics. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

R. D. Laing: What Was Therapeutic about That?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.