Learning Theory, Personality Theory, and Clinical Research: The Kentucky Symposium

By Donald K. Adams; O. H. Mowrer et al. | Go to book overview

Prospects and Perspectives in Psychotherapeutic Theory and Research

JOHN M. BUTLER

It is quite apparent to anyone who reads the literature on psychotherapy that the level of discourse is low and that the different schools of psychotherapy have different systems of propositions. These systematic differences make intercommunication with regard to single propositions extremely difficult and in so far as science involves good intercommunication demonstrates the low level of scientific understanding in this domain. It will be my purpose in this discussion to consider how, in a domain in which all seem to profess a scientific orientation, this low level of communication came into being and to consider how the domain of learning can serve to provide a common frame of reference which would promote communication as between systems of psychotherapy.

In reviewing the modern history of psychotherapy, which as far as I am concerned dates from the early days of Freud and Janet, he who has the advantage of hindsight and contemporary scientific sophistication sees a fascinating spectacle. He sees a host of brilliant men inspired by the success of physical and biological science, bending their energies to the creative formulations of the processes of psychotherapy and of the nature of human nature. These men, who worked in a restricted and really rather simple social situation, that of psychotherapy, which had the unique feature of being safe for the therapist in a way in which everyday life was not, were therefore in a position to make observations which were relatively objective, i.e., were not ego-involved. And they were, it should be noted, with a given individual for a considerable span of time. Today it is clear enough that, although these circumstances permitted relatively objective observation, still the behavior of these therapists was in itself influential in producing the phenomena (and their time sequences) from which

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