Holistic Psychotherapy: More Than Behavior, More Than Feelings

A brief history: Psychotherapy in this century started with Freud. He developed a whole way of figuring out what people were thinking and feeling as a way to reach their unconscious. Practitioners who work this way are called psychoanalysts. This is pretty clever but there were people who took exception to that. They believed that it really isn’t fair for one person to tell another what is going on in his or her mind. They felt that behavior is all that you need to work on in order to help people. They are called behaviorists. Other people thought looking at behavior left out the world of feelings and experience. Clinicians aiming at feelings are called gestalt therapists and experiential therapists. But there were those who liked the idea of focusing on ideas, being rational and reasonable. Those people are called cognitive therapists. Some people noticed that it would make more sense to combine all of the above since people, after all, aren’t compartmentalized. Therapists taking this view look at people from the perspective of their unconscious, their behavior, their feelings, and their thoughts. What’s more, they like looking at people in the context of their relationships too. These are called systemic therapists. Because relationships are important, they also work with couples and families. I am a systemic therapist because I like to look at the whole individual whether adult or child. But I also work with couples and families. A Holistic Approach ¬† Having been in the field of psychotherapy for 30 years, I think all these approaches make sense and I have come to the conclusion that each...

Holistic Psychotherapy: A Different Way of Viewing Problems

REPRINTED BY PERMISSION from Natural Awakenings, pp. 14, 15, 19 She walked into my office, a picture of personal torment. Hounded by memories of unspeakable things, involved in one bad relationship after another, and hating herself more by the minute, she could easily have been labeled with a heavy-duty diagnosis right out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That’s the bible that every therapist has to use in order to collect reimbursement from insurance companies. Except that holistic psychotherapists don’t label people. People deserve better than that. Diagnosis Should Not Favor The Negative Behavior Over The Positive Why should clinicians see the people-glass as half empty instead of half-full? A diagnosis is nothing more than an inventory of how a person is functioning. A “whole” picture should not emphasize the negative over the positive. If I were going to place labels on that lady, I would want to focus on the strength she showed in just making the call to see me, the courage it took for her to free herself from damaging relationships, the insight she showed in recognizing the role of her past, and the wisdom she showed in setting new goals. But strength, courage, insight, and wisdom are not in that diagnostic bible. Too bad. If there were such a thing as a Diagnostic Manual for Capacity to Manage Under Tough Circumstances, those words would be in it because a holistic approach capitalizes on a person’s resources- what the person does right, not what he or she does wrong. Does a holistic problem definition ignore the problem?-No! A holistic psychotherapist is not a...

Non-Normative Systemic Therapy in a Case of Intergenerational Enmeshment

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from ¬©Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1998 for The Journal of Psychology and Judaism,1998, vol. 22, pp. 115-128 This paper is based on a presentation given on December 22, 1996, at the Second Annual Nefesh Conference, held in Miami, Florida. The author wishes to express appreciation to conference organizers Dr. Norman Goldwasser and Dr. Norman Bloom; the panel, Phyllis Mayer, Chana Kahn, Dr. Shlomo Schuck, and Shimon Russel; and to Dr. Anne Rambo of Nova Southeastern University.   Abstract There are a number of differences between normative and non-normative systemic therapy. It is useful to understand normative thinking because that is a traditional orientation. Non-normative clinical work also has much to offer both philosophically and practically: It is characterized by the premise that people’s behavior makes sense given their histories and current context. Therefore, when understood from the perspective of the individual, even his or her “psychopathology” would make sense. Using a composite case analyzed in normative terms and treated non-normatively, the author illustrates how to bridge these two approaches. Solution-focused methods constitute the interventions of choice. The Orthodox psychotherapy community is familiar with systemic thinking (Wieselberg, 1992), but may not be aware of a distinction in outlook between normative (Kerr & Bowen, 1988; Minuchin, 1993) and non-normative clinical work (Andersen, 1991; Anderson & Goolishian, 1988; Boscolo, Cecchin, Hoffman, & Penn, 1987; McNamee & Gergen, 1992). Within the latter are a number of schools whose ideas have pierced mainstream therapy. Solution-focused work, pioneered by Steve de Shazer (1985, 1988a; de Shazer, Berg, Lipchik, Nunnally, Molnar, Gingerich, & Weiner-Davis, 1986; de Shazer & Molnar, 1984; de Shazer, Gingerich, &...
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