Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Tao of Psychotherapy

"Accept what is useful, reject what is useless." - Bruce Lee

Warning: This post may only be remotely interesting to martial artists or counselors (and maybe not even them)!

The way I figure it, counseling is like martial arts. There are many different schools (or core types) of martial arts. There is karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, muay thai, capoeira, savate, etc. Each of these is founded on certain principles that then influenced the art (or system) that they became. Not only this, but each martial art can be subdivided into offshoot schools, for instance there are literally hundreds of different styles of karate (shotokan, shite ryu, kempo, etc) which are similar but have subtle differences. Each martial art in its purity has strengths and weaknesses that are born out of the foundational principles that each art embodies. For instance Tae Know Do has some of the most powerful kicks of any martial art. But it is weaker in grappling. But to make each a system that is true to its founding principles, they all compromise one thing or another.

Counseling is much the same. There are several main schools of counseling theory. These include cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, gestalt, rogerian, etc. Like martial arts, each is a system founded on certain principles. Each has hundreds of offshoot systems (cognitive behavioral for instance has REBT, CBT, Reality Therapy, etc and many of these each have offshoots). Like the martial arts, each school of counseling theory has strengths and weaknesses. Reality therapy is strong on motivating people by showing them their ability to choose their destiny but is weak on resolving difficulties from one's past. The "sub-systems" attempt to solve some of these weaknesses but can never quite do so without losing their strengths.

Some marital arts are relatively new and aim to integrate the strengths of several different martial arts into a new, improved one. Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do was an early example. Today you see this kind of integrated "art" in the current fascination with mixed martial arts (MMA). Mixed martial arts are a kind of practical combat system and are usually very effective. To get this effectiveness they have to reject much of the "art" and philosophy of each system they incorporate. Thus they don't fully experience the truth strength of each system, but they get enough of it that when integrated with other systems is a powerful result.

Counseling too has new "integrated" theories. In fact when I was in school you could only study integration - there was only one or two courses of a true "pure" theory. You were expected to take the best from each system and make your own system that fit you. This makes a lot of sense in theory but in practice I wonder if it had been better if we had all learned one theory well before trying to come up with our ow integrated systems. Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to be great in one system (although it couldn't help every issue) then to be "OK" in many. If I could do it all again, I think I would take specific training in one theory (maybe REBT or solution focused therapy) and only after I had mastered it begin the task of integrating it with other systems. That's after all what most martial artists do. Just some thoughts I have been having.

May Light increase!

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