|Trauma Attachment Theory Men in Therapy CE Comments The Future of Psychotherapy Mind/Body Etienne Wenger Alan Sroufe Challenging Cases Great Attachment Debate Future of Psychotherapy Couples Anxiety Clinical Mastery Gender Issues Symposium 2012 Mary Jo Barrett Ethics Diets Community of Excellence Couples Therapy William Doherty David Schnarch Wendy Behary Brain Science Clinical Excellence Mindfulness Narcissistic Clients Linda Bacon Attachment|
|Clinicians Digest May/June 2008 - Page 2|
How well do graduate schools train students to do therapy? Nicholas Ladany of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who trains therapists and supervisors around the world, says not very well. In last December's Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, he summarized the findings of four articles that explore the components of effective education for therapists, concluding that a "large percentage of therapists enter graduate school with a low ability for helping . . . and the same large percentage leave it as mediocre to poorly functioning therapists."
Studies of practicing therapists find that learning about psychological theories and principles doesn't significantly improve their clinical outcomes. Only direct experience through such techniques as role-plays and participation in actual therapy (as clients and therapists) develops clinical skills like empathy, active and deep listening, timing, intuition, and understanding of clients, says Ladany. Unfortunately, most graduate programs adhere to what therapy researcher Larry Beutler ironically calls the "germ theory" of learning: they seem to believe that students exposed to concepts will somehow catch the
One way to produce better therapists, Ladany says, is to have graduate programs identify students who have an aptitude for learning clinical skills and divert those who don't to nonclinical tracks. Currently, schools rely on students' own judgments about whether they should become therapists.
Ladany, coauthor of the forthcoming book Practicing Counseling and Psychotherapy: Insights from Trainees, Clients and Supervisors, often runs into professors who challenge his assertions about the inadequacy of graduate psychology programs. He asks them whether they'd refer a close family member to one of their graduating therapists. "About a third of the time," he says, "the answer is no."