The Therapist’s Most Important Tool

The Therapist’s Most Important Tool

Salvador Minuchin on What Today's Training Approaches Are Missing

By Mary Sykes Wylie

September/October 2013

At 92 years old, Salvador Minuchin, the world’s most famous living family therapy pioneer and probably the most imitated clinical practitioner ever, is still too young for retirement. Now, nearly 50 years after helping foment a revolution in psychotherapy and becoming himself an icon and an institution, the old lion is back in the arena, and with the publication of his latest book, The Craft of Family Therapy, he’s once again challenging the therapeutic status quo.

During the mid-1950s, when Minuchin first began his psychiatric career, almost all therapists followed the psychoanalytic rule book. The goal was to bring to light the individual intrapsychic conflicts from which the patient’s life problems were thought to originate. Because truly meaningful change was thought to emerge only from within the patient’s mind—carefully cultivated and encouraged, but never imposed from without—the therapist wasn’t supposed to get in the way. Well-trained clinicians were expected to embody a kind of divinely empty blank screen, maintaining a posture of reticence and neutrality, so as not to interfere with the workings of the holy transference: the patient’s subconsciously generated projections onto the therapist of emotionally important figures from his or her deep past. How, it was argued, could the patient see and relate to the therapist as his mean father, her overprotective mother, his seductive older sister—thus revealing the source and lineaments of his psychic…

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Sunday, November 6, 2016 5:51:02 PM | posted by Anne Pleas
I am taking Bessel van der Kolk's Certificate of Trauma online class and this article is part of the required reading. Thank you!

Monday, November 4, 2013 2:30:35 PM | posted by VeLora Lilly
I was trained by the masters who started the family therapy movement and I appreciate the recounting of how we family therapists viewed our craft. I too am concerned that the students or interns I encounter are so focused on methodology versus an understanding of the family and their interaction with them as a means for change. I am glad that Sal is still with us and holding the mirror for us to see ourselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 3:06:45 PM | posted by Marilyn
This is the kind of "therapist" I'm talking about! This man is exactly the type of counselor/therapist society needs to kick people into gear and into reality. No more sitting back, scratching notes and scratching your head while your client speaks and cries, wondering what the hell your writing and why aren't you paying attention. This is what people want and need, a REAL person to talk to and to get feedback from. Why don't the "professionals" get that? Take off your suits & ties and get out from behind that pretty desk, put on your regular clothes and sit on the floor or a chair with your client and just BE REAL!