Mary Pipher on Psychotherapy in the Age of Overwhelm


Mary Pipher on Psychotherapy in the Age of Overwhelm

March/April 2015


When I was coming out of grad school, in the 1970s, we had mostly generic approaches, with little in the way of specific methods for different problems, like marital conflicts, trauma, and OCD. Since then, I’ve been impressed with many of the advances we’ve made in the field. For example, in marital therapy, the Gottmans and Susan Johnson have given us much better protocols. Marsha Linehan’s work with borderline personality is a lot more helpful than what I was taught as a young therapist. People like Peter Levine and Bessel van der Kolk have shown us that treating trauma means going beyond simply having people repeat their terrible stories over and over.

That said, there are areas in which I think therapy may have gotten worse. The essence of therapy remains the relationship, and the greatest gift to a client with virtually any problem is a focused, curious, empathic listener. But right now, pressure to speed up therapy can undercut the sanctity of the therapeutic relationship. Like good cooking, I think good therapy takes time.

The kind of verbal, cognitive, come-and-sit-down-in-an-office approach is deeply unsuited to the poor and underserved populations that we’re increasingly ignoring, like refugees and immigrants. I’d like to see us develop more active, nonverbal group approaches, which could incorporate singing, dancing, massage, and trust-building exercises—the kind of work mental health workers did in South Africa and in Rwanda after the…

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1 Comment

Friday, March 13, 2015 9:25:47 PM | posted by meghan oconnell
Mary Pipher inspires!

Thank you.