Maestro in the Consulting Room

Maestro in the Consulting Room

At 83, Salvador Minuchin is Still Reflecting on Clinical Wisdom

By Mary Sykes Wylie

May/June 2005

If today's psychotherapy were a color, it would probably be beige. Therapists once presented themselves as expert and authoritative guides through the thickets of human suffering, but now they seem more anxious to show that they're just regular folks, who want to help out a little. Many shy away from the word therapist, advertising themselves as "life-balance" coaches, educators, peer counselors, advisors, or consultants, as if to emphasize their desire to "collaborate" and "train" clients, rather than "treat" them. As for the once-vaunted "self" of the therapist, treatment often seems to have become so technical that the therapist's persona seems almost beside the point. After all, how important is the "use of self" for a therapist doing EMDR, TFT, neurofeedback, hypnosis, or the more formula-bound brief therapies? How much scope is left for the therapist's inventiveness, intuition, and life experience?

For contrast, flash back to a therapy session from 30 years ago. Family therapy pioneer Salvador Minuchin is the consultant, seeing a family of three for the first time. They shuffle into the room--a small, poker-faced, working-class father, dressed in competing plaid pants and coat, in keeping with the peculiar fashion sense of the late '70s; a prim, stiffly coiffed, sad-faced mother; and their withdrawn, drug-abusing, and possibly suicidal 15-year-old son, Bud, a boy as improbably handsome as a young, sulky angel in a Renaissance painting.


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