Clinician's Digest


Clinician's Digest

Psychotherapy in the Media Spotlight

September/October 2014


It’s no secret that psychotherapy has had an image problem in the media. Real and fictional clinicians on TV and in the movies are regularly portrayed as jargon-spouting caricatures, or are often shown to break ethical codes without blinking, displaying more personal problems than their clients. But a bigger part of the problem may be that, on the whole, therapists haven’t done a particularly good job explaining what we do or how it works. So when The New York Times Magazine asked trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk if it could have a journalist follow him around for a month to observe his work, it seemed like a golden opportunity to present the latest advances in trauma treatment in one of mainstream journalism’s most highly respected forums.

Medical director of The Trauma Center in Boston, professor of psychiatry at Boston University, and director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Networker, Van der Kolk is recognized in the field for being a pioneer of once unconventional mind--body interventions, such as eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, and yoga. Over the last 30 years, he has established a reputation as an iconoclastic critic of traditional approaches to trauma---especially Prolonged Exposure therapy, which he’s characterized as “among the worst possible treatments” for trauma, merely desensitizing people to their suffering, instead of healing them.

When he finally read the magazine…

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