The Good Therapist


The Good Therapist

Continually Reassessing Its Role, Psychotherapy Gallops into a New Era

By Mary Sykes Wylie, William Doherty

November/December 1995


MANY THERAPISTS THESE DAYS FEEL A LITTLE LIKE hurricane victims watching the roof of an entire profession being blown off. They wonder balefully (and loudly) if their corner of civilization is facing extinction, if their way of life and the worldview that defines psychotherapy will be reduced to rubble when the storm is over. But if the last 70 years are any indication, they should take heart from the study of history.

The culture of therapy in America has gone through periods of dramatic change every 15 or 20 years with almost clock-like regularity, as succeeding generations of therapists respond to the evolving Zeitgeist while stamping their own imprint on prevailing social mores. With each succeeding wave of change, the old line invariably denounced the rising party with variations of the same accusation the new people were betraying the hallowed principles of the True Therapy. Even so, something that everybody agreed to call psychotherapy not only survived, but grew more robust and complex with each passing mini-revolution, as therapists continually re-invented themselves and their metier to keep up with the times. "But it's never been this bad," the current crop of storm-tossed victims can be heard to cry. Maybe. And yet, it seems fair to say that the ambivalent love affair between American society and psychotherapy has gone on too long almost a hundred years for either party to get along very well without the other at this late date. Now an old married couple,…

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