Psychotherapy research that hangs in the air exactly the same way that bricks don’t

The obsession with causality and investigating pathology in the field of psychotherapy while fascinating, hasn’t led to improved outcomes in mental health interventions. Our understanding of the brain has advanced dramatically in recent decades, but hasn’t led to any advancement in interventions to reduce suffering.

If you drop a brick on your foot, once you get past the shock and pain, you would most likely be interested in doing anything you can to reduce the pain and help the healing.

Imagine when you seek advice you discover that the experts are mostly interested in the brick. They want to know its structure and make up, its chemical composition, the velocity and acceleration of impact. Then if you manage to get them interested in your foot they start to measure chemical imbalances in said foot and ascribe those imbalances as cause for your pain and suffering, crossing their arms and smiling with satisfaction. They then draw your attention to the decades of research findings looking at structural changes found on sophisticated scans of similarly injured feet. Next they tell you that these structural changes are causing your suffering and limitation, with the implication that you should be grateful for such psycho-education. You then find out that after 50 years of such research they are no better now than they were then, at speeding up the healing process or reducing your pain and suffering. Meanwhile your grandmother has bandaged your foot, elevated it, applied ice and brought you a nice cup of tea. Researchers chuckle dismissively at this, having been too busy with their pHd’s to listen to their own grandmothers.

Today is the 8th anniversary of the founding of The Milton H Erickson Institute of Tasmania, and Erickson’s 114th birthday. A good day for a provocative post!

Share this post if you would like to see psychotherapy research focus on assisting healing.

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