Eric Evans

Registered Psychotherapist

Toronto Psychotherapist working with depression, anxiety, serious illness, creativity, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer issues.

Two sides

Psychotherapy seems to sit in an uneasy position in North America. On the one hand, many people - public and professional - see it as an adjunct to medical practice, as a technique done to people in order that they may not be depressed or anxious or have better relationships. On the other are people - public and professional - who see it as a particular kind of experience whereby someone comes to a richer understanding of themselves and their choices, their past, their relationships. 

In some ways the purpose is exactly the same, but each is situated in a particular way with specific assumptions and practices. I would say neither is right, despite the fact that I identify myself more with the latter of the above definitions. 

There are many reasons for this, I think. The two "streams" came about because of two distinct ways of educating and training practitioners and the assumptions that both groups have. Some have said it's another example of the conversation between science and experience; between objective and subjective. I think that's partly true. 

There are other issues that I would rather leave to those more qualified to delineate them. My point here is to say that I think both sides need to learn from each other - both in the positive and negative ways. Too much objectivity can lead to treating people as symptoms or cases thereby missing their complexity and humanity. Too much emphasis on the subjective can lead to important and quantifiable issues being missed and dealt with. It's like treating a symptom as if there were no context on the one hand and focusing so much on the context that a clear symptom of something is ignored. 

It has to go both ways. Anxiety can be something given very specific attention, but only if its context is fully understood. Or fully understanding one's life still leaves the problem of anxiety to be dealt with. Neither way of looking at things has all the answers nor holds the moral high ground.