The context and content of the life-story is more than just the content and context of
one’s traits and motives.
Psychotherapy can be viewed as one way of systematically revising one’s own life-story,
and it may contribute towards making a more coherent life story.
We can understand much of what goes on, from a theoretical point of view, during
psychotherapy, from 3 particular frameworks/categories/classifications of psychotherapy
that dominated during the 20th century:
•Psychodynamic Therapies – talk about the conflicts in their patients as the
sources for symptoms of their patients (conflict between the ID and the ego, between
the ego and the super-ego), so that the psychodynamic patient comes to therapy with a
whole variety of potentially underlying conflicts. These conflicts produce anxieties, and it
is the nature of the psyche to respond to these anxieties by virtue of (unconscious)
defence mechanisms (repress, deny, project, sublimate etc.) and when these defences
fail, the patients present symptoms. In this case however, the symptom itself represents
an underlying conflict. The goal, as a psychodynamic therapist, is to serve as a blank
canvas, onto which the patient can project all of their motivational unconscious issues
(Transference). The therapist provides an interpretation of that projection
(Interpretation), and this produces some insight into the conflict he/she has (Insight).
The insight however is distressing, and so it leads to resistance from the patient
(Resistance), and then we’re back to transference again. It’s a cyclic movement, with the
notion that with repeated opportunities to experience insight, the patient will be able to
resolve their issues.
•Cognitive-Behavioural Therapies (CBT) – grows out of the modern learning
traditions (associative and operand learning theories). The notion is that antecedent
events illicit behaviours (overt/observable or covert/unobservable like thoughts), These
behaviours have consequences, and whether they are rewarding or punishing, you will
be more or less likely to engage in that behaviour in the future. The CBT Therapist
employs cognitive restructuring techniques & behavioural experiments. An example of a
behavioural experiment: one of the things a socially anxious patient will do, is avoid
situations that make him/her anxious in the first place. Avoidance is a very powerful
behaviour, because it produces a very powerful consequence – relief, which is very
rewarding. The problem with it is that it often keeps the patient away from experiences
that teach him/her that there isn’t so much to be afraid of after all. So one of the things a
CBT therapist will do is to make the patient test his/her beliefs about what will happen
under various circumstances. This makes the patients test the maladaptive beliefs about
how the world works.
•Humanistic/Existential Therapies – Rogerian therapy – based on conditions of
worth that we all learn, the rules by which we have to live in order to receive love and