Psychotherapy is about the changes and constancies of human relationships. These relationships can be with oneself, with others, and with the world.
Psychotherapy is a treatment and healing approach for psychological disturbance and dysfunction within an individual and within systems of human relating. Therapy may involve the individual and/or parts of the social network to which they belong, since public and private relationships can range from a state of mild but persistent difficulty to one representative of major dysfunctional disorder. The concern of treatment is therapy of the psyche – which can be understood as the interrelated physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of being human. The foundations of psychotherapy are associated with basic human impulses concerned with existence, meaning and self-realisation.
Psychotherapy also recognises the social and cultural contexts of human experience. It encompasses past, present and future, and acknowledges various forms of consciousness.
Psychotherapy is concerned with a set of disciplines and attitudes of inquiry that are aimed at helping clients face into the deep experience of their lives. In so doing, they examine and change established patterns of living, and begin to express their potential patterns of being.
As a field of inquiry and as a medium for change, psychotherapy orients itself towards an examination of its own evolution, including the extent to which it may shape and be shaped by the wider social context.
The Practice of Psychotherapy
The practice of psychotherapy is grounded in a basis of dynamic, existential, transpersonal and systems theories of individual development and human relationships.
This group of related therapeutic attitudes and techniques recognises that:
- conscious and unconscious processes influence behaviour, emotion and cognitive experience.
- experiences remote in time and place influence perceptions and actions in current relationships.
- people influence and are influenced by the systems of which they are part.
- physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of experience are interrelated.
The practice of psychotherapy requires constant ongoing assessment of the therapeutic progress of each client and each therapeutic relationship, and consequent evaluation and refinement of the strategies and techniques being utilised in the process.
The practice of psychotherapy involves engaging clients in a relationship within which they examine their lives and their life contexts, so that their consciousness of themselves is enhanced as they make and maintain, meaningful changes in their lives.
The practice of psychotherapy involves therapeutic attitudes and strategies brought to a relationship formally structured by the therapist, the quality of which is itself, an essential agent of change. This relationship entails responsibilities on both the psychotherapist and the client.
In order to do this, psychotherapists will have examined their own interpersonal and intrapsychic experiences so that they are able to remain open to, yet separate from, the clients’ experiences.
Psychotherapists will be able to tolerate both ambiguity and the unknown in the relationship, while staying present and free to relate with their clients.
Psychotherapists will be able to monitor their own responses and experiences, and the interaction of these with the responses and experiences of their clients.
Personal Therapy for Therapists
The task of psychotherapy is such that all psychotherapists are required to have been engaged in personal psychotherapy as part of their training. It is expected that this will be at least as intensive in terms of frequency and duration as the form of psychotherapy the trainee intends to specialise in. Consideration of further personal psychotherapy will subsequently become part of the regular supervisory review of personal and professional development needs, which is a continuing requirement for all practising psychotherapists.
Experience of personal psychotherapy is likely to ensure that the nature and quality of the experience of being a client in psychotherapy is understood and appreciated.
It is also the most direct way that a psychotherapist, as the very instrument of therapy, is alerted to the operation of their conscious and unconscious patterns, which are likely to affect their own perceptions, judgements, needs and responses during the various phases of therapy.
The professional need for a high degree of awareness of one’s own personal functioning in the prolonged, intimate and often stressful relationships that are the essence of psychotherapy, is a necessary prerequisite to the ability to assess and manage these relationships appropriately.
Together with supervision, the process of personal psychotherapy provides an experiential basis for maintaining a commitment to the process of observation and comment by one’s peers, on professional practice.
NZAP supervisors of applicants have an ethical and professional reponsibility to ensure that their supervisees engage in, or continue with, appropriate personal psychotherapy, during the course of their supervisory relationship.
NZAP members in professional practice are required to maintain arrangements for their ongoing supervision. The process of supervision also incorporates aspects of continuing education and personal and professional development – including personal psychotherapy where this is indicated.