Could we consider the therapeutic relationship as a concept which includes the pattern that might be connecting the basic psychotherapeutic approaches?
While I was reading the book I thought that what is revealed is the pattern: the common ground for the analogies to become recognizable and thus for the approaches to become connected. A connection resembling the therapeutic connection between patient and therapist.
Connection, that is an increase in intimacy, does not mean identification (emulation), it means recognition of differences and common ground through dialogue. It doesn’t mean necessarily lots of intimacy. It means the formation of rules and manners for connecting. Creation of limits that define the appropriate amount of intimacy to match the agreed purpose.
As the editors note in the introduction:
“This book reflects the effort to document on paper what has been articulated in several symposiums that were organized by the Psychotherapeutic Department of the Greek Psychiatric Association…. The aim was to demonstrate the importance of the therapeutic relationship in the process of psychotherapy…. Here are represented the three main psychotherapeutic approaches…. psychoanalysis, cognitive-behavioral and systemic. There has been an effort to document not only the differences, which undoubtedly exist, but also the common ground…. concerning the theory and the clinical practice of the therapeutic relationship. ”
I think that this is a book that should be read as a textbook for trainees in human sciences.
The texts in the book give you the opportunity to become familiar not only with the basic principle of each approach but also with recent developments and innovations. They help you assimilate an image of their evolution in general. Their course seems to be more convergent than divergent. And since I referred to isomorphism earlier, one could treat the evolution of the three psychotherapeutic approaches as isomorphic to the psychological evolution of Humans: The infant is in a symbiotic undifferentiated condition with the mother (who is the mother in psychotherapy?), while the child begins to differentiate but might also get into sibling rivalry. Reaching adolescence, facing the fear of further differentiation, he exhibits total denial of parental “ways of being” or even the sibling resemblance. In adulthood (if it is ever reached), he recognizes the analogies and reconciles himself with aspects of the parental paradigm.
Have the three approaches reached adulthood? It is possible.
In the 1980s, when I started my training as a systemic psychotherapist, the word psychoanalysis was almost forbidden among some groups of systemic therapists, while at the same time I could observe an ironic smile in the faces of quite a lot of psychoanalysts in the hearing of the word “systemic”. It is certain that this has changed nowadays.
Concerning the valuable potential use of the book, I can’t stop thinking how important it would be for a general practitioner or a teacher to get acquainted with the basic principles of the therapeutic relationship. I think that this importance is undervalued when referring to such therapeutic-educative relationships. I am talking about education, having in mind that the cognitive approach carries an overtly expressed educative reasoning. And also because I have frequently experienced the therapeutic function of education and the educative function of therapy.
For a systemic therapist who often works simultaneously with more than one persons, I found the presentations of the psychoanalysts working with groups, couples and families very helpful, as it was easier for me to correlate and match certain concepts; to find links between the therapeutic languages.
It seems that, irrespective of their theoretical point of view, all the writers agree with the metaphor about the psychotherapeutic relationship as “riding a bike on a road with rocks on one side and a cliff on the other” (G. Zervas) and also with the reframing of the ”rock as a brace” (K. Charalabaki).
However, to finish with a comment on the systemic approach, as V. Pomini and V. Tomaras point out, “…research concerning characteristics and specificities of the therapeutic relationship in systemic psychotherapy is still inadequate…”
I think that books like the one presented here are undoubtedly helpful not only for becoming familiar with the already known definitions and arguments about the systemic therapeutic relationship but also for its enrichment.