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Introduction From the first day in graduate school in psychology, psychotherapists and counselors 1 in training have been instructed to pay great attention to the "inherent power differential" in psychotherapy, to be aware of the "imbalance of power between therapists and clients", and they have been repeatedly told to "never abuse or exploit our vulnerable and dependent clients.
While the universal assumption about the "power differential" is like an undercurrent in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and counseling, there is paradoxically a split between the ethicists, risk management experts and boards who over-emphasize the "power differential", and the clinicians and the theoreticians who largely avoid or ignore any reference to power Heller, Clinicians tend to ignore the issue of power that is a reflection of the culture at large that often associates power with coercion, abuse, or injustice, in order not be perceived by themselves or others as controlling and dominating Proctor, The exceptions to the rule have been some feminist, humanist, narrative and postmodern psychotherapists.
As a result, the discussion of power has been primarily confined to ethics and risk management classes, licensing boards and court hearings.
Many psychotherapy or counseling clients are, indeed, distressed, traumatized, anxious, depressed and therefore vulnerable. Many others are also very young, impaired and vulnerable and can be easily influenced by their therapists. Then, on the other hand, other clients are strong, authoritative and successful.
Many modern day consumers seek therapy to enhance the quality of their lives, improve their loving relationships or find meaning and purpose for their lives.
They are neither depressed nor traumatized nor vulnerable. A more inclusive look at power reveals that the power differential in some instances is completely valid, but in many other instances it is a myth.
The error is to see the power differential as always relevant - as if all clients are the same and all therapist-client relationships identical.
Despite the evident fact that some therapists and counselors are successful and powerful while many others struggle financially and are, at times, emotionally fraught, the faulty belief that all therapists hold ultimate power over all their clients lives on.
Throughout this paper, the context of the material will make it obvious when it discusses the valid power differential and when it refers to the myth. The minority group is composed of those who are highly critical of psychotherapy and counseling in general. The majority of scholars and ethicists i.
They view it as potentially harmful if abused and warn against such misuse of power. The third group is composed of feminist, humanist, existentialist and postmodern scholars i. This latter approach is the main theme of this paper. It looks at power as dynamic rather than static Zur, It refutes the notion that power in therapy is exclusively possessed by therapists, and it equally rejects the simplistic notion that power is imposed by therapists exclusively on their clients.
It claims that the dynamics of power and how it affects all the players involved can only be understood within the context of psychotherapy. It also identifies the many forms of power and elucidates how not only therapists, but also clients, often possess them or bring them into the therapeutic exchange.
While the general topic of power obviously extends to economic, political, racial, gender and many other realms, the focus of this paper is on the therapeutic arena. The hope is that the paper will help psychotherapists, counselors, and clinicians review and discuss issues of power in therapy without being trapped in the two extremely unhelpful positions of denial or blind belief in the "power differential" myth.Ethical conduct, or professional decision-making, is a necessary requisite to being called a professional.
A professional must be able to properly balance competing values in making decisions that affect both society and the client, especially where personal, societal, and cultural values conflict. THE MISSION. The mission of the Western Michigan University Thomas M.
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Power in Psychotherapy and Counseling. Re-thinking the 'power differential' myth and exploring the moral, ethical, professional, and clinical issues of power in therapy.