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Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay

The past quarter of the last century has seen the rise of a new generation of therapies. This new breed of therapies has been variously termed as postmodern, narrative, discursive, conversational, poststructuralist, collaborative, and social-constructionist. Despite their lack of a unifying definition, each term has been critical in determining a particular aspect of this type of therapy. Also, the proponents of these types of therapies have questioned and challenged the existing foundation upon which modern psychoanalysis has been built and by so doing have created an alternative and new way in which therapy is conducted. As such, the influences of postmodernism on contemporary psychotherapy regarding how family systems therapy and research is conducted cannot be ignored by a practitioner.


There is no single definition that satisfactorily fits the term postmodernism despite its wide usage. However, regarding culture and philosophy, the term is widely used to imply the concept which seeks to interrogate the existence of reality. In postmodernism, the existence of reality is not only segmented, but also chaotic. (Wyile and Pare, 2001).Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay. Hence skepticism and openness to pluralism abound. Such postmodern views have not been left out within the therapeutic practice.

Pluralism is one of the predominant elements of postmodernism. In it, knowledge is constantly shifting hence it is not expanded through research or new theories exploring its limitless bounds and depths. Moreover, postmodernism regards knowledge as based on a changing schema, a schema which would otherwise give the order, sense, and meaning in a political, historical, or economic context. Simply put, truth does not exist in postmodernism, and if it does, it exists as different kinds of truths (Wyile and Pare, 2001). The interrogating of the existence of reality or truth and the concepts that strives to explain it creates an environment of skepticism. Nowhere is this more manifest than in family systems therapy as evidenced by the diverse schools, approaches and therapeutic models available.


The role of the therapist is, therefore, shifting based the questioning of what has been considered as foundational theories of psychotherapy. In the modern set-up, the family therapist not only has knowledge of what is wrong with a patient, and the remedy that is needed to make him well but also, by use of therapeutic language and theory, can explain the reasons why. On the other hand, a postmodern psychotherapist subscribes to the view that it is difficult for a mental health expert to determine what is psychologically healthy. As such, the therapist does not view himself as an expert in his craft hence he does not refer to any particular type of fore-knowledge. His only requirement is to be a good conservationist (Wyile and Pare, 2001). Also, there is no clear definition of family or even structures that govern the counseling process, other than the dialogue arising from the conversation. Since the postmodern therapist is wired to mistrust and question theories, even his hypothesis is disposable.Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay. As such, a constant questioning and looking for a new narrative is left on the part of the therapist as a form of creativity between the therapist and his client, until a solution is arrived at.

In what ways then is this paradigm shift in beliefs and practices affecting psychoanalysis? One of the most obvious ways in which postmodernism is impacting contemporary psychotherapy is that the therapy orientations that are crafted are uniquely postmodern. Examples that can fall into this category includes but are not limited to the following:

The Narrative Therapy: this type of therapy strives for a non- blaming and respectful approach to counseling and social work. At its very core, people are considered as experts of their own lives. It presupposes that each individual human being has their own unique skills, values, and beliefs, which can be used to reduce the impacts of the problems they are facing.As such it strives to dissociate people from their problems (Chang, 2013). Narrative counseling is often touted as the quintessential of postmodern therapy within psychotherapy since it emerged from postmodern epistemology in a postmodern era. In its effort to create an understanding of people, narrative therapy creates a uniquely postmodern tpye of psychoanalysis by simply mixing social constructivism and personal constructivism.

Contemporary Psychotherapy: also referred to as relational psychoanalysis. This type of therapy seeks an integrative result oriented outcome to counseling by combining the diversity of traditional theories with the best of the current knowledge. It strives to align itself with the contexts, resources, and needs of the clients. As such, the duration of therapy might be brief, mid-term or even long term, depending with the situation. In its effort to remain truly contemporary, the model resists being confined to the static traditional definition of the term so that it can constantly be modified depending on the progress and research in the psychoanalysis field. The model, therefore, strives to set itself apart from earlier theories by being distinctively postmodern. It, therefore, does not regard a single theory of psychotherapy to be complete or superior to other models but rather seeks to encompass all ideologies in its use. Intersubjective approaches to therapy as well as social costructivism are some of the most notable variants of this model. Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay.

Existential Psychotherapies: this type of psychoanalysis employs a positive approach that seeks to embrace human capabilities and aspirations yet at the same time recognizes the existence of limitations as well. It is founded on the fundamental principle that people experience intrapsychic conflicts as a result of their interaction with certain intrinsic conditions in human beings called givens. The theory identifies four main types of known facts: freedom and associated responsibility, death, isolation, and meaningless. This type of psychoanalysis shares deep similarities with humanistic psychotherapy and experiential therapies (Winston, 2015, p.41). Existential psychotherapy began exhibiting strong postmodern influences long before postmodernism became a well known term. As such, this model emphasizes subjectivity, limitations of human knowledge, and utilization of diverse ways of knowing things.

The above three are just an example of how postmodernism is influencing psychotherapy by developing therapy orientations that are not only uniquely postmodern but also revolutionary in the way psychoanalysis is conducted as opposed to with earlier theories.

Psychotherapy Research.

Emerging Trends in Evidence-Based Practice further suggests how postmodernism is influencing psychotherapy. This is particularly true in clinical psychology. In its attempt to become a hard science, clinical psychology spent many years in delusion trying to come up with a clear definition of what really constututes objective and true psychological research especially through the use of empirical and neurological research. The development of treatments based on empirical findings promoted manualized treatment, skill, and knowledge of the therapist, psychological health ratings as the central pillars of successful psychoanalysis. However, increased evidence based on meta-analyses and literature reviews revealed the inherent flaws on the treatmnets that were based on empirical research findings. Research findings further validated the view that the most important factor contributing to the successful outcome of a therapy session were pegged on the client as well as the therapy relationships (Hertlein, Lambert-Shute and Benson, 2004). As an alternative, Evidence-Based Practice gained prominence as it gave a broader outlook of what the outcome of a successful therapy was. One of its key proponents was Ron Levant, who in his stint as the president of the American Psychological Association (APA), urged practitioners from various approaches to join in discussions leading to a proper and clear definition of the term, the fear being that if left undefined, it would be defined as an empirically based model (Levant, 2005). Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay. The result was a broader understanding of Evidence-Based Practice that incorporated the use of multiple sources to validate psychoanalysis practices. It also paved the way for qualitative research, professional opinion, and well-formulated theories as central components of successful treatment outcomes. The push for multimethod research further lends support to this view. As a result, the American Psychological Association APA) released its first book on multimethod research (Eid and Dierner, 2005). Many other publications seeking to incorporate qualitative and quantitative methodologies have been written in recent times in an effort to expound on the subject. Also, the shortcomings of research as a source of knowledge, has further led researchers to come to the conclusion that the same findings can not be used on different people as each case is unique, further popularizing Evidence-Based Practice.

A Different On Psychotherapy

Earlier forms of therapy held the view that the effectiveness of any given modality relied on objective scientific research. As such, treatment based on empirical data was deemed as superior. Postmodernism holds this view into question. It puts the objectivity of empirical based research into question. Thus evaluation of different psychoanalysis models can only be possible based on different types of research. As such, espistemological problems may threaten the validity of the research if the measurement is not in line with the theory. It is important to note that most therapy models seek the same end result: ensure that the client gets well. The means to achieve the same is the cause of serious divisions. This therefore makes it difficult to choose a particular type of therapy to employ on a specific client. Also, client values also play a vital role. This, therefore, means that each approach, has its own unique set of values, geared towards illiciting a specific outcome. Thus the choice of the approach to utilize is purely value-based, hence the determination of which method is best suited for a particular client is pegged entirely on values and effectiveness of the model of choice. This, therefore, makes it difficult to choose an appropriate model. As such, postmodernism does not concern itself with which type of therapy is superior as it holds the view that choice of a particular model is rather impossible given that it is mostly pegged on too many client and therapist factors. In determining which method is best suited for a particular client, the therapist takes away the responsibility from the client and by so doing imposes their values on them. Postmodernism, therefore, seeks to work with the client by allowing the client to determine which approach is best suited for their personal needs. Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay.


The Client

Loss of sustaining myths is the leading reason why people seek therapy today. Rollo May, in her book The Cry for Myth, proposes that people need myths in order to find meaning in their lives. That without myths, people are bound to fall prey to anxiety (May, 1991). A myth therefore, is something that cannot be validated as true. This therefore, based on postmodernist ideals, implies that all earlier forms of therapy are myths, hence people are bound to fall into anxiety. Thus the transition from modernism to postmodernism is bound to cause anxiety in people mostly in the realms of individual and cultural unconscious. Hence it is imperative for the therapist working with a client in a postmodern setting to be aware of the consequences of postmodernism much as the might be unaware of them. Postmodernism: Influences on Psychotherapy Essay.