Re: thoughts on psychotherapy

From: Dana Hedberg (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 10:33:13 MDT

I don't think anyone has blurred the distinction here, but I would like
to make it clear that there is a significant difference between the
methods of clinical psychology/psychiatry and those that practice
psychotherapy. There are numerous psychotherapy approaches, quite a few
of which have not, in my opinion, been properly researched, or
demonstrated conclusively that they are successful at "curing"

Clinical psychology on the other hand, tends to focus on assessment with
carefully defined interventions (as they are called) following
established, moderately successful, past practices. Psychiatrists take
this a step further (to the side?) by having an advanced medical degree
that grants them the privilege of dispensing medication to people with
broken mental machinery. These types of psychologists often have similar
methods of assessment as psychotherapists, but their approaches to
treatment differ wildly from each other. Clinical methods tend to
involve classifying symptomatic behavior into specific categories of
mental illness/deficit from which associative interventions (medication,
surgery, relaxation techniques, etc.) are prescribed. These methods of
intervention tend to be based much more on empirical
neuro-medical/cognitive research that can at least demonstrate some
clear cause and effect(s), especially in the case of drugs. While
psychotherapists tend to have their foundation of mental understanding
based on dubious cognitive theories (Freud is the classic example).

I suspect, Tom, the major problem you have with psychotherapy is that it
tends to view the cognitive/neurological workings of the brain as very
black box. The common philosophy then is to treat it in somewhat of a
black box manner: catharsis, free association, etc. Whereas,
neurological approaches recognize there is some mystery, but some clear
chains of causal effects can be seen. Appropriate medical or surgical
interventions can then be administered with a higher degree of success,
not to mention rationality.


Tom Wooldridge wrote:
> Hi,
> Recently I was reading Robert Wright's excellent book "The
> Moral Animal" and my mind wondered to several questions concerning
> psychotherapy and cognitive psychology.
> In general, I question the value of psychotherapy as it seems
> to be an empirical science and the results seem to depend more on the
> practitioner than the practice. I am mostly curious as to the
> generalized Extropian viewpoint on the value of psychotherapy given
> Extropy's commitment to "self-direction." I recently read an
> intriguing essay by Max More on the value of "self-ownership" and I
> wonder if regimes such as this are in conflict with that ideal?
> Psychodrama, a subdivision of psychotherapy, emphasizes a
> role-based metaphor system. For instance, the "emotional" role and
> the "intellectual" role are, in the ideal instance, thought to be
> equally balanced. As I understand it, the emotional role concerns
> itself with such things as "emotional expression"; the intellectual
> role concerns itself with rationalizations. I'm interested in the
> insights and flaws of this metaphor system and it's value in general.
> Are there any promising treatments being advocated to replace fields
> such as psychotherapy?
> I am not adequately familiar with the idiosyncrasies of
> cognitive psychology, but I'd love to hear any comments.
> I realize this letter is a bit vague, but mostly, I'm trying
> to open up discussion. ;-)
> Thanks,
> --

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