Power in Psychotherapy & Counseling
How powerful are we as therapists? What is power in therapy?
What are the different faces of power? Who has the power?
By Zur Institute
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Power in Psychotherapy and Counseling course (6CE)
Understanding the role of power is essential for our understanding of the political, economic, communal, familial and clinical realms. I am pleased to announce a new, challenging and exciting online course, Power in Psychotherapy and Counseling. I have enthusiastically worked on the text for this course for several years and, as far as I know, it is the first and most comprehensive course on the topic.
From the first day in graduate school in psychology, we psychotherapists-in-training have been instructed to pay great attention to the "inherent power differential" in psychotherapy. We were taught to be aware of the imbalance of power between therapists and clients, and repeatedly told to never abuse or exploit our vulnerable and dependent clients. When it comes to the psychotherapist-client relationship, the view of power as an attribute possessed exclusively by the psychotherapist has been unchallenged. In our professional newsletters, advice columns on ethics and risk management present a similar unified message about therapists' unilateral power and clients' inherent vulnerability.
Therapists and counselors generally ignore the issue of power and we rarely discuss it among ourselves or with our clients. On the other hand, ethicists, attorneys, and risk-management experts write and discuss it incessantly. All in all, even though power is extremely important and equally complex, it is rarely discussed in a comprehensive and non-simplistic way.
Many psychotherapy or counseling clients are, indeed, very vulnerable. They may be distressed, young, impaired, traumatized, anxious, and/or depressed. However, there are also clients who are high functioning and successful. For instance, many of today's clients (i.e., "consumers") seek therapy to enhance the quality of their lives. They want to improve their relationships or find meaning for their lives. They are neither depressed nor traumatized nor vulnerable.