Power Relationships in Psychotherapy: Rethinking Therapists’ Omnipotence and Clients’ “Inherent” Vulnerability

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All materials are available as audios with transcripts.

Developed by Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

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Course fulfills, fully or in part, the Ethics & Law requirements for psychologists in CA and for psychologists, social workers, counselors, and addiction counselors in other states. Verify requirements with your state board.

Audio introduction to course by Ofer Zur, Ph.D. (Transcript)

General Course Description

This unique introductory, beginning level, course explores the different aspects of power in psychotherapy and counseling. It challenges the myth of therapists’ omnipotence and the commonly held belief that all clients are highly vulnerable to and dependent on therapists. The professional literature is saturated with unchallenged and unsupported statements regarding the “inherent power differential in psychotherapy,” the “imbalance of power between therapists and clients,” and “once a client, always a client.”

The course is composed of a two (2) hour lecture (MP3-audio file) on power in therapy (transcripts provided) and references and online resources on different aspects of power in therapy.

Many psychotherapy clients are, indeed, distressed, traumatized, anxious, depressed, young, impaired and vulnerable and can be easily influenced or controlled by their therapists. On the other hand, other clients are competent, strong, and authoritative and may be controlling. Many modern day consumers are highly informed and seek therapy to enhance the quality of their lives, improve their loving relationships or find meaning in their lives. They are neither depressed nor traumatized nor vulnerable. Yet, the myth of the power differential persists as if all clients are the same and all therapist-client relationships are duplicates of each other.

After the extensive documentation of the different myths about power, this course provides a complex view of power in therapy and details how therapists and clients are vested with different forms of power. Next, the lecture looks at the diverse ways that therapists attempt to bolster their power over their clients, discusses situations where the power differential is valid and applicable, and finally, proposes new ways to view power relationships in psychotherapy that are realistic to the field of therapy and counseling, respectful and honoring to clients, and most importantly, can help increase therapeutic effectiveness. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Educational Objectives:

    This course will teach the participant to

  • Appraise the universality of the belief in the therapist-client power differential.
  • Differentiate between different types of therapists’ power.
  • Review different ways that clients can increase their power.
  • Recommend ways for therapists to integrate a sophisticated view of power into their practices.

Course Syllabus:

  • The Myth of Power-Differential
  • Clients Come in All Shapes and Forms (of Power)
  • Client Power as Portrait in the Movies
  • The Origin of the Myth, “Inherent Power Differential”
  • Types of Powers in Psychotherapy
    • Legitimate power
    • Expert-Knowledge power
    • Professionalism-Clout power
    • Positional or Role power
    • Knowledge-Discrepancy
    • Coercive power
    • Reward power
    • Reference power
    • Manipulative power
  • How Psychotherapists Create Power Advantage
    • Lack of transparency & disclosure
    • Setting the stage (office)
    • Misuse of the term “resistance”
    • Viewing clients as victims
    • Using power to name
    • Isolating clients
    • “For your own good”
    • Meta communications
  • When Power-Differential is Relevant and Valid
  • How Power May Shift During Therapy
  • Modern Clients as Consumers
  • Towards a New View of Power in Psychotherapy
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Cost: $19.00

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