Collaborative psychotherapy: characteristics and functioning

The encounter between a therapist and those who ask for his help involves the confluence of two lives in the common enclave of consultation, where an experience unfolds that cherishes in it a potential for transformation.

The therapist has traditionally been seen as an expert who has the key to opening the doors to the well-being of others, so that the client will only have to adhere to what he decides to “recommend” to break down the issues. defective spaces for emotional pain.

What is really true, however, is that the client needs to be the key piece of the puzzle presented to them throughout the treatment, so that their experience and perspective is the foundation upon which the whole will support the whole. of the process.

This is the idea of collaborative psychotherapy, an approach that moves away from the obsolete vision of the omnipotent and omniscient therapist, To emphasize the direct protagonist of the experience: the customer and the words shared with him.

    Basics of collaborative psychotherapy

    Collaborative psychotherapy is a form of intervention proposed by Harlene Anderson and Harold Goolishan, Which emerges directly from systemic paradigms and assumes constructivism as a basic model. it approaches an approach which contemplates the person within the framework of the social influences with which it provides him with his direct environment, without which it is impossible to approach with precision the way in which he acts and feels.

    In this way, constructivism, which starts from the idea that knowledge is formed from the individual experiences of each, Would extend to the social dimensions of the person. He would therefore understand it as the active and generative recipient of the whole complex system of beliefs, expectations, desires, traditions and taboos that form around family and social unity; this will in a way influence their development as an individual, although it is susceptible to particular reflection and analysis. All of this has been integrated under the general rubric of “social constructivism”.

    Mental disorders and other psychological problems would not be explained by the internal dynamics of the person, but by the way in which it relates to the other links which make up the gearing of its environment, this one defining the totality of the mechanisms. that initiate or maintain internal conflict over time. The interaction model therefore becomes the basic unit of the analysis of collaborative psychotherapy, as an element constructed through the shared experiences of the whole.

    While this form of intervention raises a scenario that it is based on postmodern thinking and rethinks the authority level of the therapist, What he sees as a collaborator (hence the nomenclature itself the procedure) in the understanding of the family fact, not for this reason that they deny or that they ignore the traditional strategies of psychological evaluation ( like interview or observation), but are reformulated in order to adapt them to the epistemological (constructivist) substrate that characterizes it.

    The language used in all cases (between the therapist and the client) is articulated in a familiar register, which avoids technicalities and assimilates the information shared within the framework of an ordinary conversation. This reduces the verticality of the exchange and the professional is placed in a situation of total equality, avoiding value judgments and making public (to the client) the conclusions that he can reach throughout the process.

      Operation of the intervention and sessions

      From collaborative psychotherapy, the knowledge of an individual is understood through the way he exchanges information on the social scene, while language becomes a symbolic entity through which he can explore reality and even and transform everything. that he knows. From this basis, which derives from its systemic and constructionist foundation, emerges a form of therapy which uses open and candid conversation through the simplest possible verbal code.

      In this conversation, the parties involved do not take privileged positions, but unite with the common goal of sharing views on the same topic and promoting the whole thinking process so that it can give rise to , without necessarily having to reach a consensus. As new ways of looking at the problem are constructed, always in close collaboration between the therapist and his client, the shared product motivates new descriptions of him and of the agents that may be involved.

      In collaborative psychotherapy the therapist does not act in a directive manner, nor does not show secrecy in his memoriesBut shares them with his client out of extreme honesty and maintains an attitude of openness to changing his internal discourse on the matter. Everything stems from the principles of bidirectionality, making the customer and his way of seeing the world the protagonist of the entire decision-making process.

      This model also distances itself from the establishment of a psychopathological diagnosis, preferring in any case understand the unique experience of the other person without labels that motivate unnecessary generalization. This perspective allows us to face the therapeutic situation with the nudity of those who enter an unknown territory, discovering at each step the places that unfold before their eyes.

      In the future, and in general synthesis, the elements to take into account will be shown in the perspective of this form of psychotherapy and the position that those who use it must adopt.

      basic elements

      These are the pillars of collaborative psychotherapy.

      1. Joint research

      The therapist and the client assume that the relationship between them is social in nature and is subject to the laws of reciprocity. This is why the search is chosen as a metaphorical format that describes the common advances that both parties facilitate, As the interactive process is shown in front of the two. It is therefore essential that responsibilities are assumed and that an attitude of frank interest towards others and in their daily life is manifested.

      2. Relational balance

      Collaborative psychotherapy avoids the classic model, of biomedical origin, which formed the implicit authority of the therapist in the choice of the contents to be approached and the rate at which they were incorporated into the interaction. In this case, a tacit balancing relationship is assumed, where knowledge is a kind of shared project in which the contribution of therapist and client have the same value and relevance.

      3. Open position

      The therapist constantly reveals what he is thinking during the session, without sparing words or veiling the conclusions, showing an attitude of openness necessary for the reaction that all this could generate in the client. It is also essential that the encounter be experienced from the full acceptance of the story that the other is taking place., Since it is the privileged testimony of one who has experienced first-hand the events with which it is treated.

      4. Uncertainty

      The therapist shows no preconceived ideas immersing himself in therapy, but he also fails to articulate it as it progresses, as language itself is what defines the extent to which new meanings are acquired. This fact implies that the end result of a session should not be anticipated, because the knowledge that derives from it cannot predict from the perspective of only one of the parts that form the relationship.

      5. Familiarity

      In addition to having a sort of tabula rasa on the subject to be treated (position of the one who “does not know”), the therapist must use the simplest possible words when transmitting the part which corresponds to him. Conversation. In any case, the most important thing is to avoid technical words where the degree of abstraction could interfere or hinder what really matters: the research that is being undertaken with the client. It is therefore necessary to adopt a register accessible to both parties.

      6. Customer focus

      The focus of the intervention should always be on the client. And this is what he knows most about the issues addressed throughout therapy, seeing themselves as the true expert in the field. For this reason, the therapist will direct his attention and interest to his individual experience, which he will become the basic source of information in times of uncertainty when a new horizon must be opened.

        7. Focus on potential

        Like traditional biomedical practice, it aimed to assess, diagnose and treat a condition (also in the clinical field of psychology); the constructivist models were preferably interested in identify and value the positive aspects of all human beings, Even under circumstances of severe emotional distress. From this point of view, all the resources available to the person would be strengthened and the construction of new ones would be encouraged.

        8. Practice orientation

        Because the issues addressed in consultation revolve around daily and real facts in the customer’s life, it is elementary to give a pragmatic and applied vision to the problems that arise. In many cases, all efforts will be directed towards the resolution of certain interpersonal conflicts, being essential to provide communication tools oriented towards this objective; while in other cases the issue to be addressed will be emotional and intimate in nature.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Agudelo, ME and Estrada, P. (2013). Narrative and collaborative therapies: a look at the prism of social constructivism. Journal of the Faculty of Social Work, 29 (9), 15-48.
        • Ibarra, A. (2004). What is collaborative psychotherapy? Athenea Digital: Journal of Social Thought and Research, 1 (5), 1-8.

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