Postmodern Oriented Psychotherapy: its main characteristics

Since the emergence of the first proposals of psychology in general and psychotherapy in particular, a certain number of theoretical and practical precepts have dominated and crossed most approaches to psychotherapy. They were very useful in addressing the phenomena of mental health, suffering and well-being of people, but they also presented their limits and risks.

Aspects such as the rigid use of diagnostic categories, the idea that mental phenomena are measurable and entirely predictable, or the existence of a supposedly objective approach by psychotherapists are among the aforementioned precepts.

Postmodern Orientation Psychotherapy, in its various lines, appears as an alternative to the questioning of the elements quoted and others. From narrative, solution-focused, contextual, constructivist, interactional, inactive and social constructionist approaches emerge often radically different and certainly new propositions. Here are some of the main features of the different proposals mentioned.

The importance of contexts

The title may seem obvious, but many psychotherapeutic approaches have focused exclusively on people’s intrapsychic phenomena. From a postmodern point of view, contexts are not only relevant, but also central in understanding psychological phenomena.

From the perspective of social constructionism, people act in a permanent relationship with and from contexts (what is called contextual force and implicative force, according to Pearce) and this dynamic has its particular characteristics and implications depending on of each relationship observed.

Systemic and interpersonal aspects they acquire central relevance in understanding and hypothesizing the reasons for consultation and the means of generating relief from the consultants.

Language as a central element

A second element particularly relevant in these approaches is language, in its broadest sense. Communicative phenomena, the systems of meanings in which we participate and the way in which people they mobilize and build their identity through them, they assume a new role.

It is important to emphasize that language does not only concern the verbal, but also its relational and significant aspects, given its influence on the definition and construction of people’s reality. This happens on different levels: in emotions, in actions and in the construction of worldviews.

The person is never the problem

From the narrative therapy approach, it has been argued that people are not the problem, but the problem is the problem. The definition may appear redundant on the surface, but it assumes a whole revolution in the face of certain modern ideas of therapy.

If we integrate the importance of the contexts indicated above, the problems can only be understood in their reference to the culture, to the interpersonal relationships and to the particular meanings that emerge in them, never as something isolated that has to do with an essential element, proper and inherent to the way of being of a person.

The problem is separate from the identity of the people and therefore we work to find solutions to it rather than trying to commit people to certain regulatory criteria.

The “I” in constant and inevitable change

An interesting concept from the inactive and interactional-constructivist point of view presupposes that people are in permanent and inevitable change and that it always has a systemic component.

Although apparently the opposite can be observed, we are never exactly the same person as ever, and what remains has more to do with the definitions of identity and meaning we give to ourselves and to others. This applies both to our way of seeing, feeling and acting and to the level of biological phenomena. In psychotherapy this is usually very liberating in the sense that we can observe ourselves with less rigidity and allow ourselves greater plasticity in the desired changes.

The existence of multiple realities

Within the context of the premises of constructivism and social constructionism, it is proposed that reality does not exist independent of who or whom constructs it. We are determined by our own worldview, biological and cultural structures.

There are as many realities as possible points of view and each reality has a value and deserves to be considered for itself, independently of the dominant ideas on what is “normal”, “good”, “right” etc. This also places the therapists themselves in an ethical implication regarding the observation of their own way of observing and a work of constant questioning and positioning in relation to it.

As can be seen, postmodern approaches in their great diversity have proposed new and very important conceptions about psychology and the space of psychotherapy. For many consultants, it is extremely important in the search for relief to know that the consultation space does not always involve the same guidelines as the usual and more dominant ones. These premises invite us to try new alternatives and a new understanding in the space of psychology and the study of human phenomena.

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