Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Patrick Casement on Theories and Not-Knowing

     "Analytic theories are built up to define more clearly the framework in which analysts and therapists work. These are necessary, if analytic interpretation is not to become a matter of inspired guesswork. Theory also helps to moderate the helplessness of not-knowing. But it remains important that this should be servant to the work of therapy and not its master.
     It is all too easy to equate not-knowing with ignorance. This can lead therapists to seek refuge in an illusion that they understand. But if they can bear the strain of not-knowing, they can learn that their competence as therapists includes a capacity to tolerate feeling ignorant or incompetent, and a willingness to wait (and to carry on waiting) until something genuinely relevant and meaningful begins to emerge. Only in this way is it possible to avoid the risk of imposing upon the patient the self-deception of premature understanding, which acheives nothing except to defend the therapist from discomfort of knowing that he does not know.
     By listening too readily to accepted theories, and to what they lead the practitioner to expect, it is easy to become deaf to the unexpected. When a therapist thinks that he can see signs of what is familiar to him, he can become blind to what is different and strange." (p. 9)

Patrick Casement (1985), Learning from the Patient, New York: Guilford.

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