The New Observer Psychotherapy Therapeutic discourse [Psychotherapy]

Therapeutic discourse [Psychotherapy]

The literature of psychotherapy adopts a peculiar and specialised language. Like, for example, legal documents, or certain business discourses (e.g. oil futures) the discourse is specialised and makes few concessions to be be intelligible to the layperson. It appears to pertain to a specialised ‘discourse community’. Specialised ‘discourse communities’ use their own language which is often at least somewhat impenetrable to outsiders because they are communicating about a specialised subject which the members of the discourse community have a special knowledge of. They don’t need to take the trouble to add the additional layer of explanation for the lay reader because these are technical documents intended for internal consumption by the community talking about their specialised field.

Psychotherapy literature pretends to be such a discourse literature. The literature is impenetrable to non-therapists and sounds technical – as if weighty and complex subjects were being discussed by experts. This is a fraud. They’ve just latched on to the phenomenon of specialised discourse literature and are faking it. They are trying to make it look like there is a specialised field of knowledge here. 

In fact psychotherapy could be described as the wise cult. Most cults adopt practices which are obviously strange and at-odds with the society around them. They have problems with social legitimacy. Therapy, which is fundamentally, a retail business, has avoided this error from the start. Therapy borrows socially legitimate forms from other contexts in order to give itself the appearance of being a socially legitimate project. For example; they take the supervisor/student model from academia (even though there is nothing academic about psychotherapy, the consultant fee-paying model from the lawyer/client or accountant/client model, the ‘ethical regulation’ from legitimate health sector and so on. Stealing the notion of a specialised discourse is just one further example of how they fake legitimacy.