A critical practice of psychotherapy? Therapy as a medium for resisting the political specifications of personhood
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This paper continues to contemplate an 'old' debate explored previously at QM conferences and in the broader field of psychology itself, as to the purpose of and possible socio-political effects emanating from the practice of psychotherapy. As such it seeks to explore the relationship between what the self is posited as being, and not being, in the context of Foucauldian and Critical Psychological thinking, and the implications this holds for the practice of psychotherapy. Both Foucault and critical psychological texts would have us see the body as an object upon which the social, political and economic are inscribed. By implication, this proposes a view of the self as a discursive product that is purposive in its being. If the self is informed by and functions to sustain existing social-political systems, the obvious question has always been a consideration of the social-political implications of the practice of psychotherapy, in which an exploration of the self has always been central. At the extreme critics of this practice have called for its abandonment, positioning it as a dominant contributor to the construction of subjectivities that sustain oppressive social orders. An analysis of the role psychology played in sustaining the apartheid state provides impetus for such a view. The intent of this paper, however, is to argue for the contributions that may be, and are made, in the critical practice of psychotherapy. Within this context the very centrality accorded to an exploration of the self within therapy, may facilitate the creation of a space in which the social, political and economic specifications of our personhood, may be challenged. The specific focus in this paper will therefore be on exploring the contribution that a critical practice of psychotherapy may make, towards enabling therapist and client to resist the political-racial specifications of their personhood.
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