Counselling, Supervision, Training, Research, Teaching, Writing. Providing therapeutic services to the people of East Lancashire and beyond.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

DVD Review: Rollo May and Existential Psychotherapy

This is a busy time of year for me. The courses I'm teaching come to an end, the assignments flood in and the marking begins. It's great to be able to give feedback and reward my students' hard work, learning and development with medals and missions; but marking is a time consuming business and results in numerous late nights and early mornings ... well, late nights mainly.

The last book I finished was Yalom's latest, but that was several weeks ago and I haven't started another yet. When I've a lot of work on I can't concentrate sufficiently to read and enjoy a book. Instead I tend to spend a lot of time flitting round the Internet: from Twitter to Facebook, to email and back to Twitter again. I learnt yesterday, from an article published by Science Daily, that this is indicative of depression. I'm not depressed, just suffering from a little bit of stress. In fact the research described in the Science Daily article makes a bit of a leap when it says flitting around the Web indicates an inability to concentrate and that indicates depression - I go with the first conclusion but hesitate at the second. 

So, unable or unwilling to dedicate time to reading I have hit upon a clever alternative. Several months ago I noticed that DVDs were available for purchase on Amazon. I've bought them before, from the USA, and been slugged with a £28 import tax, so seeing them on Amazon and available in the UK was a pleasant discovery and flicked the 'buy me' switch in my mind - at this point imagine a railway line, a clanging bell and a locomotive carrying hard-earned cash towards Amazon INC's company HQ.

Despite the expense, watching DVDs of expert therapists working with actor/clients is great learning and very satisfying. I've recently watched Gestalt Therapy with a difficult to engage client and brief psychodynamic therapy with an elderly depressed client. My latest is an interview about existential psychotherapy with Yalom's own therapist, the existential psychotherapist and author, Rollo May. 

The sound and picture quality on the Rollo May DVD is pretty poor. It was made in the '80s on VHS - or possibly a machine that has a revolving foil drum. There is one camera, which pans around the participants when it might have more fruitfully remained exclusively on Rollo May. The participants are dressed for the1980s, early 1980s, when the moustache enjoyed a final blaze of popularity before its final death rattle and demise everywhere but Northern Ireland. 

The video has the flavour of the '80s for other reasons too. May constantly repeats his opinion that other therapies are 'gimmicks' - gimmicks in comparison to the therapy he practices, the therapy of Freud and Jung. Indeed he doesn't recognise short-term problem-focused therapy as psychotherapy at all. 

Remember that this is the time when managed care became popular and funding shifted from long-term psychoanalysis to short-term interventions and in particular Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). On reflection Rollo May seems rather zealous and intolerant of other therapies. We have come to accept the existence of a multitude of brief, outcome orientated or problem focused approaches.  For May they are quick fixes (gimmicks) whilst true therapy is a philosophical and mythological endeavour, an exploration of how to live the good life. I can sympathise with this, it treats seriously our existential concerns, but I see nothing wrong with helping clients to solve problems or reduce the symptoms of trauma and distress. May believes, with some justification, that these remedies are short-term and that symptoms return. Indeed symptoms tell us that all is not well, that we need to attend to the existential roots of our distress. 

There is no way to settle this dispute except to say that watching the DVD crystallised the problem for me at a time when I wasn't able to concentrate on reading any of the Rollo May books I have just bought for Summer reading ... from Amazon INC.

No comments:

Post a Comment