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Psychotherapy is a Human Science 12_11_10

Psychotherapy is a Human Science 12_11_10 - George Atwood...

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George Atwood, dbf format edits, 12-2-10, p. 1 Chapter 1: Psychotherapy Is A Human Science George E. Atwood, Ph.D. When I was a student first entering college, in a burst of youthful enthusiasm, I had the thought that the psychotherapy of severe mental illness offered an opportunity to discover the secrets of the human mind and the depths of human nature. I have had the good fortune to actually devote my life to this quest, and this essay brings together some of the things that have emerged in the course of nearly 50 years working in the field. I cannot claim that my journey has unraveled the mystery of the psyche, but I can say it has brought me to ideas and understandings that, to me anyway, seem interesting. The material develops in the form of a series of thought trains covering important clinical experiences and associated theoretical and philosophical reflections on the nature of the psychotherapy process. THE CASE OF GRACE Every psychotherapist has one early case that shapes his or her destiny as a clinician. The following account tells the story of a woman from whom I learned about psychosis, and about what is required of a therapeutic experience in order that the patient’s devastation be addressed and healed. The work occurred as part of a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at Western Missouri Mental Health Center in Kansas City Missouri, from 1969 to 1972. What made this institution of interest to me was that its director of clinical training was Austin Des Lauriers, a renowned psychotherapist and author of The Experience of Reality in Childhood Schizophrenia (1962). Des Lauriers was my clinical consultant in the unfolding of the experiences described. First, a word about my initial encounter with the patient, a 28 year-old woman whom I shall call Grace: Early one morning – it was 3am - she came into the screening clinic at the hospital where I was being trained, shouting and carrying on. Her hair was disheveled, her eyes were wide with excitement, and perspiration drenched her clothes. She demanded to see someone important. I presented myself as that person and sat down to hear her story. A few hours earlier, Grace had experienced an invasion of her bedroom by dazzling flashes of golden light, and she said the flashes had also somehow penetrated into her body I asked her what she thought this event was. She answered, in loud tones: I had sexual intercourse with Jesus Christ! . . . I am filled with His energy and I am about to BUST ! 1
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George Atwood, dbf format edits, 12-2-10, p. 2 For many years, the patient had carried the diagnosis: Schizophrenia, paranoid type – DSM II: 295.3. She fulfilled all the criteria: clear signs of thought disorder, inappropriate affect, hallucinations, delusions of grandeur. Under Des Lauriers’ (1962) guidance, I arranged to have daily meetings with the patient.
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Psychotherapy is a Human Science 12_11_10 - George Atwood...

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