Mechtild Uhe, School of Psychology
This study is a primarily qualitative investigation of whether there is a relationship between theoretical orientation and learning from clients among a sample of North American psychologists, and what, if any, effects their learning has had on their personal and professional lives. The study uses the semi-structured interviews of a subsample of 31 psychologist-participants with an almost equal gender ratio in each group (15 male and 16 female psychologists) who report adhering to either a psychoanalytic/psychodynamic (PD) or cognitive-behavioral (CB) theoretical orientation in their clinical practices from an archived dataset (Hatcher et al., 2012). Research in the area of psychotherapist development has often been limited to studies of trainees and early career psychologists, whereby attention was placed on the efficacy and effectiveness of different therapeutic orientations. Little is known about the possible effects of theoretical approaches to practice on the personal and professional growth of psychologists themselves. Employing a qualitative analysis of psychologists’ narratives, the Hatcher et al. (2012) study explored what therapists learned and how they were affected by their clients. The purpose of the present study was to contribute to this relatively unexplored research area related to what psychologists learn from their clients and, in particular, whether and how theory orientation contributed to this learning. The results indicated a weak relationship between theoretical orientation and learning from clients. Some psychologists described learning from clients that involved attending more to topics and concepts aligned with the tenets of their respective orientations. In their anecdotes, CB therapists appeared to express a greater sense of active hands-on and concrete approaches to problem-solving, whereas PD therapists appeared to discuss intermingled, complex problems on a more abstract level. However, PD and CB psychologists expressed mostly similarities in their learning from clients, suggesting that common factors across theoretical approaches underlie what these psychologists learned from their clients.
Keywords: therapist development; learning from patients; psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral theory; common factors in psychotherapy.