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Schoor, E.v. (1996). The ‘technique-technology’ of brief psychotherapy. Free Associations, 6(2):258-275.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(2):258-275

The ‘technique-technology’ of brief psychotherapy

Eric van Schoor


Over the past thirty years or so we have witnessed a growing movement in the public mental health sector, both in Britain and the United States, to develop and implement brief forms of psychotherapy. This enterprise has in effect now given rise to a much accepted ‘Brief Therapy Tradition’. With the rapidly increasing transition of National Health Service hospitals to ‘trust status’ in Britain, brief forms of therapy are becoming the psychotherapeutic approach of choice for hospital managers. In the United States, with its longstanding history of private health insurance, brief psychotherapy is now well established in the public mental health sector.

My interest in the dominance of brief therapies is to explore the dialectic between social and clinical theory. Does the emergence of brief psychotherapies reflect a socioeconomic need to economize therapy? Is there a socially coercive and conformist process at work in such approaches? And if so, how is this related to the impact of modern technological ideology? In considering these questions as they relate to brief therapies I will draw upon the critical social theory of Marcuse and Habermas and consider the psychotherapeutic approaches stemming from psychodynamic clinical theory.

Kupers (1986) has drawn attention to the ‘dual potential’ of brief psychotherapy. In the light of critical theory, Kupers concludes that ‘the emergence of brief therapy … offers an excellent opportunity to observe the mechanism whereby the potentially liberating aspects of a practice are submerged as the practice is made more part of everyday life and commerce’ (pp. 98-99).

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