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Cooper, R. (2001). The state we're in. Free Associations, 8(3):507-529.

(2001). Free Associations, 8(3):507-529

The state we're in1

Robin Cooper

“In order that everything should be reduced to the same level, it is first of all necessary to produce a phantom, its spirit, a monstrous abstraction, an all-embracing something which is nothing, a mirage — and that phantom is the public”. Soren Kierkegaard.

I do not regard myself as a “psychotherapy basher”. The argument that psychotherapy can contribute significantly towards the alleviation of human suffering, it seems to me, is incontestable. I myself require no empirical studies to convince me of what I take as self-evident: that many people find themselves at times in states of distress, confusion or unhappi-ness of one sort or another; they turn, perhaps because there seems no other suitable person available, to a psychotherapist, and find the experience helpful, sometimes incalculably so.

A second point to make at the outset follows from the fact that some people are much better at this activity we call psychotherapy than others. I suspect that my list of the qualities that make a good psychotherapist would be similar to yours. Like me, you might wish to emphasise the importance of (informal) life experiences, of familiarity with the ordinary ways of the world, and of common sense, in forming a therapist, in whom we would also have to assume the establishment of certain dispositions of character. So far as the value of formal psychotherapeutic training is concerned, I am sure that, at its best, a good experience of personal therapy, attentive and thoughtful supervision, and critical, stimulating guidance through some of the psychotherapy texts can be of decisive helpfulness.

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