Postmodern Therapy

Postmodern psychotherapists believe that it is difficult at best, and often impossible, for a mental health “expert” to be able to determine what is “psychologically healthy,” since there is no truly objective measurement of mental health. As in postmodern philosophy, art, architecture, and music, “deconstruction” is a dominant theme in postmodern psychotherapy. In psychological terms, “deconstructing” means to regard the “givens” we take for granted as true (for example, “adolescence is a time for teens to separate from their parents,” or “if you don’t earn a good living you’re not successful”) and carefully examine their usefulness/appropriateness from the client’s point of view. 

Practitioners of postmodern therapy even question the “givens” of their own profession (e.g. the concept of transference and its relevance to working with clients), and try to pay particular attention to minimizing the unavoidable power of authority granted to the therapist by the client who comes seeking “expert” advice. This is done through working hard to be as collaborative with the client as possible.

The are three main types of postmodern therapies: 

  • Narrative Therapy rests on two underlying principles: a) all human thought and behavior exist in cultural contexts that give them particular meaning and significance, and b) people’s view of the world is shaped through a complex, generally unconscious process of sifting through experiences and selecting those that are most consistent with the story one holds of oneself.
  • Solution-Focused Therapy emphasizes the construction of solutions to problems, rather than an examination of their causes or how they are maintained. This approach is inherently brief compared with “traditional” psychotherapy, and rests on the belief that clients can solve their problems by doing more of what has been successful for them in the past.
  • Collaborative Language Systems is a type of postmodern therapy that “dis-solves” problems through conversation and emphasizes a collaborative conversational partnership between therapist and client.