Education v. Therapy – A Possible Paradigm Shift

Here is a beginning model for reframing the field of psychotherapy to replace it with an instructional ⁄ teaching ⁄ educative one. It involves a simple switch in terminology that I believe has many ramification for treatment. The terms I have in mind are: "question" for "problem." In the general course of the therapeutic process the term "problem" is announced. "I have a problem with my spouse." "I have a problem with my boss." "I have a problem selecting which job I should take." The list is endless. I propose that instead of the psychology mode of stating and dealing with problems, substitute the term "question." Reframe the problem statements as question statements and the answers will come rather easily and quickly, much of them prompting, perhaps, some sort of action that is beneficial to you. The answers will also often allay disturbing emotions and⁄or mental discontents.

Problems, per se, pose two difficulties I can pinpoint. One is that problems call for solutions. The solution, once detected, almost always leads to another problem. Finding the solution to that then incurs another problem and on and on this cycle goes. (Witness our solving the problem of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. We found the solution by deposing him, but see what that solution has led to.)

The second is that solution implies something that is difficult to create, or creates more difficulty as it is wrong (cite the example just given above.) Take as an example a glass of water. You place in it a drop of black ink. The drop immediately disperses and goes into solution with the water, turning the water black, or partially black. I then ask you to extract that drop now in solution out of the water. We now have quite a complication about abstracting that drop out of the water. I think this analogy fits the problem–solution axis. When one begins talking about his problems, the content and stories around them tend to grow exponentially, especially between the one presenting the problem and the one responding. The result is usually some advice given, that when followed begets more problems, as I mentioned above, even if the problem seemed solved at the moment.

As it is with the spiritual teacher–disciple relationship where changes are made through the instruction and practices connected with that education, so too can this model be brought to hear in the treatment process. By adopting the educational model to treatment, prevention, or a whole host of other situations, a spiritually based model applied to everyday life situations can begin to take shape. Certainly, for healthcare it may work wonders in short order, and I believe for much of life situations. Certainly, as a patient and educator, knowing both sides of the aisle so to speak, education – one about life that we’ve never really gotten in our formal education or through our upbringing, otherwise, specifically a spiritual education – can put us on the track to order, balance, well–being and, perhaps, long life.

In my courses beginning in September, 2009 (see my catalog listing on this site) I shall provide many down–to–earth examples of how this paradigm may work, especially in my courses on Reverse Psychology and The Path of Holiness. Right now I wanted to give you a taste of what this simple shift in conceptual focus may offer us to bring us closer to ending suffering in our lives.