The Magical Healing Power Of Caring and Hope in Psychotherapy

There are three consistent research findings that should make a world of difference to therapists and to the people they treat.

First, psychotherapy works at least as well as drugs for most mild to moderate problems and, all things being equal, should be used first.

Second, a good relationship is much more important in promoting good outcome than the specific psychotherapy techniques that are used.

Third, there is a very high placebo response rate for all sorts of milder psychiatric and medical problems.

This is partly a time effect — people come for help at particularly bad times in there lives and are likely to improve with time even if nothing is done. But placebo response also reflects the magical power of hope and expectation. And the effect is not just psychological — the body often actually responds to placebo just as it would responded to active medication.

These three findings add up to one crucial conclusion — the major focus of effective therapy should be to establish a powerfully healing relationship and to inspire hope. Specific techniques help when they enhance the primary focus on the relationship, they hurt when they distract from it.

The paradox is that therapists are increasingly schooled in specific techniques to the detriment of learning how to heal. The reason is clear — it is easy to manualize technique, hard to teach great healing.

I have, therefore, asked a great healer, Fanny Marell a Swedish social worker and licensed psychotherapist, to share some of her secrets.

Ms Marell writes: “Many therapists worry so much about assessing symptoms, performing techniques, and filling out forms that they miss the wonderful vibrancy of a strong therapeutic relationship.

Thinking I can help someone just by asking about concerns, troubles, and symptoms is like thinking that I can drive —> Read More