The healing personality is all too often described in moralistic and sentimental
terms. One child therapist, for example, stated that the ultimate purpose of treatment
is to put both child and therapist into a closer relationship with God. Above
all, he wrote, the healer must have a loving spirit, a willingness
to give, and the relinquishing of considerations of self. Another list of
traits included intelligence, honesty, reliability, and sufficient professional
and cultural training. The early formulations of Strupp showed similar idealistic
inexactness. He advanced the following personal features as the mark of a therapeutic
person: personal integrity, humanity, dedication, and patience. Canon, in contrast,
believed that autonomy, alienation, withdrawal, and guardedness were the important
features of a therapeutic personality.
None of these prescriptions brings
us nearer to an understanding of the personality best fitted for the work of healing
young children. The specifications listed by Sachs would seem to be more relevant
to the enterprise of at least psychodynamic child psychotherapy. Sachs included:
(a) access to and wish to know his own unconscious; (b) some neurotic problems;
(c) some personality integration and strength; and (d) skepticism about any shortcuts
The Behavioral Definition
A second approach
to the healing personality has been to define the healers gifts operationally,
pinning down the behavioral qualities of the effective or competent
therapist and bypassing debates about the inner heart of the healer.
Strupp, for example, studied what therapists actually did during sessions. His
numerous findings were provocative. Therapists who had been analyzed for more
than 500 hours, he discovered, were not very different in behavior from those
who had 250 hours of analysis or even less. Freudians and neoFreudians were indistinguishable
in their actions. When compared to residents in psychiatry, psychoanalysts made
more interpretative and fewer exploratory comments but took more initiative with
patients than did the residents. Older and more experienced therapists of all
schools propounded gloomier prognoses than did inexperienced ones.
data suggested to him that therapists, based on their behavior and inferred attitudes
in the experimental situation, are of two kinds:
Group I therapists appear
to be more tolerant, more humane, more permissive, more democratic,
and more therapeutic. Group II therapists emerge as more directive.
Most empirical studies of therapist behavior have relied upon ratings by
judges of diverse backgrounds and competencies; each rates the behavior of a therapist
according to his own reference system. Only with difficulty can one who is a practitioner
conceive of an ideal therapist without including his own idealized self-picture,
an amalgamation of fantasy and reality. If a rater values safety or passivity
by the therapist more than activity, he will consider the more energetic or zealous
therapist as less competent than one who keeps quiet and at least tries to do
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #7
The preceding section contained information
about the overly idealistic healing personality. Write three case study examples
regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
According to the Committe on Child Psychiatry when Freudians and neoFreudians
are compared with Psychoanalysts their behavior and inferred attitudes in the
experimental situation indicated what two differences? Record the letter of the
correct answer the .