Should Therapy be Fun? – Commentary on a Recent WSJ Article

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Austen Riggs Center Associate Medical Director and Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy Eric M. Plakun, MD, comments on a Wall Street Journal article about how to know if your therapy is working.

Associate Medical Director and Director of Biopsychosocial Advocacy Eric M. Plakun, MD, offers some commentary on a recently published Wall Street Journal article:

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on how to know if your therapy is working, based on an interview with psychologist Nando Pelusi. It has its strong components, emphasizing the central importance of the relationship with the therapist, the importance of the therapist earning trust, working together as collaborators, and avoiding therapists focused on assigning blame to parents or others – as if finding someone to blame solves the problem of taking charge of one's life. In other places, though, Dr. Pelusi drifts into a puzzling view that "therapy can and should be fun" or that one should avoid therapists who "overly focus on the past." In close to 40 years of work as a therapist, I have shared many fun moments with patients, but also much, much more grief, pain, and loss related to a person's painful – sometimes horrific – past experiences. Death, loss, and abuse are painful, not fun, to deal with, for both parties in a therapy. Calling that kind of painful therapeutic work "fun" is misleading and an example of pop psychology at its absolute worst. And the best predictor of the likely shape of future relationships is the story of important past relationships. We ignore at our peril the powerful impact of the past on us. 

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