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How to Be a Radical Therapist

How to Be a Radical Therapist

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Published by Zack Osheroff

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Published by: Zack Osheroff on Oct 16, 2011
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01/25/2013

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HowtoBeaRadicalTherapist
An
understandingofdialecticsandtheworldsituationhelpsusseethatthefundamentalcontradictionintheUnitedStatestoda·yisbetweenthefewbossesandthemassesofworkingpeople.Everyinstitution,every
per-
sonintheUnitedStatesisaffectedby
this
contradiction.Therearetwolines,twoaspectstoeverything.
As
MaoTse-tungsaid:Theclassstrugglebetweentheproletariatandthebour-geoisie,theclassstrugglebetweenthedifferentpoliticalforces,andtheclassstruggleintheideologicalfieldbe-tweentheproletariatandthebourgeoisie
will
continuetobelongandtortuousandattimes
will
evenbecomeveryacute.Theproletariatseekstotransformtheworldaccordingtoitsownworldoutlook,andsodoesthebour-geoisie.Inthisrespect,thequestionofwhich
will
winout,socialismorcapitalism,isnotreallysettled.'Therapyisabourgeoisinstitutioninacapitalist-imperial-istsociety.Itsprimaryaspects,aswehaveshown,arebourgeois.Itpromotesruling-classideology.Objectivelyandsubjectivelyitservestheinterestsofthepeoplerun-
'MaoTse-tung,
OntheCorrectHandlingofContradictionsamongthePeople
(NewYork:ChinaBooks,1966).
164
ningthecountry.Themaintaskforrevolutionarieswhoarenowtherapistsistoresolvethecontradictionbe-tweenbeingatherapistandbeingarevolutionary.His-torically,theweaknessofthepettybourgeoisieliesinitsvacillationfromonesidetotheother,dependingonitsshiftingclassinterest.Notrootedintheforcesofproduc-tion,notmergedwiththeworkingclass,therapists-asotherpettybourgeoisprofessionals-haveabourgeoisas-pect(freedomofworkinghours,someautonomy,nodi-rectexperienceofoppression,goodpay,asenseofcreativityinwork,individualism)aswellasarevolution-aryaspect.
In
fact,thebourgeoisisusuallystronger.Weseethemaintaskofrevolutionarytherapistsaspreserv-ingtheirskillsbutchangingtheirlifesituations.JustasChineseintellectualshavebeenencouragedtogotothemassesofworkersandpeas:mts,integrat~withthemandsharetheirlives,sotherapistswhowouldworkforrevolu-tionhereareencouragedtodothesame.Nottodoso,toholdoninsteadtospecialprivilege,istowidenthesplitbetweenthemselvesandthemasses,andultimatelytofoolthemselvesintobeing"radicals"whiletheactualworkoftherevolutiongoesonelsewhere.WilliamHintonhassuggestedthat,Whentheygraduate,largenumbersofstudentsshouldseekworkinbasicproductionandstrive,ascommunistintellectuals,tobringMarxism-Leninism-MaoTse-tungThoughttotheworkingclass.Inordertodothis,theymustlivethelifethatworkingpeoplelive,joininthestrugglesthatworkingpeopleareactuallyengaged
in,
andthenhelpraisethesestruggles,stepbystep,tothelevelofarevolutionarychallengetorulingclasspower."Weagreewiththispriority.Anditisonlyinthiscontextofunderstanding-thatis,toremainatherapistinthis
2WilliamHinton,
TurningPointinChina
(NewYork:MonthlyRev.ew,1972),p.110.
HOWTOBEARADICALTHERAPIST
165
...
 
r..----.--~-----,-'_
societyisalreadytotakethesecondary,nottheprimary,road-thatwegoaheadwithcommentsabouthowtoadvancetherevolutionaryaspectofwhatismainlyabourgeoissituation.
I'
Therearethreeaspectstobeingaradicaltherapist.
l
v=
ealswithwaysinwhichpeoplecanbetherapistsforoneanother:self-helpgroups,knowledgeandskillshar-ing,theaccelerationofradicalnonprofessionalcounse-lors,andsoon.Thesecondconcernswaysinwhichpeo-plewhoareacknowledged"therapists"fortheirlivelihoodcanactasrevolutionariesandtrytostrengthentheirrevolutionaryaspectswhilelivingwiththecontra-
1
~ctionsoftheirlifesituations.Thethirdaspectisinstitu-~onalchallengeandchange.
HOWPEOPLECANBETHERAPISTSTOONEANOTHER
Mostofthetime,aprofessionaltherapistisnotneededanddoesmoreharmthangood.Therefore,itisimportanttodevelopwaysandsettingsinwhichpeoplecanhelponeanother,waysnonprofessionalscanlearnskillsoflis-teningtopeopleinemotionaltrouble,clarifyingthecon-tradictionstheyface,andhelpingthemdealwiththeirsituations.Wefeelthebestguidetosuchperceptive-nessisMarxism-Leninism-MaoTse-tungthought,appliedwithasoundunderstandingoftheprincipleofcontra-
dictions,"
Freudandhisfollowerscanbehelpfulattimesinhelp-ingusunderstandtheinternalcontradictionsapersonmay
be
facing,buttheydonotprovideanall-sidedview.Similarly,manyofthechic"radical"therapistcrewhaveemphasizedtheenvironmentalandsocialfactorsinpeo-
3SeeMao'sOn
Contradiction
(NewYork:ChinaBooks,1967)andOn
theCorrectHandlingojContradictionsamongthePeo-
ple
(NewYork:ChinaBooks,1966).
166pie'sdistress.Thisisindeedacrucialcomponent,buttoemphasizeittotheexclusionoftheinternalcontra-dictionspeoplefaceisalsoone-sided.(It,ofcourse,fol-lowsthatonereactiontothetraditionalfocusoninternalfactorsistoexaggeratetheothersidebyfocusingonlyontheexternalfactors.Thecorrectwaytohandlethesitua-tionisanall-sidedappreciationofthecomponentfactors:understandingwhatisinternalandwhatisexternal,andhowthetwointerrelate.)Weneedtoencouragepeople'sgraspofcorrectmeth-odsofthinking.Weneedtoencouragethedevelopmentoftherapycenters,halfwayhouses,andthelike,underthecontrolofpoliticallyawarepatientgroups.Weneedtohelppoliticalgroupsandcollectivesunder-standthepressuresthatcadresface.Withoutfallingintobourgeoispsychologyorself-cultivation,weneedtohelppeoplegrapplewithproblemsofisolation,anxiety,depression,disappointment,andwiththewholevarietyofproblemsthatspringuparoundrelationshipswithotherpeople.Wedon'tthinkit'sworthwhiletodaytoencouragetheelitistdevelopmentofanewbrandofspecialist,the"radi-caltherapist."Wedon'tneedanotherpettybourgeoiselitetoleadtherevolution.Wedon'tthinkit'scorrectforpoliticallyawarepeopletowantto"betherapists."Thegoalistodogoodrevolutionarywork,notfindidentity
in
bourgeoisstatus.Wefeelit'sgoodtobreakdowndistinctionsbetweentherapistandpatient.Atthesametime,weunderstandthatsomepeoplearemorehelpful,moresensitivetoothers'problems,thanotherpeople.Thisusuallyhaslittletodowiththeirlevelof"training"though.Peopleshouldjointogethertodemandcontroloftheinstitutionsintheircommunities.Insteadoffocusingsolelyonalternatives-whichtendtobecomeutopianand(bourgeois)countercultureoriented-theycouldrallycommunitiesaroundtheissuesofcontrollingtheir
HOWTOBEARADICALTHERAPIST
167
 
ownmentalhealthfacilities,programsforaddictsandalcoholics,day-carecenters,andsoon.Thefocusofallthisneedstobemaintained;helpingoneanotherisnotanendinitself.Theendisnotself-cultivationor"growth."Theendisrevolutionarywork:advancingtherevolutionwhichwilltransferpowerinthissocietyfromtherulingclasstotheworkingclassanditsallies.Inthiscontext,helpingoneanotherbecomesoneofthetasksofhelpingtherevolutionarycadrere-mainstrong.Wedon'tfeelradicaltherapistsareneededtoprovide"radicaltherapy"tothemassesofpeopleandtorevolu-tionaries.Thepeopleneedarevolution,nottheraey.Intermsofhelpingpeoplethroughproblems,wecanencouragecomradestocareforoneanother.Whenthisisclearlytoogreatatask,thereareavarietyofcapableliberalshrinkswhocanhelpout,withoutlayingtheirtriponthebrotherorsisterneedinghelp.(Oneofthecorner-stonesofliberaltherapyistryingtomaintainhands-offvalues.)Theprimetaskofradicaltherapistsistobecomerevolutionaries,nottodealwithpatientsinthesameoldways.Perhapsatsomelaterstagewe
will
needmedicsandtherapistsandotherexperts;rightnowweneedtherevolutionarycadre.Wedon'tencouragethegroupsofradicaltherapistswhoinvolvethemselvesinavarietyofself-growthandencountergamesandcallit"revolution."Suchactivityis,atbest,acompromise;atworst,amockeryofthestruggleoftheworkingandpoorpeopleofthiscountry.
HOWPEOPLECANSTRENGTHENTHEIRREVOLUTIONARYASPECTWHILEREMAININGINTHESYSTEM
Manytherapists,andmanypeople,feeltheycan'tsim-plyabandontheirpositionsatthepresenttime.Forsome,therearefamiliestosupport;forothers,anaHluentlife
168
styletomaintain.Theremaybe"counterculture"jobsoutsidethesystem,atareducedincome,forsome;formany,thechoiceistoremainatherapistortobeatalossastowhattodoforaliving.Hopefully,manyofthesepeoplewillrealizethataslongastheyaretherapists,theyarestrengtheningtheirbourgeoisaspect,andwillleavesuchjobsandtakeothers.Butunderstandingthatpeopledevelopattheirownpaceandformanychangingjobsisnotnowapossibility,wecandiscusswaystherapistsmightbeabletostrengthentherevolutionaryaspectsoftheircurrentjobs.Anytherapistwhostaysatherapisthastodealwiththecontradictionsofthatsituation:bourgeoispsychologyandprivilegeversusarevolutionary"head."Ourhopeisthat,understandingthissituation,moreandmoreyoungther-apistswillgiveuptheirprivilegedpositionandintegratewithpoorandworking-classpeople.Inthemeantime,herearesuggestionsofthingstheymightdo:
As
inthisbook,don'tuse"him"fortheindefinitethirdperson.Use"co"or"them."Shakeupthesexisminourconventionallanguage.Bringyourpoliticalviewsoutintotheopenandtalktoclientsaboutwhattheymean.Don'taccepttheusualstandardsofdressforbeingatherapist.Wearwhatmakesyoucomfortable,andexposetheclass-by-dressethicwhereyouwork.Confrontthereactionaryprofessionalnotionsinwhichtherapyissteeped.Raiseyourhand,speakup,leaflet.Demandtohaveradicalspeakerswhereyouwork;demandnonprofessionalsandpatientsasspeakers,paidwhatother,"establishment"speakersget.Demandday-carefacilitiesforparentsattendingmeetings.De-mandthatallmeetingsbeopentolower-echelonworkersandmembersofthecommunityservedbythegroupmeeting.
HOWTOBEARADICALTHERAPIST
169

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nickis2 added this note
You should probably specify that this chapter is by Rick Kunnes; the book is "The Radical Therapist Collective", Jerome Agel, ed.
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