by Prof Liz Bondi, University of Edinburgh, co-investigator on the Theology and Therapy Project.
One of the rationales for the Theology and Therapy project is to contribute to debate about the nature and contribution of psychotherapy to British society. Recently, psychotherapy has been marked by heated debate about professionalization and regulation. During the first decade of the twenty-first century momentum towards regulation via the Health Professions Council grew despite vociferous opposition. Although this form of regulation was eventually abandoned in February 2011, the framing of psychotherapy within a medical model, and especially within a medication model, continues to be highly influential.
The medication model conceptualises psychotherapy as a “treatment” comparable to medication, and drives the highly technical evaluation of the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of different types of psychotherapy as if they were comparable to pharmaceutical products. The consequences for access to, and availability of, psychotherapy are profound, as are the implications for training and careers of psychotherapists.
While the influence of the medical model (and its accompaniments like evidence based practice) is inescapable, so too is the contestation and discomfort it generates. A key task for the Theology and Therapy project is to recover and disseminate other ways of understanding psychotherapy, and to increase the visibility of different traditions – specifically religious and spiritual traditions – that helped to shape psychotherapy in the second half of the twentieth century. Oral history testimony has made a major contribution to this task. We have interviewed in depth 16 people from Scotland and beyond whose engagement with psychotherapy has been critical to its development and expansion in this period, and who have in some way been inspired by religion and/or spirituality. Some of the findings from this research will be discussed in future blog posts.