Psychotherapy and the Role of Psychotherapists in Europe

I am pleased to have been invited to the Conference and to speak about the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP). This organisation is very close to my heart, and it is the flagship for the profession of Psychotherapy in Europe. In my presentation, I will speak about the history of EAP; the Strasbourg Declaration; the European Certificate of Psychotherapy; the Psychotherapy Act and the work being conducted with the European Commission to establish the EU’s Common Training Framework for the profession of Psychotherapist. I will also talk about the work that EAP is doing to support Psychotherapists in Ukraine, and I will share with you my thoughts about the role that Psychotherapists can and do have in society as peacebuilders and as advisors for some of today’s most urgent global problems including humanity’s response to climate change.

Ethics in Psychotherapy

“Ethics in Psychotherapy” and “Teaching Psychotherapists About Ethics in Psychotherapy” may not sound attractive to open-minded psychotherapists – a more appealing title would be “New Techniques for Solving Issues of Insecurity, Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Psychotherapeutic Work”. However, the topic is similar. Ethics in psychotherapy is not just about familiarising oneself with ethical principles and codes; a significant part of this topic is dedicated to therapists taking responsibility for their decisions and practising self-reflection regarding their underlying values that may be overshadowed during psychotherapeutic work.

Learning about ethics in psychotherapy means developing sensitivity to ethical dilemmas, which involves encouraging reflection on the complexities of everyday situations where one must maintain client trust while simultaneously processing one’s own judgments about the client’s actions and the client as an individual. It also means not avoiding ethical dilemmas by adhering to learned principles and rules of ethical behaviour towards the client.

When reflecting on ethical dilemmas in the context of psychotherapy, one must often consider the political and cultural context and be willing to adapt one’s principles to the client’s cultural principles. This can involve business aspects of psychotherapy, such as competition between colleagues or different institutions, addressing ethical complaints from clients or resolving dilemmas related to unethical behaviour by colleagues, even if no one has directly complained about them. In this context, clarity regarding one’s own values and willingness to engage in dialogue with others can be helpful.

Ethical questions often become a matter of determining who is right and who is wrong, who holds the power to establish ethical norms and who does not. From my perspective, the ethical framework for psychotherapy is different; it means “behaving in the best interest of the client and humanity from my personal position and as a psychotherapist.”

The Importance of Language, Speech and Conversation in Reality Therapy

Language, speech and conversation are closely connected and intertwined in psychotherapy, although their significance is not specifically addressed in psychotherapy theories. Reality therapy greatly emphasises understanding language, speech and conversation.

From the choice theory perspective, which defines the human organism as a closed-loop system, speech is purposeful behaviour that contributes to achieving balance with the environment. Although speech is an activity at the fore, we see it as total behaviour that cannot be separated from thinking, emotions or physiological processes. We communicate our thoughts, generate emotions, and stimulate bodily processes through language.

Glasser presents reality therapy as an application of choice theory in the therapeutic process. Its main goal is to create conditions in which the client has the opportunity to replace their traditional belief or idea that circumstances define their behaviour with a new belief that they choose their behaviour regardless of circumstances or in the circumstances as they are, to achieve inner balance and balance with the environment. Conversation as an exchange of understanding between the client and therapist is crucial in this process. Since the therapist and client come from two opposing beliefs, this is clearly reflected in their language. Therefore, Glasser speaks of two languages, the language of external control psychology used by the client, as opposed to the language of choice theory used by the therapist.

Conversation in reality therapy, through the process of self-evaluation, experiential verification and integration of new beliefs, enables the client to change the language crucial for future communication with significant others. At the same time, raising awareness of and correcting the client’s language further reinforces the choice theory’s beliefs.