Non-Pathologising Therapy

Lead: Jan Hawkins

Promoting Person-Centred Therapy as a non-pathologising therapy


I continue to be concerned that the PCA is often seen as ok for the easy stuff, but for the more complex work, other therapeutic traditions are required. I also remain concerned that some among our PC peers can take an almost anti diagnosis position. This does not help us in promoting the PCA as an approach equal to (in all evidence-based research) any other therapeutic tradition. My own feeling is that I want to understand diagnoses in order to be more able to come alongside those who have been given them. I want to come alongside without pathologising, endeavouring to understand what such diagnoses mean to each individual.

It has been crucial to my practice with Survivors of childhood trauma, that I have an understanding of such experiences as dissociation, PTSD, CPTSD etc, not as pathology, but rather as a way of allowing the individual to feel understood and accepted. Similarly, my work with individuals who have learning disabilities, severe learning disabilities and/or autism – I want to understand as much as I can to avoid my clients being blocked by my lack of awareness. None of this requires pathologising, simply learning and understanding.

The PCA is potent therapy, and it behoves us all to continue our development throughout our practice. I have been a therapist for 34 years – I am beginning to get somewhere! I passionately feel that the core attitudinal qualities are both necessary and sufficient for change and growth, but not if we think we have arrived after training and never develop our understanding of the world our clients inhabit, where labels and diagnoses have pinned them. Understanding these diagnoses allows us to work with mental health services in support of our clients where needed and removing the pathology from the diagnosis allows for the possibility for healing and recovery. I would like to see TPCA offering learning opportunities for shaking up the divide between ‘no labels’ and understanding without pathologising. Deepening our empathy, accompanying those who have been confined by pathologising, and welcoming into our practices those who are marginalised and confined by those labels.

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Last updated: 16 July 2021

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