You may wonder why it has taken me this long to get around to reading Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter. I blame the conditions at the coal-face. It is brilliant stuff. On page 26 of the 20th Anniversary edition by Penguin (2000), after an introduction to strange loops in music, art, and mathematics, the author turns to intelligence and the abilities that are essential for it to pertain. I précis the section slightly:
Essential for intelligence are the ability to:
- respond to situations very flexibly
- take advantage of fortuitous circumstances
- make sense of ambiguous or contradictory messages
- recognize the relative importance of different elements of a situation
- find similarities between situations despite differences which may separate them
- draw distinctions between situations despite similarities which may link them
- synthesize new concepts by taking old ones and putting them together in new ways
- come up with ideas which are novel
Of interest to me here are not the limits of artificial intelligence, but how much these abilities are utterly intrinsic to the job of a therapist. Hardly surprising, one might say, since therapists are human.
But let’s look again, and reflect on the extent to which mental health work is being encouraged to follow practices that blunt or neglect these abilities.
Above is a list of things that questionnaires, categories, proformas, and protocols are bad at.
Therapeutic Attitude, therefore, is the attitude that insists on retaining intelligence in the clinical encounter.
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