Re: [xmca] CH analysis of Therapy

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sun Oct 09 2005 - 15:48:43 PDT

Here is Pedro Portes' paper from Seville, posted on his website.
"Cultural Historical Theory Implications for Counseling and Psychotherapy."

I heard part of Pedro's presentation on this at Seville, and was able
to snag a hard copy of it, which he generously made available. Also,
below is the abstract in the CD from the 8-pound conference book of

Pedro's paper is a roughly written survey of the subject but touches
on quite a few essential points to consider for further study. He
indicates how a number of themes in Vygotsky and Luria's work can be
potentially applied to a counseling method, such as, picking up on
some points Pedro takes up more or less in the order he presents
them, the evolution of Vygotsky and Luria's thinking on
psychoanalysis, their work on schizophrenics, Parkinson's disease and
Pick's disease patients, retarded children, mental health efforts in
general, defectology, the mediating role of language, the
interdisciplinary, multi-leveled and anti-reductionist methods of
cultural-historical psychology, compensatory "psychotechnics" to use
a term Vygotsky worked with, (although not mentioned by Pedro, a
concept that Luria changed 20th Century psychology with through his
work in neuropsychology), self-regulation, how the development of
alternate systems (such as the use of sign language) "affects higher
levels of cultural adaptation and development," the role of achieving
new word-meanings in therapy, the Zone of Proximal Development, the
parallels between education and therapy, re-mediation - which "can be
accomplished by learning activities that are sensitively arranged
ahead of a person's actual level of adaptation," and a brief mention
of "the method of Double Stimulation found in the Cultural Historical
model," which I find to be one of the most intriguing suggestions in
his paper, because it points to a study of different kinds and
developmental levels of complexes and concepts in adult thinking, an
area that strikes me as sharply relevant to psychological development
at the individual level, and one where cultural-historical psychology
may have major contributions to make. Pedro also includes a useful
and comprehensive bibliography.

I encourage Lois to keep stirring up discussion here on xmca on
psychotherapy and "CHT" (Cultural Historical Theory, as Pedro puts
it). I am interested and believe many are.

- Steve

from pages 515-516 of the ISCAR First Congress Book of Abstracts
Issues in Cultural Historical Theory for Psychotherapy and Counseling
Pedro R Portes, University of Louisville, USA
This presentation acquaints readers interested in psychotherapy and
counseling with socio-cultural
theory. It provides a historical summary of early connections between
psychodynamic theories and
an emerging psychology denominated as cultural-historical. Some of
the basic contributions
stemming from cultural-historical theory appear to have already been
suggested within particular
models of psychotherapy. However, it is still considered not only as
fertile but useful in the
integration of the field. This theory originated at a time when
psychology was carving a scientific
identity and attempting to define the content boundaries and methods
for the study of mind (van der
Veer & Valsiner, 1994). In the latter part of this century, it has
evolved as a system and its presence
has been felt in various disciplines. It is argued that like other
major paradigms in psychology, it
carries implications for several sub-disciplines such as counseling
and any other types of educational
activities. Unlike them, the cultural-historical model represents
perhaps a meta-paradigm because its
focus extends beyond the study of individual development into
ever-changing social contexts. With
a unit of analysis that is neither totally internal nor social,
persons are to be understood with society
or culture in mind, in ways that integrate many current theories, and
their own development under
particular historical and social conditions. Unfortunately, extending
this multi-level, dialectical
model is difficult. It must be limited here to capture only some of
the most basic themes and ideas
that might interest those interested in the connection between mental
health and a new psychology.
At the individual level, working with clients' learning history,
examining the etiology of a mental
health problem in context, working with the clients' strengths and
resources, trying to develop
insights jointly are all areas in which considerable common ground
can be found between a Cultural -
Historical (CH) approach and most current models of psychotherapy and
mental health. Because
the CH approach is getting a late start given its history, it may be
that it has little to offer to the field
of counseling except new terminology. To show how new professionals
might understand the zone
of proximal development, many would argue that the concept
corresponds to already well
established models in the humanistic camp which focus of human
potential. On the other hand, the
CH approach might be considered as a meta theory, and not just
another come lately theory of
counseling in common textbooks in the field. In sum, a closer look at
how CH might serve to
integrate what may be considered a fragmented landscape of
approaches, theories and techniques
of psychotherapy is presented. Some of the questions and issues to be
addressed are;
1. What does CH theory have to offer to the field of counseling
psychology, counselor education,
social work, family therapy etc?.
Part of the answers may lie in the CH's focus on three interrelated
lines of development and the
role of mediated action.
2. The threat of a CH model to professionals in this area is considerable, why?
3. And finally, how may an understanding of mediated action, such as
what is found in the double
stimulation method serve as an important concept in explaining client change?

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