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The Physics of Social Interaction in Psychotherapy

September 28th, 2012 by Robert DePaolo | Posted in Psychology | No Comments » | 90 views | Print this Article

By Robert DePaolo


This article describes client-counselor interactions in psychotherapy in terms of physical laws. This somewhat unorthodox coupling of two separate fields espouses that like all aspects of nature, social interactions (particularly as pertains to the counseling process) are governed by the same principles that govern the rest of the natural world. This discussion also offers potential insight into how psycho-physical phenomena affect the emotional and cognitive realignments of both client and counselor

The idea that psychotherapeutic intervention has parallels in the laws of physics is really nothing new. It was the foundation of Freud’s description of the psyche, which he defined as an interwoven energy conservation system; one part borrowing from another to suit its purposes and an overall quest for pan stability among ego, id and superego. It was also inherent in the canalization theory proposed by Gardner Murphy’s personality theory (1947) and in the unified biosocial theory of personality discussed by Cloninger (1986).

Each of these theories espoused a concept of personality based on a broadly construed theory of stability. It is the idea that all elements in nature tend toward some degree of stasis (Baldwin (1988), (Lascar 1987) and indeed move, grow, act, approach and avoid in order to resolve states of instability. Just as personality theorists have incorporated physical principles into psychological functions, so have practitioners in the physical sciences done so with regard to human behavior; for example as seen in the work of Ashby (1952), (1957).

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