An Insight into ‘Liberation Psychology’ Praxis

Therapy is a pluralistic field, one that has been able to accommodate a wide range of very different approaches to clinical practice. But recently, a politically-motivated approach to therapy threatens this pluralism. It is hard to pin it down (at CTA, we have called it Critical Social Justice-driven therapy) as this political approach does not present itself openly as such. Instead, highly effective rhetorical strategies have been used to insert this approach into the field, claiming it to be an inevitable evolution of therapy, one that everybody should be on board with, a clinical practice that advocates for social change. But this is not another modality, instead it is the instrument of a new worldview and its intention is to replace traditional approaches. The advocates of this postmodern political belief system are explicit about its totalising aims, in particular, the decolonisation of psychology. Using rhetorical strategies has allowed this political approach to sidestep any public scrutiny and therapist activists have been able to continue the mission of replacing traditional psychological help with a type of moral re-education (for evidence of its success see Sherwood and Miller’s independent inquiry into UK clinical psychology training courses).

The video here is a rare opportunity to look inside this political approach (named here as ‘liberation psychology’) applied in a UK context – what is its praxis? How do therapists who espouse this approach describe and explain what they are doing. Is it coherent? Whose agenda is being served – e.g. how does the therapist work with clients who hold different political views? What happens when the only criterion for effectiveness is subjective?

Here at CTA , we have been warning that this approach is gaining more and more purchase on mainstream therapy and we have argued that it is antitherapeutic; a new form of cultural practice that weakens people. In this particular example, ‘liberation psychology’, it would seem to us that at best it is just an ineffectual performative simulacrum of therapy with an Instagram gloss; and at worst it is a form of political conversion therapy. But, watch the video – see what you think.

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