Guides Action

A fourth criterion of a useful theory is its ability to guide the practitioner over the rough course of day-to-day problems. For example, parents, teachers, business managers, and psychotherapists are confronted continually with an avalanche of questions for which they try to find workable answers. Good theory provides a structure for finding many of those answers. Without a useful theory, practitioners would stumble in the darkness of trial and error techniques; with a sound theoretical orientation, they can discern a suitable course of action.

For the Freudian psychoanalyst and the Rogerian counselor, answers to the same question would be very different. To the question, How can I best treat this patient? the psychoanalytic therapist might answer along these lines: 7/psychoneuroses are caused by childhood sexual conflicts that have become unconscious, then I can help this patient best by delving into these repressions and allowing the patient to relive the experiences in the absence of conflict. To the same question, the Rogerian therapist might answer: If in order to grow psychologically, people need empathy, unconditional positive regard, and a relationship with a congruent therapist, then I can best help this client by providing an accepting, nontlireatening atmosphere. Notice that both therapists constructed their answers in an if-then framework, even though the two answers call for very different courses of action.

Also included in this criterion is the extent to which the theory stimulates thought and action in other disciplines, such as art, literature (including movies and television dramas), law, sociology, philosophy, religion, education, business administration, and psychotherapy. Most of the theories discussed in this book have had some influence in areas beyond psychology. For example, Freud's theory has prompted research on recovered memories, a topic very important to the legal profession. Also, Carl Jungs theory is of great interest to many theologians and lias captured the imagination of popular writers such as Joseph Campbell and others. Similarly, the ideas of Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, B. E Skinner, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and other personality theorists have sparked interest and action in a broad range of scholarly fields.

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