Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Value of Writing and Reading as a Student

     I have discussed, prior to this date, the importance of reading the seminal articles and books in psychotherapy in order to truly understand the meaning behind the theorist's words. This allows the student to learn, as it were, directly from the teacher. I think that many texts frequently dumb down the information to make it simpler or "more accessible" to understand. This is unfortunate, as that information, since it was gleaned first from that source, will forever be remembered in that tongue or voice. 
     To read the work in the voice of the master is to be able to hear it through only one degree of separation. The more it is repeated, the greater the chance exists to alter, simplify or incorrectly translate the work. A student who reads Rogers's Client-Centered Therapy can read and then take that information as he or she sees fit.
     This may lead to a false conclusion, however. I am by no means introducing the idea that teaching should not exist. Some works, such as Perls's Gestalt Therapy, are inherently difficult to understand and need some instruction in order to truly capture the minutia  of the thought. I think that a lesson should be learned with the assumption that the text has been read. This assumption - which hopefully proves correct - means that the student has read, digested, studied, and questioned the material. This will lead to a class discussion that centers around the thoughts of the student and their questions on the text.
     The reason for this entry, though, has really nothing to do with reading the material. I have already covered that and allowed myself a couple of paragraphs to expound on the idea. I would instead like to talk about writing. Why is (or isn't) writing important for a student? That is: What does a student get out of writing? how often should a student write? What should the topics be? How critical should the advisor be? I will attempt to answer at least some of these questions in the following paragraphs.
     Writing, like reading, should occur because it gives the student knowledge. Reading gives the student knowledge of others' ideas that can then prompt their own. Writing frequently comes of this. Writing itself, though, has the ability to open up the client's own history, ideas, motivations, desires, and reasons for certain thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors. Writing and reflection brings the student on-par with the theorist, allowing them to work side by side and pushing the student to further the work of her or she would went before. Writing also provides a way for a clinician to work out some of their own problems in a very understanding medium.
     I think that writing should occur with as much frequency of reading. If a student is reading anything of value (and I certainly hope they are), then writing is almost the next logical step to help them chronicle their own thoughts. The student or clinician will get things wrong and change their own ideas. Such a deed is more the norm than not and can be expected and encouraged. Indeed, a change in thought is healthy; I would be much more distressed were I to see that a student changed none of their ideas than some or most. More reading will lead to more changes of mind. It's hard to see a true intellectual ever being comfortable in one idea. He or she would most likely constantly be taking in information that would lead to different opinions. And when or if such information ceases to exist, should it not be the intellectual's job to create a stir and write something that causes people to think again? Because we are dealing with the phenomenological here, there will always be more, newer, and different things to read and write about.
     I think that topics should vary widely with students and clinicians. Theories, media, ethics, case studies, applications, "what-ifs" . . . they are all fodder for writing. I think that a big topic that all students should have to deal with (I could see pros and cons to early and late) in their schooling is ethics. Knowing where one comes down on a certain difficult topic permits a student to think deeply on a topic that may or may not ever really occur to them. They can create a script to be used in such a crisis, which is invaluable  and could mean their job or even the life of a client.
     The advisor of the writing should not be critical, per se. The advisor should be challenging. It is his or her job to ensure that thought keeps on going. He or she should push in the opposite direction of the student. He or she should push the student to strive for more information and a broader, as well as deeper, view on the topics at hand. The advisor should recommend books, times, to meet with the student, and opinions to allow the student to continue their writing and reading. 
     As my las not for this entry, I think that it is important to talk about ignorance wiring. This is writing about a subject without really knowing a lot  about it. Ignorance writing can be either positive or negative. It can be negative if written without any knowledge of the subject and with unhelpful intentions. This is not to say that education on the subject is necessarily needed. Indeed, many new thoughts have come without schooling. Perhaps truly negative ignorance writing can truly be identified after the fact. Positive ignorance writing comes by when a person writes on a subject he or she knows little or nothing about and turns out to be able to contribute. This happens infrequently and takes an exceptional person - a person who can intuitively understand fundamental concepts of a field and build on them using  his or her own thought structure. 
     Rather than writing from the bones of a theory, I think that students should write with knowledge of fundamental concepts and write in ignorance of some of the finer points. This way, a student can write their own thoughts and either "get it wrong" or "get it right." The wrong means that the student didn't quite write it as the textbook, not that that is necessarily incorrect. The right means that either the student has complemented the original work or has written something of value. 

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