Doctor knows best

Therapy wars: the revenge of Freud is a fascinating Long Read in today’s Guardian. It is a very readable analysis by Oliver Burkeman of the arguments, claims and counter-claims advanced on the one hand by psychologists and on the other by therapists, of the benefits and efficacy (or otherwise) of psychoanalysis and various alternative approaches to therapy, in particular cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

I was particularly struck by this,

David Pollens, in his Upper East Side consulting room, said he had some sympathy for the “dodo-bird verdict”[the idea, supported by some studies, that the specific kind of therapy makes little difference], despite his passion for psychoanalysis. “There was a wonderful British analyst, Michael Balint, who was very involved in medical training, and he had a question he liked to pose [to doctors],” Pollens said. It was: “‘What do you think is the most powerful medication you prescribe?’ And people would try to answer that, and then eventually he’d say: ‘the relationship’.”

My father was a GP in a small market town in the second half of the last century. He would have entirely agreed with Michael Balint. He always maintained that many of the people he saw in his surgery wanted nothing more than the opportunity to sit down with their doctor and tell him or her what was troubling them. For him the relationship he had with his patients was all.