Psychotherapy – Historical Background and Practice
Dr. Edward Chan FMPsyA FMCBTA
B.Sc.(Psych) PgDip (Clin.Psych) MSc.(IT & Learning) D.Phil.(Psych) CSAC
Principal Consultant Psychologist, Malaysian Psychology Centre

Psychotherapy has its roots in Europe stretching back as far as the nineteenth century. For many years, approximately from the end of the nineteenth century to about the 1960’s the dominant influence in psychotherapy was psychoanalysis and its derivatives. Freud, the father of the psychoanalysis, guided its development until his death in 1939 and generally resisted attempts by others to offer significant modifications in psychoanalytic theory and procedures. However, a number of his earlier (and later) followers, such as Adler, Jung, Horney, and Sullivan, offered significant modifications of the Freudian scheme. Although certain features of traditional psychoanalytic theory and therapy, such as the importance of repressed conflicts, unconscious motivation, and early life experiences, tended to be retained in these variations, significant differences in emphases and procedures also occurred.

Besides the development of these offshoots of Freudian psychoanalysis, the other important new schools or approaches to psychotherapy made their mark over the years. One new approach that differed in important respects from the prevailing analytically oriented therapies was the client-centered approach developed by Carl Rogers. Rogers was critical of the ‘expert” role played by the more traditional therapists with their emphasis on interpretations of clients’ underlying conflicts. Instead Rogers emphasized. Instead, Rogers emphasized the client’s potential for growth and the ability of the therapist to be empathically sensitive to the feelings of the client.

Another more radical development was the gradual growth of behaviour therapy. Although learning theory-based approaches had been introduced relatively early, they had only a modest impact on practice until the publication Joseph Wolpe’s book, Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition in 1958. Although Wolpe was a psychiatrist, behaviour therapy was more directly linked to the field of Psychology than were other forms of psychodynamic psychotherapy, and psychologists have played an important role in its development.

The primary contribution of behavior therapy was obvious emphasis on behaviour and performance as well as a more directive role for the therapist. Furthermore, both Rogers and the behaviour therapists placed a greater emphasis on the importance of evaluating the results of their therapy than was true of the practitioners of other orientations. Another difference between these two orientations and the more traditional forms of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy was the relative brevity of the former. Although there were controversies concerning the different goals and types of outcomes secured by means of the different therapeutic approaches, the fact was that the client-centered and behaviour therapies lasted for a period of weeks or months whereas the psychoanalytically oriented therapies required a few years for completion.

Therapies available in Malaysia
Psychotherapists in Malaysia tends do offer a combination of different therapeutic approach to clients. At the Malaysian Psychology Centre, an independent psychotherapy and psychological services provider, for example, clients can choose to have therapy under the relevant division of the centre depending on their needs. The centre has a Division for Adult Psychotherapy, a Division for Children and Adolescent Therapy, a Division for Couple and Marital Therapy, a Division for Sex Therapy, a Division for Family Therapy, a Division for Corporate Psychology which provides therapy for employees under the employees assistance programme, a Division for Addiction Therapy, a Division for Hypnotherapy and a Division for Family and Corporate Mediation Therapy.

The therapeutic approach used would depend also on the specific needs of the client. Emotional release therapy approach might be used at the beginning stage of the therapy often for example to bring about immediate relief to the client’s emotional stress. This can then be followed by some behavioural and cognitive work and later by some psychodynamic work to help the client goes deeper in order to realize longer term change.
For a list of registered practicing psychotherapists in Malaysia, please contact the Malaysian Psychotherapy Association.

Published in the Complementary Therapist, Issue 2, April-June 2004

The author can be contacted at:

Dr. Edward Chan FMPsyA, FMCBTA
Principal Consultant Psychologist
B.Sc.(Psych.) PgDip (Clin.Psych.) MSc. D.Phil.(Psych.) C.Pr. NLP CSAC
Prinicipal Consultant Psychologist
Malaysian Psychology Centre
The Centre of Excellence for Personal & Organisational Growth

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