Psychotherapy and assorted counseling therapies come in many flavors, so to speak. In other words, there are many different ways to approach counseling. Whether you are talking couple’s therapy or adolescent counseling, therapists utilize different methods based on their training, goals, and counseling philosophies. Take non-pathological therapy, for example.
Non-pathological therapy isn’t a specific type of therapy, per se. Rather, it is a way of approaching whatever type of therapy a counselor chooses to utilize. The non-pathological approach is completely opposite to the pathological approach. It is an approach designed to figure out exactly why the patient thinks what they think or feels the way they feel.
Definition of Pathological
A strict definition of the term suggests that something considered pathological is extreme. In fact, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines pathological as “extreme in a way that is not normal or that shows an illness or mental problem.” The term can also be defined in relation to an underlying cause or disease.
We often extend the understanding of pathology to include an involuntary component. For example, someone considered to be a pathological liar is said to not be able to help themself. There is some sort of underlying disorder that causes them to lie.
With this understanding, a pathological approach to counseling would be one that sees the patient’s problems as the result of some serious, underlying issue. A non-pathological approach sees things differently.
Software Rather Than Hardware
The GoodTherapy website explains the difference between the two approaches as being similar to the difference between software and hardware. They consider the non-pathological approach to therapy as correcting software problems. They see the pathological approach as addressing hardware problems.
This explains why therapists who follow a pathological approach are quick to label patients according to their disorders. They see their patients’ problems as organic. They are hardware problems. And if the hardware can be replaced or repaired, the problem is solved.
But what if a person’s problems are not organic? What if there is no underlying physical cause? Then you are dealing with a software issue. This is where the non-pathological approach to therapy becomes critical. The therapist’s job is to figure out the glitch in the software so that it can be addressed.
More Than Your Problems
If none of this makes sense to you, Rye, New York’s Relationships & More offers a simpler explanation. A non-pathological therapeutic approach dictates that you are more than just your problems. You are greater than the problems you are experiencing. A pathological approach suggests the opposite: that your problems are greater than you are.
It is a significant difference that ultimately determines a therapist’s course of action. A non-pathological mindset suggests that any problems can be overcome if therapist and patient work together to solve them. The other approach always leaves the door open to never getting full resolution. If you are not greater than your problems, you may never be able to overcome them.
It has been suggested that the non-pathological approach is inherent to all ethical therapy and counseling. Does this mean that the pathological approach is unethical? That depends on who you ask. One of the difficulties with psychotherapy is that there are not as many black-and-white areas as compared to gray areas. Choosing one approach over the other is definitely a gray area.
Just know that when a therapist adopts the non-pathological approach to counseling, they are recognizing that their patients are more than their problems. They are going into therapy with the understanding that they can help patients overcome. It is hard to argue against such an approach.