David Kopacz, MD
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Myths, Tasks, and Paradigms in Trauma Work
The Therapist as a Moral Agent

Presented at the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Annual Meeting
Washington D.C. | November 1998




Abstract: Paradigms mediate our understanding of others in therapeutic work. Yet, paradigms can become myths when they obscure the reason they were developed, to promote the task of therapy. Among the initial tasks of trauma work is ending dangerous reenactments. In this sense, the therapist must act as a moral agent, which requires entering into a relationship of mutual respect for subjectivity. A problem arises, however, since the role of moral agent can be in direct conflict with the therapist's need for objectifying paradigms. The therapist must struggle to maintain the flexibility to move between these domains of task and paradigm.

The idea of the trauma therapist as a moral agent is not new. There are, however, powerful forces which influence a therapist to act in such a way that the moral potential of the therapeutic relationship is hampered. Several of these forces include the paradigm of scientific diagnosis, the overreliance on technique, a passive witnessing stance (as opposed to an engaged witnessing stance), and the dominance of theory over the actual therapeutic relationship.

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