Dr Zana Marovic, Phd

Clinical Psychologist, Johannesburg

Therapeutic Failure, Courage & Creativity

Therapeutic Failure, Courage & Creativity

Recent survey has found that 86 % of 315 interviewed therapists reported experiencing “lack of progress” therefore failure seem to be a very common experience in therapy. Yet, stories of failure in therapy seem to be rarely publicly shared and far less written about then success. Failure is therefore seen as “the antithesis of success” and as “the enemy of all therapists” while dominant discourse in psychotherapy is that of success narratives. This context of intolerance for mistakes contaminates our practice with self-deception, editing and selective memory while setting unreasonable standards that limit therapists’ ability to work creatively with failure.

Trial and error, experimenting and risking can give birth to a creative and innovative therapeutic experience provided we are aware of aspects that did not turn out the way we expected and we are prepared to learn from the experience. Ultimately the only real failure is the failure to learn from our failure. Hence, exploring failure and risk-taking requires courage and is in the heart of creativity and innovation.

This training is usually running over a weekend. It starts with discussion on why it is useful to face failure in our work, than we move to stories of famous therapists’ failures, case illustrations and different reasons for therapeutic failure. Than we focus on connections between personal and professional failure and how courage to face failure and take risks can be powerful tool for both, clients’ and therapists’ transformation. Finally, we will highlight some of ethical principles and issues to consider in relation to therapeutic failure, disclosure and professional integrity. The workshop uses experiential techniques to examine different facets of failure and look at how understanding and working with failure in therapy can add creative and powerful dimension to therapeutic process.

Therapeutic Failure, Courage and Creativity

1. Welcome & Introduction

1.1 Why is it important to understand and be aware of mistakes and failures in therapy
1.2 Working definition of failure
1.3 Our perceptions of failure

2. Working with failure

2.1 Famous therapists’ failures
2.2 Therapists’ discomfort in facing failure
2.3 Reasons for failure
2.4 Case illustrations
2.5 Effects of failure on clients and therapists

3. Personal/professional connections

3.1 Connections between personal and professional failure
3.2 Self of the therapist and failure

4. Courage, creativity and failure

4.1 Risk-taking and failure
4.2 Playfulness and provocation in therapy
4.3 Famous quotes on failure

5. Ethical issues and failure

5.1 Failure and benefits of facing failure
5.2 Personal competency and failure
5.3 Disclosure of failure
5.4 Ethical dilemmas about failure
5.5 Accepting and overcoming failure
5.6 Handling clients’ negative feedback

6. Discussion

7. Closure.