Psychological Practice

With regard to psychological practice and psychobiographical work, the following can be recommended in terms of therapeutic practice and the introduction to psychobiographical work in psychology at higher education institutions.

The Use of Psychobiographies in Therapies

Psychobiographies can be used in psychological practice. By focusing on the development of particular and selected aspects of a single life across a life span, new information can be gained, and examples can be provided by using psychobiographies in working with clients in (psycho)therapeutic practice. Psychobiographies could play a role in psychological therapy, particularly when using a positive psychology paradigm. They could be used to recognise common features, for example, with regard to stages of faith development, regarding the possibilities of overcoming challenges in life, or for looking at career paths of single individuals across the life span. Thereby, the psychobiographical excerpts used in therapies could present the clients with new ideas or even with the recognition that even extraordinary individuals have to overcome crises and often find creative and original solutions, which might even be applied constructively in the clients’ lives.

In therapies, psychobiographical examples can be used to explain, for example, the development of a single person with regard to holistic wellness or the development of faith. Examples can be used, e.g. in narrative therapy, by addressing topics such as the question of how Paulo Coelho managed to overcome his trauma of being declared mentally ill and being hospitalised by his parents. By using the example of single, extraordinary individuals, their management to overcome crises and difficult situations could be analysed and discussed in the context of the client.

In systemic family therapy, psychobiographies could be used to apply a systemic view on the life of an extraordinary individual in the context of his family and his relationships. The therapist and the client could use this view on the “third person” as a method to externalise certain questions the client might have with regard to him/herself. Psychobiographies could thus be used as a form of triangulation in the context of the therapist and the client.

In biography work in therapy, examples of psychobiographies could be chosen, for example, to present ways of faith development across the life span. Psychobiographies would need to be chosen with regard to the topics of the client. A client who struggles with faith development, for example, could work on his/her biography and faith development and then compare the development of faith in a particular person by reading parts of a psychobiography or talking it through with the therapist. Psychobiographies could be used integratively in work with clients with regard to certain topics and for developing alternatives to the own way of dealing with certain issues.

Obviously, it cannot be recommended that the work with psychobiographies in therapy should be used in each and every single therapeutic process. The use of psychobiographies depends strongly on the client, the therapeutic approach, the ability of the therapist to work with it and other factors influencing the therapeutic process. However, these recommendations should be viewed as providing new insights and creative ideas to use psychobiographical research also in psychobiographical practice.

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