Career and Honors

Beliefs about Counseling and Coaching


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After Separation: Reflections on the Plight of the Alienated Child

About Dr. Kovacs | Beliefs about Counseling and Coaching

After more than four decades engaged in the pursuit of my career, I find myself distressed about trends in our culture and certain mirroring trends in the field of psychology. We are rapidly moving to “biologize” the human condition. We are coming to conceptualize almost every form of human distress as being, in the final analysis, a matter of faulty genes, of neurobiological wiring problems, or of deficiencies in the secretion of certain brain chemicals. As a result, we are reaching the Monsanto Chemical Company ad slogan from the 1950s, “Better living through chemistry.” I often reflect that we have achieved the “brave new world” predicted by Aldous Huxley in his novel of the same name. Ninety five percent of the American public now consume some psychoactive chemicals every day. Some of these chemicals are recreational. Some are illegal. Some can be purchased over the counter in any pharmacy. And an ever growing number are manufactured by the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry that now sells these “goods” to over 120 million Americans! We are, indeed, spending our lives viewing cathode ray tubes and taking “Soma” to make desperate lives tolerable.

I have never been able to believe in or to embrace such views of the human condition. Human despair, the joy of love, anguish over the suffering of a child, the ecstasies of supreme moments of joy, the desolation of blighted dreams, the creative impulse cannot be reduced simply to nerve impulses and to chemical secretions. My profession, as I experience it, is very poorly analogized by comparisons to the activities pursued by physicians or psychopharmacologists. And I have no desire for it be any closer to medicine in its textures. Of the two, psychology is far grander, far more ambitious, and far more replete with important possibilities.

I do not “treat patients.” I do not prescribe medications. Instead, I am a specialist in conceptualizing about and working with life-span developmental challenges and the all too frequently flawed and inadequate solutions to them that characterize the lives of so many of my fellow human beings. I understand normative and failed solutions to life’s dilemmas across the interval from birth to death, and I know a great deal about how to use psychological principles to create sustaining relationships with troubled persons. Within those relationships, I possess some understanding of how to help those who may sojourn a while with me, help them to come to a fuller appreciation of the true sources of their distress, to apprehend the irremediable limitations of existence, to find the courage to dare to be different than they have been before, and working in concert with them to find the path out of the morass of anguish that has brought them to my consulting room.

For other of my clients, I take great joy in helping them to discover strengths and adaptive capacities that have been hidden for most of the years of their life and to free them to have more moments of experiences in the fullness of their prowess. Peak performance and moments of radiant transcendence are the ultimate source of human happiness.

No, what I find myself doing in my office home is not at all analogous to the practice of medicine. On the contrary. The skills I possess and the interventions I must make as I live my professional life feel to me much closer to those states of being and means of expression that are familiar to teachers, philosophers, poets, artists, historians, and cultural anthropologists. The time I spend in concert with my clients is a time in a search for meaning, in a search of understanding, and in a search for sometimes new and novel ways of thinking - ways that reveal new possibilities. In the final analysis, in a time of rapid and destabilizing social change, of uncertainty about the future, and of the declining relevance of old “scripts” about how persons were supposed to live, it may have become the challenge of members of my profession to be as were the tribal elders in preliterate societies. We have come to serve as the special members of the clan who are able to provide sanctuary and wisdom. We have it available for those of our unfortunate companions on life’s journey who have lost their ability to find meaning and whose personal wisdom is failing them. Those who have discovered to their dismay that they have thereby also lost their ability to respond effectively to the challenges that now confront them might well benefit from psychological care.

If these words have some meaning for you, you may want to contact me.

Email Dr. Arthur Kovacs at alkovacs@aol.com

Email Hermine Kovacs at tohermine@aol.com

Email Dr. Karen Kovacs North at knorth@usc.edu