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I have been a professional for more than thirty years and then I retired.  I’ve seen a lot of people with all kinds of diagnoses, worked in many different kinds of settings, and it has all been very valuable experience.  Some theories made a lot of sense to me. Others I threw out because they didn’t seem to have much value at the time.  Because of my own personal experiences, it was easy to see how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fit into the reasons why people did what they did.  Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment  was also easy to understand after living in Children’s Homes. Erik Erikson’s  Developmental Stages of the Life Cycle also made sense to me in terms of my childhood years, and I saw the stages  being played out in my son’s life while raising him. I grew up reading  Sigmund Freud on Psychoanalysis and the importance of childhood in forming us as adults. Carl Jung’s works on dreams and Karen Horney’s Inner Conflict Theory of Neurosis I could relate to.. I could attest to having experienced inner conflict in my life. Harry Stack Sullivan’s work on Interpersonal Theory made sense as I looked around me and observed relationships. Viktor Frankl ‘s  Existential Theory was inspirational and helpful. David Burns books on Depression were very practical and useful for the people I worked with.

I could go on forever about theories and books. The important thing I want to get across is: Psychotherapy and Theories of Human Behavior are many, because one size does not fit all. What will work with one person may fall flat with another. Each person is unique. Each person has his/her own issues to resolve. Each comes with his/her own family history which changes how you work with any person. I have found it very useful to understand people in their environment, to look at cultural values, religion, family, resources they have or don’t have, coping skills, their capacity for hope, their social networks, and their willingness to work hard to get to a better place psychologically. I look for losses and how grief has affected them. I assess the level of pain and hurt they are feeling and how they are coping with that. 

Diagnoses are things we have to make in order to work with insurance companies.  I think it takes time to really know someone in order to make a good diagnosis. Even then, with good therapy, that can change. Every person changes over time depending upon who and what he comes in contact with. We would do far better to focus more on hurt, sadness, hope, the feeling of belonging, self-worth, and strengths people have, as well as increase their coping skills.  These  things are the real issues, not whether you are borderline personality disorder or all the other stuff its easy to get caught in. People want to relate to therapists as human beings. They need feedback and the right to ask questions and get answers instead of the run around. They want to be confronted gently, and they want to discuss their strengths. They are in need of focused attention from you. Chances are they will never get it anywhere else. They want to feel emotionally safe with you, that their needs, at that time, will be addressed by you and not ignored. They want boundaries set when they are needed and fair. They need to be involved with their treatment plan, be given choices, a sharing of power. Most of all, they need kindness, consistency, respect, empowerment, and skills taught to them. These are the most important needs they have when they come to you.