On the extremes of eminent reasonableness

I’ve just come across a brilliant 1966 sketch about a psychiatrist from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s classic comedy series Not Only… But Also.

Peter Cook plays a psychiatrist who takes his reasonable acceptance of his patient’s behaviour to the extreme with Dudley Moore as his comic foil.

It’s actually a parody of a technique in psychotherapy called “unconditional positive regard” in which the therapist accepts the person’s behaviour, experiences and emotions, good or bad, without judging the person’s core value as a human being.

This was originally developed by psychologist Carl Rogers as part of a humanistic or person-centred approach to psychotherapy.

While few therapists would consider themselves purely Rogerian in their approach nowadays, his general assumptions are now widely used in all forms of psychological treatment. Probably as a result he has been voted the most influential psychotherapist twice over the last 50 years.

Apparently he’s been so influential that he even influenced Pete and Dud’s comedy.

By the way, I picked up the link from the Twitter stream of @mariapage, a Greek student who consistently posts interesting and eye-opening psychology links. Thanks!

UPDATE: I’ve discovered this wasn’t the only psychiatrist sketch Pete and Dud did. There’s footage of another brilliant parody available here. In this one, Peter Cook makes looks of banal pseudo-Freudian observations about the state of Dudley Moore’s relationship with his wife. There’s also a great piss-take of behavioural therapy.

Link to The Psychiatrist sketch from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m not an expert on Rogers’ work, but I think “unconditional positive regard” was intended more as a quality (along with genuineness and empathy) describing good therapists than as a technique to be used by therapists.
    That’s not to say it hasn’t been interpreted as a technique by more detached & cynical individuals than Rogers. Hence the joke: “learn to be sincere … even if you have to fake it”!


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