Chapter One of Psychotherapy with Deaf Clients from Diverse Groups continued...
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Stewart (1981) and A. E. Sussman (1988) note that many counselors and therapists trained to work with "average" deaf clients have successfully used therapist characteristics such as communicating unconditional positive regard, accurate empathic understanding, congruence, and other classic core conditions promulgated by Carl Rogers and his client-centered counseling and psychotherapy- The ‘humms' and all client-centered cornerstone approaches, such as active listening, attending, reflection, and clarification, can be effectively conveyed via signed languages, including American Sign Language (ASL). In fact, many aspects of the Rogerian approach are made to order for ASL! Much can also be conveyed non- verbally, using mannerisms, gestures, body language, and facial expression. Many therapists skilled in working with deaf clients are skilled in various forms of the Rogerian 'humm" with deaf clients.

Differences between client and therapist do not automatically make basic psychotherapy an inappropriate choice. "What is needed is for the therapist to know how to conduct psychotherapy with groups of people who differ from [the therapist], and not to conclude that it is inapplicable" (Weiner, 1975, p. 21, emphasis in original). To decide simply on the basis of deafness that a particular deaf client will be unsuitable for a "talking therapy" or a therapy involving some degree of self-scrutiny is analogous to what Wohl says "constitutes by itself an insult and, if the issue is ethnicity, an ethnic slur" (Wohl, 1995, p. 76). The propensity to stereotype deaf people as difficult and high-risk candidates, as is done with poor, disadvantaged, disabled, old, and nonverbal populations, served only to thwart psychotherapeutic opportunity for deaf clients' emotional growth and psychological enhancement. The therapist's qualifications, skills, and sign language competencies were hardly addressed as part of the psychotherapy equation.

It took years to recognize that the reported and observed difficulties and failures in psychotherapy with deaf clients often reflected the therapist's skills and attitudes rather than the imputed or stereotyped limitations of the deaf client. The therapists themselves generally did not possess a working knowledge of deafness and its psychosocial concomitants. Also, they were not able to communicate effectively and meaningfully with their deaf clients.

A small pool of pioneers, particularly psychologists who themselves were deaf and often isolated from one another, gamely attempted to place psychotherapy in its proper place in the field of deafness. They claimed that the nature and basic principles of psychotherapy with deaf individuals were not different from those of psychotherapy with nondeaf individuals. Nor was a new theoretical orientation needed despite earlier literature advocating a separate, psychopathologically oriented, and disputable "psychology of deafness" (Levine, 1960; Myklebust, 1960; Vernon & Andrews, 1990). Next Page

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