Radhika Santhanam-Martin – Othering Spaces: Uses of Alterity in Psychotherapy Training and Practice (ASI 2014)
Othering occurs in everyday human encounters and may be playful or violent, normative or transgressive. In ordinary social contexts, othering may be “invisible” yet have profound effects for identity, health and well-being. The deliberate use of othering is a feature of many forms of psychotherapy, in which people are made to feel like strangers to themselves, social marking and exclusion are made visible, and the initial alienation of the clinical encounter gives way over time to a deepening mutuality. This paper explores the Othering process using a therapeutic-philosophical lens. Building on the recognition that positive or inclusionary and negative or exclusionary practices of Othering regularly occur in therapy and training contexts, we will address the juxtaposition of the inevitability and persistence of strangeness with our need to be related to the familiar. To illustrate these issues, we use Donna Orange’s framework contrasting the hermeneutics of suspicion and hermeneutics of faith. Vignettes drawn from clinical and training settings will demonstrate how Othering processes organize and develop in a network of conversations and how they get enacted and embodied. We argue for the need to hold both these hermeneutic positions (doubt and trust), in order to ethically respond to and respect the face of the Other.