Linguistic Relativity

General semantics in Psychotherapy

The aim of this paper is to show the relevance of the theory of general semantics for the psychotherapy field. General semantics was developed by Alfred Korzybski during the last century. It is concerned with, among other things, language and other symbols. It emphasizes the role language plays in our sanity, through our evaluation and knowledge processes. Psychotherapy as a scientific discipline has received a vast number of definitions, but in this paper the main general semantics assumptions will be correlated with three main general and transtheoretical issues of psychotherapy: the context/structure, the content, and the consequences, in this case, of following a general semantics orientation in psychotherapy.

THIS PAPER AIMS to show the importance of the theory of general semantics for the field of psychotherapy. Emphasis will be on some of the main concepts of general semantics developed in the original work of its founder, Alfred Korzybski. These issues will be described in relation to a particular view of psychotherapy that involves context/structure, content, and finally, the consequences of using a general-semantics approach.

The importance of general semantics for psychotherapy, especially cognitive psychotherapy, has been shown by such authors as Ellis (2002), Mahoney (1991) and Meichenbaum (1977). However, this paper presents the influence of general semantics on psychotherapy in a more general way.

The Importance of General Semantics for Psychotherapy

Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950) was particularly interested in understanding how human beings could function in a way that avoided problems and conflict. The education of human beings and the discovery of a preventive method were at the core of his work and of his efforts to develop and spread his theory. (Korzybski, 1925.)

Although it is not my intention to provide a detailed account of Korzybski's background, especially when there are available excellent biographical and theoretical accounts (Read; 1980, Schuchardt Read, 1968), it is necessary to mention briefly the reason why I feel at home comparing general semantics and psychotherapy.

Databases, Information Systems, and Peer-to-Peer Computing: First International Workshop, DBISP2P, Berlin Germany, September 7-8, 2003, Revised Papers (Lecture Notes in Computer Science)
Book (Springer)
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