I met a young person at a party.  She was a freshly minted clinical psychotherapist interning to become experienced in her profession.  As someone that had been seriously considering the same profession thirty years ago, I had questions about what models she uses to perform interventions.

I expected that she would be describing psychotherapeutic models I was unfamiliar with, and I was right.  What I had learned was mostly unfamiliar to her and vice versa.  The conversation was disjointed, though.  It took me to the end of the short conversation to discover a particularly important piece.  Almost all her patient contacts took place in a setting with no privacy, in rooms filled with other people, with people she would only see once or twice.

The reason the conversation was confused was that every minute to ninety seconds her cell phone would ring.  She’d then review what was on the screen and sometimes text.  It was after this occurred the fifth time that she told me that in the environment that she practiced her profession there was little in common with the way I’d been trained.

Thirty years is a long time in a social transition.  The relationship between time and attention is radically transforming.  Cell phone technologies, twitter and texting are abbreviating experience, layering the near and far away so they overlap, dramatically increasing the number of people we come in contact with every day.  Yet, the contacts are not particularly deep.  We have less uninterrupted time to explore each other in detail.  It is no wonder that the young therapist and I have different intervention models.  All my models assumed time to establish rapport, set up goals and construct new and useful pathways to the desired change.  In an age where the young are facile with divided and abbreviated attention, I’m not clear how the new models work.

With the increasing amounts of time available as unemployment and underemployment rise, and the dividend, layered and abbreviated use of time familiar to the young, I’m seeing in the near future a world culture so unique it borders on a speciation event.  In the world of biology two subspecies or species variations can so diverge in behavior that they cease to interbreed and eventually create different species.  For example, two insect variations might at first be able to successfully breed, but rarely do so because they are awake at two different times or populate two different areas of tall trees.  With time, interbreeding becomes genetically impossible.

Imagine a youth integrated into the new technologies attempting a bonding with another youth unfamiliar or unattracted to the new divided, layered and abbreviated use of time.  There would be a dissonance, a cultural divide perhaps greater than that of two people pairing that speak different languages.

At what point does our use of time become so fragmented that it starts to acquire aspects of dream?  In dream there are no two times.  What you imagine becomes real.  There is only the place you are in and the time you are in.  Layering different times (being in conversation with one person while texting another), abbreviating time and spending time in contact with those remote, are all contributing to invest waking life with an almost dreamlike quality.  In dream the narrative is designed by the dream creator, connecting the dreamer with the extended matrix of our origins.  In waking, our lives are becoming deeply impacted by the behavior of increasing numbers of other people.  We are becoming increasingly social animals influenced by an ever growing community.  Waking and dream are showing a potential to converge.

Psychotherapy is one of those professions at the forefront of the changes underway.  Clinicians will need many tools to address the variety of ways that people are impacted by changing times.  At least one course in philosophy might be useful, particularly a course on the philosophy of time.  It might also be useful to pay attention to those ways that new technologies are embedding in the waking world, integrated in ways formerly most at home in dream.


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