The basic definition of therapist drift is moving away from the evidence-based therapeutic model, failing to use a structured and prescribed approach at all times. That is, we are taught to use models and approaches in a particular way; however theory very rarely prepares us for the practical aspects of our jobs.

For example, some of us may have been taught to use an evidence-based approach which means we have to work in an evidence-based manner. Further-more, we may have to demonstrate model-adherence and thus may have to work with what the client presents as the problem. This all leads to a therapist working within a model. And thus we as therapists must leave our feelings, emo-tions and biases at the door.

In my humble opinion, therapists adapting the theory to make it work in the practical world is what is referred to as therapist drift.

So, what caused this? Diane described that experience was probably one of the main causes of drift. That is, training in a different modalities and thus integration of such methods is known to make therapists drift.

Diane has years of experience in customer service, which facilitated her moving into mental health. She is currently a Wellbeing Development Manager for a third sector mental health service. They use a holistic and person-centred approach when working with clients. Initially her methods of working, albeit person centred, were very prescriptive. She applied CBT based techniques, but only 42% of clients who engaged within therapy recovered. This illustrated that 58% of people DIDN’T recover!

This was enough to prompt Diane to look further into why people didn’t engage or recover. Issues such as addiction and possibility of becoming homeless were such reasons that clients were struggling to engage. And thus Diane changed her way of working by firstly finding out environmental factors that were having an impact on clients and signposting posting clients to services which could help. At times, she would make calls herself and get them the help they needed.

The message was as simple and complicated as this: as therapist we need to start looking further into a client’s environment. However this isn’t as effortless as it seems. Time and resources don’t always allow therapists to do that. And of course, not forgetting there are those therapists who don’t drift, who like to keep their approach as “pure” as they can.
Overall, a thought- and emotion-provoking presentation!

Urooj Khan