Volume 1, No. 2, Art. 24 – June 2000

The Future Prospects for (Qualitative) Psychology1)

Hans-Jürgen Seel2)

Abstract: If we attempt to assess the future prospects for psychology ten years after the founding of the "Neue Gesellschaft für Psychologie" (NGfP), we find a steadily increasing demand for professional psychological services. However, such services will not automatically be sought from psychologists. The current state of psychology in Germany as a nomothetic science is not an ideal basis for the training of professional counsellors in the psychosocial and management fields for example, since practising psychologists mostly handle individual cases, which essentially calls for a qualitative way of working. As a result, the future of psychology will depend not least on the elaboration of qualitative methodological concepts within a pluralistic psychological science. A precondition for safeguarding the identity of the profession is the establishment of a scientific meta-discourse which accepts different methodological approaches to the scientific object. This discourse, using everyday language, is known as protopsychology. Protopsychology has to deal with the assignment of different methodological approaches to special types of situations of social practice in a pluralistic society and thus demonstrate the usefulness of scientific psychological knowledge.

On the basis of these arguments, the structure of knowledge production must also be revised, because psychological knowledge will have to be created more in practical psychological activity than in scientific laboratories in the future; otherwise, it will not be possible to transfer it to the work situation of practising psychologists and it will not provide a basis for psychologists to participate in social criticism.

Key words: future perspectives for Psychology, qualitative research, pluralism, theory of science, methodology, practical work, protopsychology, German "Psychotherapeutengesetz", knowledge management

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Increasing Social Importance of Psychological Services

3. The Future Prospects for Psychology

4. The Current Practice of Contact with and between Different Methodological Positions within Scientific Psychology

5. Plea for a Protopsychological Discourse

6. Levels of Protopsychological Discourse






1. Introduction

Almost ten years ago, the Neue Gesellschaft für Psychologie (NGfP) was founded with the following aims (http://www.ngfp.de):

"As psychologists, we aim

  • to accept social responsibility for a humane structuring of social existence

  • to develop a critical, reflexive understanding of science and to promote equality of the sexes in scientific activity

  • to promote research appropriate to the subject which takes account of the social (cultural) and historical conditioning of the psychological and is oriented towards everyday life and practice, provides scientific support for and reflects psychological practice and thus takes up and renews the intellectual, cultural and social science traditions

  • to pursue interdisciplinary co-operation with other disciplines

  • to develop the identity of the profession despite the wide variety of discourses which should be striven for in principle

  • to democratise the universities and colleges and scientific activity". [1]

The NGfP was formed primarily by qualitatively, intellectually or hermeneutically working psychologists who took (and still take) the view that such approaches receive too little status in the German-speaking scientific landscape in view of the overpowering nomothetic dominance of scientific psychology and are unable to develop sufficiently, but are also important for the future of the psychology profession as a whole. (See the arguments exchanged in this connection e.g. by HERRMANN 1991 and LEGEWIE 1991 in Report Psychologie of February 1991 and in Vol. 1, 1992 of the Journal für Psychologie.) [2]

The NGfP is currently in the middle of a controversy about the expert practice of the scientific advisory committee under § 11 of the Psychotherapeutengesetz [Psychotherapy Act]. Under that Act, the regional authorities must take decisions on the authorisation of psychotherapy methods for direct settlement with the health insurance schemes, to be precise "in cases of doubt on the basis of an expert report by a scientific advisory committee" (§ 11), although they are not inevitably obliged to comply with it. [3]

The NGfP's criticism is sparked off by the fact that the scientific advisory committee itself has formulated criteria of scientific rigour and, to be precise, criteria which are geared towards a narrowly interpreted nomothetic scientific ideal based on linear causality assumptions, and applies those criteria to methods such as scientific conversational psychotherapy and systemic family therapy, even though these are oriented towards a different basic methodological concept. As a result, the dominance of the uniform nomothetic methodology is in fact exercised over other methodologies. [4]

At the same time, the criteria of scientific rigour formulated by the advisory committee discredit as unscientific not only the practical work of those psychotherapists who use methods other than those previously authorised, but also the estimated 70 to 80 % of the entire practical activity of psychologists, including those in industrial and organisational psychology or in local authority psychology or in counselling centres and other fields of psychosocial activity – including the work of social educationalists. The implied anti-plural attitude discriminating against practical work prompted the NGfP to lodge a strong protest against their concept of values (see in this respect NEUE GESELLSCHAFT FÜR PSYCHOLOGIE 2000). [5]

Events also show that the NGfP has not succeeded in putting its proposals for the plurality of scientific methodology in psychology into practice on a broader basis. [6]

We should take this as an opportunity to highlight the current situation of scientific psychology in the German-speaking countries and to consider whether, in view of the emerging future prospects for the profession, what is described indiscriminately as "qualitative" psychology has a role to play and, if so, how the necessary methodological plurality in the profession can be achieved. We assume in this respect that the future prospects for the psychology profession depend essentially on its social usefulness and that this social usefulness in turn requires a satisfactory organisation of the relationship between science and practice and, closely connected with this, the introduction of methodological plurality. [7]

The following reflections are rooted in the biography of somebody who has frequently crossed theses borders, who started with basic research, passed through various fields of practical psychological services and collected relevant experience in psychosocial, local authority psychology and organisational psychology fields, and then returned to science. Unlike the vast majority of psychology practitioners, whose hopes of support for their work from the (nomothetic) science were (and continue to be) thoroughly dashed and who therefore write off its research results as largely useless to them, my interest in and hopes of the science were maintained, which therefore led to the position of Chairman of the NGfP. An important reason for my unusually dogged retention of that hope is surely the fact that the aforesaid basic research at the start of my psychologists' biography (KAISER & SEEL 1981) proved to be extremely useful for subsequent practice and thus demonstrates the fundamental possibility of a scientific basis for and improvement of practice; however, my look at the future of the profession is also marked by concern. My practical experience in the field of organisational psychology has certainly also influenced my look at the "business of science" and thus the following reflections, but this is probably an advantage rather than a disadvantage. [8]

2. Increasing Social Importance of Psychological Services

The social importance of psychological services in various fields of practice is growing enormously at present and is set to expand even more radically in future, all of the forecasts agree on that. The extent to which this increasing importance will also be accompanied directly by a demand for psychological services, and whether that demand will also be aimed at trained qualified psychologists, is another question however. Representatives of other disciplines are already attempting to secure themselves a slice of the cake; they range from doctors, through educationalists, sociologists and social educationalists, to business managers and engineers (who generally encounter psychologists as "colleagues" with similar responsibilities, when dealing with psychological themes, e.g. company in-service adult education). [9]

Basic academic training is also expected to play a relatively less important role in future, compared with ongoing and continued training in a "life-long learning process" and practical experience in a field of work. Many professions in health care are (still?) apparently excluded from such processes, especially in the area covered by the Psychotherapy Act. [10]

In the other areas, people with different basic academic training (such as in mediation) are also achieving some success. They generally have a fairly good command of certain specialised areas but may easily come to grief where broader background knowledge is required, so where, using the example of mediation, the conflicts are more complex and have a greater emotional component and where hidden, perhaps even unconscious motives etc. play a role, which is not exactly uncommon and where a solid, basic psychological training proves its value again. [11]

How important psychology will remain or become in future as a form of basic academic training will depend greatly on the extent to which the training institutions (i.e. the universities and colleges) succeed in providing a suitable broad basic qualification for the requirements of practice as regards the quality of psychological services, which does not stop at simple training but provides continuous further training in the sense of life-long learning, and the extent to which they and the associations succeed in persuading potential "customers" of the value of such qualifications. However, the value of scientific psychology should be judged not solely on the basis of this direct usefulness to practising psychologists, but also on the basis of its usefulness in terms of man's conception of himself in the world. [12]

3. The Future Prospects for Psychology

In order to meet the requirements outlined above, a scientific underpinning in the practice of usable training syllabuses with critical debate in social responsibility is essential. However, there are a number of serious shortcomings here. As the example of the work of the scientific committee in accordance with § 11 of the Psychotherapy Act shows (see above), the nomothetic mainstream psychology which dominates academic activity has difficulty with the adequate and individual handling of all of those duties which are connected with psychologists' professional practice; independent of subject-matter and content, everything is subjugated to the uniform methodological concept (even if, for example, the statutory orders actually prescribe a quite different method), which tends to inhibit plurality. [13]

The vast majority of practising psychologists offering psychological services, be they clinical therapists, as in the aforesaid present case, or psychological counsellors working in the industrial and organisational field or in local authority psychology etc., necessarily deal predominantly with individual cases, operating in an essentially qualitative and hermeneutic or systemic interventive way; here subjects meet, here systems organise themselves, etc., which is why linear/causal probability statements based on large figures are not very helpful for this form of practice (see, for example, LEGEWIE 1999). Rather, a variety of different approaches based on various (meta-) theoretical and methodological positions can be used successfully (such as psychoanalytical positions, Gestalt approaches, systemic concepts, etc.) which, in their plurality, reflect the diversity of our culture and provide a fertile breeding-ground for lively discussion, the development of new theoretical perspectives and creative new developments in the various areas of practice (see, for example, for the field of health, SCHLICHT 1999 in SCHÖNPFLUG 2000). This variety is certainly a strength, because it has led to the amassing of a remarkable collection of practical psychological knowledge which, however, largely remains context- and person-related. This immense base of empirical knowledge in psychological practice has developed largely independently of the science, so that we can legitimately refer to (at least) two cultures in the psychology profession, which is due less to this practice than to the ivory tower mentality of academic psychology. The criteria which actually govern the success of personal careers in the institution of science now have virtually nothing more to do with any demands or problems facing practising psychologists, but are geared virtually exclusively towards the internal criteria of the social institution of science. For example, it has now created its own area of social practice, in which it has established itself comfortably and is largely protected against external disturbances. Due to the close connection (to be welcomed in principle) between science and training in the universities, this also has an adverse effect on training, which appears largely to be designed to favour the training of the next academic generation in the universities, although this area, in purely quantitative terms, makes up the smallest proportion of those working as psychologists. This situation has now prompted truly drastic comments on the situation of the social sciences in general:

"Ironically, the strongest reminiscences of positivism still appear to reside at present in the social rather than the natural sciences. Insofar as they attempt to imitate the scientific rigour of the natural sciences, they appear to be based on a rather primitive and outdated understanding of the methodology of natural science." (MOTTIER 1999, p.129) [14]

There should certainly also be room for basic psychological research which is not connected directly to practical requirements. But can we afford to wait until the nomothetic basic research in psychology produces results such as the often-quoted laser as the result of basic research in physics, and content ourselves with "feelings of happiness" which it gives to the researchers involved (SCHÖNPFLUG 2000, p.169), while in the meantime other professions or even obscure "promisers of meaning in life" from the esoteric corner occupy such resulting empty areas in society and culture? Or would it not be better to ask what form basic psychological research which is capable of producing such results should take? For example, is nomothetic basic research capable of doing so at all and, if so, for which area of psychology? [15]

As long as psychology does not ask itself such questions, the current training of psychologists in the universities is well on the way to ensuring that people trained in other academic subjects will increasingly take on psychological duties in practice in future, because they can sell their work equally well, or, better, equally badly, as scientifically founded. Even now, practising psychologists regard wide areas of university academic psychology as an exotic subject. Against this background, qualitatively working academic psychology should currently be seen as having a key role in the future of the profession, because it is capable of generally improving the opportunities of psychology in the competition between the professions due to its better suitability as the basis of the majority of practical psychological services, if it does not allow itself also to be led astray and drift into unrealistic ivory tower levels—in view of the structures in the science, this is a real threat. [16]

There remains the question of how all of this can be combined in one profession, i.e. how can a plural understanding of science be achieved while preserving the identity of the profession? I would like to start with a number of comments on how such questions are handled at present; the view of the "business of psychological science" marked by organisational psychology will also come in useful in this respect. [17]

4. The Current Practice of Contact with and between Different Methodological Positions within Scientific Psychology

As a fundamental precondition for a strong position of psychology in the canon of subjects, a (different) culture of discourse should be established in scientific psychology. While the (other) social sciences can already claim retrospectively "that the decisive breakthrough of post-empirical scientific theories led to a scientific sociological study": in Thomas S. Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" (1962) (RECKWITZ 1999 p.21), the debate in psychology, e.g. about the "Social psychology of the experiment" remained surprisingly ineffective in the 70s and 80s, although every experiment basically turns out to be a role-play, if the subjects are informed, or becomes an ethically questionable manipulation if they are not informed that they are taking part in an experiment. Here, as in other contexts, it was not the better or the critical argument which was accepted, but, long before a former Federal Chancellor perfected it, the art of "sitting it out", i.e. the art of not responding to critical arguments, was practised, while in the background power structures were built which devoted themselves preferentially to the protection of territory ("If you support my grant application, I will help you with yours!") and between which hardly any scientific arguments were exchanged. "Sitting out" critical arguments is perfectly "successful", as the history of the Neue Gesellschaft für Psychologie shows, because as yet it has received very few counter-arguments in response to the arguments on which it is founded (see Journal für Psychologie, Vol. 1, 1992). [18]

An unfortunately common "argumentation figure" contented itself (and continues to content itself) with quoting the as yet unsatisfactory "scientific basis" of alternative methodological basic positions as the reason for not granting them the funding needed to achieve just this satisfactory scientific basis. This argumentation figure operates not only in the field of research funding but also when it comes to access to the scientific funds of the health insurance schemes (see the current report). [19]

A slightly different form of the "dialogue" between various basic methodological positions starts, for example, from the question of whether it might be that the adherence to a scientific theoretical position is the result of the underlying desire to maintain a certain practice of the organisation of knowledge production. There are already arguments in this direction, the most prominent of which is probably DEVEREUX (1984). What might be at the root of this is the ultimately justified fear that, in the case of a different scientific theoretical basic methodological position, it would be necessary to agree to a different form of the organisation of knowledge production and thus a different form of relationship structure, in which one or other protagonist of a nomothetic understanding of science might not succeed or might even fail. They would find themselves in good company with the managers who react with anxiety to the shift of responsibility to the place where value is added—of course, this simultaneity may also be pure chance. We might also draw attention to the following circumstances: the debate about the social psychology of the experiment made it clear that the ethically defensible experiment is basically a role-play, and that this role-play must be arranged not on an experimental level but on a dialogue level, which is why the dialogue between scientist and subject always comes before and takes precedence over the experiment and not vice-versa. Perhaps we should imagine what actually happens when—let's say—a systemic psychotherapist works with a client who replaces all relationship structuring with authoritarian behaviour and the threat of violence, and when that therapist in turn is made the subject of a linear/causal empirical investigation in order to assess the scientific rigour of his activity, whereupon we again impose a psychoanalytical interpretation of the empirical pattern of behaviour as coping with anxiety, possibly supplemented by an epidemiological investigation of the question of whether and why holders of method chairs in psychology tend towards esoteric circles with an above-average frequency in their free time. Whereupon we again, let's say with the help of Grounded Theory, ask about the interpretation patterns of those scientists who tend towards a psychoanalytical/clinical interpretation of the empirical procedure, etc. etc. [20]

Anyone who has had a partnership consultation with psychologists as clients knows the impasses which can be reached when psychologists argue, using specialist interpretations of the behaviour and motives of adversaries as weapons. Apart from the fact that such considerations may contribute towards entertainment or self-stabilisation, they illustrate two factors which are essential for psychology:

  • It makes a difference whether the object of research (as in psychology) itself is or may be a potential subject of actions following various paradigms, or whether the object of research does not display that quality (as in the natural sciences). However, if this is the case, there is no reason to attribute this quality only to those working scientifically and not, in principle, also to the non-scientific subjects investigated, which is clearly a point in favour of a psychology of the reflexive or epistemic subject (GROEBEN & SCHEELE 1997 and later articles).

  • Here too, it is clear that it is not simply a question of the better argument, but also of the defining of spheres of influence, scientific sovereignty and the question of which is the scientific "supreme paradigm". Only in this way can we understand statements which, for example, propagate the idea of plurality under the umbrella of nomothetic science. [21]

Insofar as it is also a question of politics and of access to the funds of the health insurance schemes, we might also attempt to resolve such questions from a political and legal viewpoint—sufficient illustrative material is available to this end from the events surrounding the Psychotherapy Act. In comparison, not least also in the interests of presenting the profession in public, the introduction of a serious "protopsychological discourse" appears unquestionably to be the better solution. [22]

5. Plea for a Protopsychological Discourse

Even in the face of strong arguments in favour of qualitative psychology, we should not now throw the baby out with the bath water and, after overcoming the dominance of an empirical uniform methodology, strive for the supremacy of a different methodology, seek sole salvation in a psychology which works only qualitatively, especially since that which is described as "qualitative" comprises a remarkable methodological wealth of colour and variety. Which promising "directions" can be discerned at present beside the empirical tradition and how can they be categorised? RECKWITZ (1999) proposes that the current landscape in the social sciences be described in accordance with three "versions of the Cultural Turn", by which he means the "practice paradigm" (in the tradition of the phenomenological/hermeneutic tradition, structuralism, WITTGENSTEIN's late philosophy and its surroundings; finally, the pragmatism movement), the "autopoiesis paradigm" in the sense of (radical) constructivism, and the "text paradigm". One might actually follow this in psychology and attempt to work out points in common and differences specifically for the profession (see MRUCK & MEY 2000). The systematic "practice test" of these paradigms from the viewpoint of their suitability for a scientifically founded psychology has already begun, primarily in the areas of psychotherapy and industrial and organisational psychology. However, there are still a number of tasks to be formulated in this connection, for which a number of research tools should be meaningfully applied, so that psychology can hold its place in the (future) competition between the disciplines. [23]

In view of this variety, preserving the identity of the profession is a notable responsibility, but the nightmare scenario of the risk of simple arbitrariness instead of scientific rigour may be avoided, to be precise with the aid of a protopsychology, i.e. a discourse on the science of psychology, including its object and responsibilities, the relationship between theory and practice and criteria of scientific rigour before any scientific/theoretical or methodological position on the basis of an understanding which uses everyday language (TROJAN & LEGEWIE 1999 show how the variety of methods in health research can be dealt with at this level). This idea too is not new; it has already been discussed and developed for physics as "protophysics" (here too, it is worth taking a closer look at the "exact natural science" which is so often put forward as an example: KAMLAH & LORENZEN, BÖHME 1976), it is also compatible with HUSSERL's epsitemological position that every science ultimately has its roots in the real world and must justify itself accordingly. Of course, we should not simply adopt the example of physics: a protopsychological discourse for and in psychology should be conducted in a fundamentally different way from that in protophysics. I am concerned initially more with the level of the discourse and the themes guiding it, which revolve essentially around the following question: Which methodology can be used to create which type of knowledge, and for which type of use is that knowledge suitable, how can it fundamentally be of use? The term "use" or "usefulness" employed here does not simply mean direct use in a practice (e.g. with settlement by the health insurance schemes), but includes use on the level of man's conception of himself in his world (and so not directly application-related basic science). [24]

The starting point for such considerations need not necessarily be an abstract philosophy, but may also be the practice of psychological services which—as is clear from even a cursory glance—has good reason to change its approach to the subject depending on the requirements, which corresponds on the scientific level to a change in the basic methodological position. [25]

We might therefore ask, in a slightly more differentiated manner, whether we can identify areas in which a quantitatively operating nomothetic psychology is successful and compare them with other areas where qualitatively, hermeneutically or systemically or operating approaches make a greater contribution—whereby we should of course, to be fair, also consider the use of (research) funds. [26]

A corresponding analysis would certainly be even better underpinned by empirical support, but even now we should probably be able to formulate theses with a certain plausibility: for example, we might reasonably expect nomothetic psychology to have its greatest success in those areas of social practice where a small number of people set the "independent variables" within certain limits (as in an experiment), and so define the circumstances or limiting conditions for the actions of many other people, and this with the aim of influencing average behaviour patterns. This is the case in politics, for example, where programmes are to be evaluated, or in the introduction of measures in an industrial organisation by the board, or in the introduction of new products on the market. The same applies to epidemiological studies etc., corresponding scientific research programmes are of value here and prove to be very useful in practice. The psychologist working in organisational counselling also needs such methods, for example, if he wishes to verify the success of the introduction of employee selection methods. These methods generally have their weak points in the area of the understanding or interpretation of the data and on the level of the counsellor's practical instructions for the handling of groups when giving feedback, in the presentation of decision-making processes, etc. [27]

On the other hand, a qualitative approach is clearly particularly useful in matters of the understanding of meaning and context, support for practical action and those responsibilities which may be described as coping with individual cases, whereby "individual case" comprises not only the individual but also the organisation, the problem, etc. This is particularly clear in the fields of practice where the majority of practising psychologists work: psychotherapy, psychosocial counselling, industrial and organisational psychology and local authority psychology. [28]

However, systematic support for plural practice places quite specific demands on a protopsychology: it must prove itself as a conceptual system of order which, on the one hand, permits a clarification of the relationship between science and practice (or "application"—although this word already implies a certain relationship and so should not be used rashly) and, on the other hand, permits a sovereign handling of various paradigms. A reference to "standard situations" according to HOLZKAMP (1995) might prove very useful here, since it is on that basis that a systematic, well-founded, criticisable assignment of methodological standards can be carried out. [29]

Of course, we cannot expect (empirically) to resolve such questions once and for all at some time, but we can expect (normatively) there to be at least an open discourse on the matter. Themes in such a discourse might include criteria of scientific rigour such as "criticisability of statements and methods", "verifiability on the basis of defined criteria", "general usability of the knowledge acquired". [30]

6. Levels of Protopsychological Discourse

In a protopsychological discourse, dovetailing solutions for the future of the profession must be worked out at various levels. The observations made above concerning the different suitability of scientific knowledge for various categories or types of situations of social practice, which was obtained with the aid of different methodological rules, basically assume a structural equivalence or fit of everyday social situations, methodologically based approaches to the scientific production of knowledge and results, i.e. the structure of the scientific product. They go far beyond a purely sociological problem which is concerned with the structure of the scientific system and with its consequences. The connection is in fact not particularly complex and is virtually undeniable: it is based on the simple fact that methodological rules derived from epistemological considerations reflect the socio-cultural method of handling the object in question and inevitably constitute a relationship between the scientific subject and the object and thus a practice. When, as in the profession of psychology, people stand on both sides of that relationship, this must be a social practice of handling each other. This idea is not new, however, but has already been articulated by various authors in various contexts: Johan GALTUNG, for example, back in 1977 made still-topical statements on the connection between the structure of society, the structure of scientific production and the structure of the scientific product. The arguments put forward by BRUNER (1997) should also be discussed on this protopsychological level, e.g. when he refers back to Wolfgang KÖHLER's imaginary dialogue in The Place of Value in a World of Facts, in which the fear of social reality being brought into line with the reality of a reductionist psychological science is expressed, a theme which was also explored, as we know, by HOLZKAMP (1972). [31]

Against the background of constructive scientific theory, LORENZEN (1980), with his statement that physics is a science because, as a stylisation of a (social) practice (namely technology), it can fundamentally contribute towards its improvement, expresses the same basic ideas. [32]

This connection is hardly reflected at all in psychology, however. At the most, ethical problems are discussed as a consequence of demands of the methodology which are not further analysed, which one has to handle socially somehow, come to terms with somehow. However, such considerations are hardly ever enlisted in criticism of a scientific theory which, by its methodological rules, encourages a practice which in fact cannot be ethically desirable or is not achievable. In the current situation, these themes not only favour a more or less intensively conducted ethical discourse in the ivory tower, but are also connected with the question of the future prospects for the profession: if the future of the profession will depend essentially on its usefulness to social practice, the knowledge created by the science must also be useful to that practice. And this means two things: on the one hand, knowledge must contribute towards a better understanding of man (and his conception of himself) in the world—which we might describe as "cultural usefulness"—and it must be directly practically useful to those who require scientific support in order to cope with their professional practice. [33]

Psychological knowledge which is intended to contribute towards man's better conception of himself in the world must necessarily be related to the social practice, but also be able to transcend it, because it is precisely man's conception of himself in the world which is determined essentially by that social practice. A simple doubling of that practice in scientific action could not be expected, accordingly, to make an essential contribution towards clarifying man's conception of himself in the world. However: "The intellectuals in a democratic society form a community of cultural critics. Unfortunately, psychologists have seen themselves as such only rarely, because they are for the most part possessed by the self-image of the positivistic natural scientist" (BRUNER 1997, p.49). [34]

Psychologists concerned with the professional handling of practical responsibilities require both scientific support to improve and legitimise their activity, but also critical reflection in the context of an institution which offers an area for discourse outside of their everyday professional work, where, for example, ethical questions can be discussed independent of market forces and professional politics, but where a critical attitude can also be taken to social developments which the psychological community is competent to judge. How essential an ethical and critical discussion to be conducted in a more or less repression-free area is for specific practical work, e.g. for the psychological counsellors working in the industrial and organisational field, is explained elsewhere (SEEL 2000), which also shows that it need not always be a question of the major general social change processes. [35]

Such considerations lead ultimately to a reconsideration of the structure of "knowledge production" (GALTUNG) and, talking of "production", to the question of how the quality of that product, which is called "knowledge" and is created somewhere, can be judged: to that end, is there actually any alternative to a process of knowledge gathering, which feeds inquiries, problems and tried and tested solutions from practice to the science, so that it can reflect and scientifically process them and make them accessible to a wider circle? How, then, is the relationship between the institutions and organisations and the people acting in them to be shaped? Is the science then a supervisor or a service-provider to the practising psychologists? The report of the scientific advisory committee under the Psychotherapy Act evidently assumes here that science has a controlling relationship with respect to practical psychological activity and therefore completely misses not only the practical problem but also the statutory orders. However, on the other hand, it also fits in well with the rationality of the authorities which have to take decisions, which in this way are conveniently made for them by others. However, is such science suitable as a mirror to reflect man's conception of himself in the world? [36]

A genuine and impartial view of the future of the profession might require answers quite different from the answers to date—from this viewpoint, the scientist as a critically researching practitioner (JAEGGI 1991) is still current. (Of course, practising psychologists also know that power relationships can also be established within the person, so it is not sufficient to establish the simple personal identity of practitioner and researcher.) [37]

With such considerations, the science would be in good company. Elsewhere too, the responsibility is shifted to where the process of adding value takes place: close to "production". The fact that methodological standards which may raise a claim to scientific rigour are fundamentally possible to this end is shown by approaches which, for example, attach great importance to supervision in this process (see BILLMANN-MAHECHA 1981, GIESECKE & RAPPE-GIESECKE 1997, SEEL 1998). For the results of a fundamental examination of the assessment of the efficiency of active practical behavioural knowledge, which ventures as far as quality management, see, for example, LEGEWIE (2000). [38]

This implies considerations concerning the restructuring of the training of psychologists in the universities and colleges from the viewpoint of life-long learning, connected with the requirements of practising counsellors and necessarily with a new way of looking at knowledge production. There are sufficient themes for a rewarding protopsychological discourse. [39]


1) I would like to thank F. BREUER for many valuable ideas. <back>

2) currently Chairman of the Neue Gesellschaft für Psychologie (NGfP) <back>


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Hans-Jürgen SEEL, Prof. Dr. phil. Professor at the Georg-Simon-Ohm University of Applied Sciences, Nuremberg

Focuses of work: counselling in psychosocial and organisational fields, aesthetic communication; social science theory and methodology

Since February 1999: Chairman of the Neue Gesellschaft für Psychologie (NGfP)


Hans-Jürgen Seel

Wassergasse 16
D - 91080 Marloffstein

Phone: +49 / 9131 / 52 664
Fax: +49 / 9131 / 58 554

E-mail: hans-juergen.seel@rzmail.uni-erlangen.de
URL: http://www.ngfp.de


Seel, Hans-Jürgen (2000). The Future Prospects for (Qualitative) Psychology [39 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2), Art. 24, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0002240.

Revised 7/2008

Copyright (c) 2000 Hans-Jürgen Seel

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