The 2016 presidential election had a powerful effect on many therapy patients: They were upset, and they wanted to talk about it.

In May 2018, then-PhD candidate Nili Solomonov, MA ’15, PhD ’18, and her mentor, Jacques Barber, PhD, dean of the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology, published a groundbreaking study that examined how the election and subsequent events shaped patients’ experience in therapy.

“But patients are only one side of the equation,” said Dr. Solomonov, now an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine. “If we really want to understand what is going on, we need to study the therapists’ side, too.” Their companion paper exploring therapists’ perspectives was published in the May 2019 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Among the sample polled, a surprising 87 percent of therapists reported discussing politics in the therapy room, and 63 percent said they disclosed their own political affiliations.

The study’s findings help expand the precision medicine framework, which is rapidly growing in popularity as medical professionals seek to tailor their therapeutic interventions to each individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Dr. Solomonov believes her work with Dr. Barber reveals the importance of evaluating not only a patient’s psychological conditions, but also their relationship to the current political climate and major global events.

“Politics are an inherent and important part of the therapeutic encounter,” she said.

Solomonov, Nili, and Jacques P. Barber. “Conducting psychotherapy in the Trump era: Therapists’ perspectives on political self–disclosure, the therapeutic alliance, and politics in the therapy room.” Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 75, iss. 9, Sept. 2019, pp. 1508-18.

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