All through the year 2001 I have been cowriting a book on the use of self in therapy (Rowan and Jacobs) and have come up with some thoughts I would like to share. I found them very clarifying myself, and other people may find the same. There are basically only three ways of relating to clients in therapy: the instrumental way, the authentic way, and the transpersonal way.
In the instrumental way, the client is regarded as something like a machine, and so is the therapist. Technical wizardry is regarded as something both possible and desirable. In Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, in many cognitive-behavioural approaches, and even in some psychoanalytic circles, this is the preferred mode. All the treatment approaches in vogue under Managed Care and Employee Assistance Programs, and all the manualized systems, take this view. The client or patient is there to be cured, and application of the correct techniques will achieve this in a high percentage of cases. More and better techniques are the way forward, and to test these objectively is the main goal of research. Working with the unconscious can be just as much part of this approach as not working with the unconscious. Every form of therapy resorts to this level of working at times, and the famed Working Alliance is firmly based on it, but it is basically an "I-It" relationship rather than an "I-Thou" relationship. Key words here are "contract," "assessment," "treatment goals," "questionnaires," "empirically validated treatments," "boundaries," and so forth.
In the authentic way, the therapist stays separate from the client, but is much more skeptical of the idea of cure. Personal involvement is much more acceptable, and the therapist admits that he or she is much like the client. The idea of the wounded healer is often mentioned, and so is the idea of personal growth. The schools who favour this approach most are the humanistic ones: person-centered, gestalt, psychodrama, bodywork, focusing, experiential, existential and so on. Some psychoanalysts and many Jungians adopt this attitude too. Clarkson (1995) calls it the person-to-person relationship. And again it is possible to work in this way whether one believes in the unconscious or not. But to adopt this way of working, it is essential to have had some experience of what Wilber (2000) calls the Centaur level of psychospiritual development. Key words are "authenticity," "personhood," "healing through meeting," "being in the world," "intimacy," "openness," "presence," and so forth.
In the transpersonal way, the boundaries between therapist and client may fall away. Both may occupy the same space at the same time, at the level of soul. Some speak of heart rather than soul, and some speak of essence, but what they have in common is a willingness to let go of all aims and all assumptions. There is a great interest in symbols and images and fairy tales and myths and dreams, and an openness to the divine, the numinous, the sacred and the holy. Clarkson (1995) is clear that this is one of the five important relationships which have to be acknowledged in therapy. What she does not make clear, however, is that to adopt this way of working, it is essential to have had some experience of what Wilber (2000) calls the Subtle level of psychospiritual development. Key words here are "interbeing," "linking," "transcendental empathy," "resonance," "dual unity," "communion," "the four-dimensional state," and so forth.
What I want to say is that Primal Integration essentially comes out of the authentic way of doing therapy, but freely uses techniques belonging to the instrumental way. Some practitioners have advanced enough in their spiritual practice to work at the transpersonal way. I would like to urge those who do not at present work in a transpersonal way to go the extra mile in their own work on themselves to take up this position. It is the most flexible of all, and enables the practitioner to use either of the other two approaches when this is appropriate.
It is quite common for people at the authentic level of development, well described by Jim Bugental (1981) and in a more sophisticated way by Jenny Wade (1996), to look down on the instrumental way and reject it altogether. However, this is not necessary. As Len Bergantino put it so well: "Being tricky and authentic can be two sides of the same coin. Being an authentic trickster will not destroy the patient's confidence if the therapist's heart is in the right place." (Bergantino 1981, p.53) Using fixed techniques does put one into the instrumental realm, does mean treating the client like an object, and this can be quite all right so long as it is done with awareness.
At the transpersonal level, things are different again. Techniques emerge afresh from the space between the participants, rather than being taken out of the toolbox or armoury, and they are then not instrumental at all, but spontaneous. For people working in Primal Integration, it is obviously an advantage to explore this, because it offers a way of being fully integrated in body, feelings, intellect and soul.
People sometimes ask - but what about the farther reaches of spiritual experience? What about what Wilber (2000) calls the Causal level? My own experience is that this is not much use in therapy, because at this level there are no problems, and clients usually want the therapist to take their problems seriously. The only way of using the Causal state of consciousness as a therapist is to develop a sort of binocular vision, where one eye takes the Causal position, and the other eye is working at some more basic level. But this is very hard to do, particularly in a culture where all aspects of spirituality tend to be downplayed, misunderstood or distorted.
So my message is - in Primal Integration we can use all three ways of working as a therapist, and integrate them fully, so long as we are prepared to do the work on ourselves which can genuinely lead us on to all three levels of consciousness.
Bergantino, L. (1981) Psychotherapy, Insight and Style Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Bugental, J. F. T. (1981) The Search for Authenticity (enlarged edition). New York: Irvington
Clarkson, P. (1995) The Therapeutic Relationship London: Whurr
Rowan, J. & Jacobs, M. (in press) The Therapist's Use of Self London: Sage
Wade, J. (1996) Changes of Mind: A Holonomic Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness Albany: SUNY Press
Wilber, K. (2000) Integral Psychology Boston: Shambhala
John Rowan is a long-time member of the International Primal Association, Primal Integration therapist, founder member of the Association of Humanistic Psychology Practitioners, and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. John is the author of a number of books. He and his wife live in North Chingford, London, England.