connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
Humanistic psychotherapy offers a broad array of many, varied approaches which can be characterised by certain common themes. First, there is great emphasis placed on taking responsibility for ourselves. It follows that the humanistic therapist refrains from being a “problem solver” or “the expert”. Second, great trust is placed in the integrity of the individual, in his or her intrinsic value and in wholeness. Third, an aim of the work is self-empowerment and realising personal potential. It follows that someone wishing to work with a humanistic psychotherapist need not be sick or even have any obvious problems in their life.
In the 70s when many people were first attracted to humanistic psychology, the approaches were often mixed and practiced eclectically: Gestalt, which emphasised the here and now and addressed the resolution of internal conflicts; Bioenergetics, which showed how he body expressed and held emotional trauma; encounter, which encouraged openness, honesty ad following energy; rebirthing, which sought the resolution of the birth trauma; guided fantasy, a transpersonal approach for contact with the higher self—not to mention Rogerian therapy, co-counselling, psychodrama, neo-Reichian work, primal integration and even Jungian dream work, meditation and much more.
Now that humanistic psychotherapy has, in a sense, “come of age” there is much more emphasis on the integration of the various techniques and approaches. Research is now uncovering what many therapists already knew: that in psychotherapy it is the quality of the relationship between client and therapists that is essentially healing and therapeutic and in comparison the therapist’s orientation is largely unimportant. This is surely because psychotherapy must ultimately address the issue of being rather than doing. Much has been written in the humanistic canon about warmth, empathy, resonating, presence, love and the depth and quality of contact that the therapist needs to offer. This means that humanistic practitioners can never afford to become complacent or neglect their own ongoing development.
Humanistic therapy is practiced in groups and in one-to-one sessions. One-to-one work allows trust and support to develop in the ongoing relationship between client and therapist. This relationship may be quite unique. Since the therapist is not someone you have to relate with outside the therapy session, risks may be taken and deep confidences shared which may feel impossible to share with a close friend or family member. Group workshops offer a stimulating forum where issues can be identified and worked through. Seeing others working with issues like your own can be very helpful.
The effects of psychotherapy are wide-ranging: to help people through “stuck” places in their lives, to develop awareness of limiting patterns of behaviour and resolve past conflicts and painful experiences, to encourage clarity, new perceptions and tolerance of experience, to enable and empower and to embrace wholeness and authenticity.
I have entitled my own work with groups, the Change Workshops. We are surrounded by and constantly challenged by change in our lives. We experience freedom according to our ability to flow with changing life and to tolerate the fullness of that experience mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I work with the confines of separation—separation from each other, from experience and from our Higher Self—and with the potential that we each have to surrender to and trust in life.
This article was published in South West Connection, Issue 32, in 1992.