Richard Harvey - Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
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Interview on Counseling and Psychotherapy

Richard Harvey answers questions about therapy and counseling.

Do people today need therapy more than ever?

Well, I would never presume that people “need” therapy. I would say people benefit from it. I would encourage people to try it and I would hope that in the future therapy, probably under a different name and with a different, new rationale, would be the norm. But if you mean that the world seems full of emotional, behavioral difficulties, issues around unfulfillment, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, frustration and anger, I would have to agree with you, it does look as is therapy is more than ever relevant today.

But today a lot of people are in therapy or counseling of one type or another and it doesn't seem to have changed the world for the better, does it?

Over the years, in my practice I have noticed how people achieve insights and understanding, have breakthroughs and therapeutic successes, which used to take much longer when I was doing my own personal therapy. This gives me hope in an accelerative evolutionary impulse that is moving us forward faster and more powerfully than before. For example, I have had great success in turning around deeply negative states, like chronic depression, suicidal tendencies and lack of self-esteem, or deeply held behavior such as personal disempowerment, domestic abuse and chronic manipulation.

When therapy achieves successes like these, the world does change for the people directly involved, and it also changes for the people who are involved with them—their spouses, their families and their circle of friends. Therapy in a quiet way is having far-reaching positive influence on the world when you consider this. For every one person who chooses to follow their inner process with a therapist, the potential is that dozens, scores, even hundreds of people will be affected positively by their efforts in all sorts of ways.

Change always takes longer than we want it to. But I believe it is coming about in the bigger picture and I know it is for individuals I work with. As more people liberate themselves and choose to live consciously the community—tlocal, national, international, global—twill change. This is my conviction.

Therapy's critics often censure the growth movement and the New Age for being solely concerned with oneself and the inner world and ignoring politics, ecology and the present world crisis. What would you say in answer to those criticisms and how can therapy help the world?

As the new therapies that were introduced to us by the growth movement in the 1970s have developed, they have parted company with outer concerns, at least to some degree. In the beginning, Gestalt, Bioenergetics, transpersonal psychology et al were seamlessly connected to outward concerns. Red therapy, the women’s movement, the lesser publicized men’s movement were all influenced by humanistic psychology and enlightened therapeutic methods.

Through the eighties, which was a very materialistic time, accreditation and formalization became paramount as the new therapies attempted to become recognized and legitimated, which was a mixed bag. Some of the cutting edge of therapy was blunted with the emphasis on accountability and transparency, because therapists took fewer risks.

Therapy inevitably became more narrow and specialized and focused on what it could be seen to be competent about, which were inner concerns. So, the marriage of inner and outer was somewhat forsaken.

Today, it may well be true that the personal growth industry caters to the desire for individual fulfillment, but the conviction of many, including myself, is that personal clarity, wisdom and maturity are synonymous with outward change. In other words, the world requires nothing less than a psycho-spiritual revolution to enable humanity to reach a truly moral, compassionate stance.

Inner work, therapy, meditation, whatever we call it or whatever method is adopted, is the hope for the future of the world, because people living according to the restraints of their prejudice out of a narrow, limited view of existence can never question the status quo or challenge the entrenched ways of power and fear while they are subject to those negative forces in their inner life.

We can parallel the constraints of human relationships with the relationship we have to our world and one another. In interpersonal relationships we can only ever love another as much as we can love ourselves and similarly we treat the world in the same way as we treat ourselves, which is not very well! So change that and everything changes.

Finally, therapy is sometimes called the “talking cure”, which seems cerebral and analytical. What is the place of the body, our physicality, in therapy?

Our bodies are the gross manifestations of our thoughts, feelings, emotions, intuitions and so on—the sum total of the inner world in manifest form. So the body is psyche and this is very fortunate because it gives us a direct way of working with the invisible inner world. Therapy may well be a lot of talk sometimes, although it isn’t always. But even when it is, we are paying attention to the body. Breathing, facial expressions, body language and physical posture all give us clues, answers, reactions and responses to what’s being spoken about.

“Body work”, which was a mainstay of the Human Potential Movement when a whole new approach to therapy emerged, is not necessarily making physical contact with the body or even accessing feelings or emotions through the physical body: it can be much more subtle. Noticing, being sensitive and aware we can discover many things that are hidden from us in “normal” conscious life.

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