Thursday, 6 November 2014

Does my consulting room offer an integral embrace?

Applying Terentius’ (180 BC) 'Let nothing human be alien to me!' to the therapeutic space, I can ask myself: how much of human diversity does my consulting room invite, exclude or ignore? How much is structured out by default?
What are the assumptions I take for granted – about myself, about therapy, about the client, about reality – and which ‘unknown unknowns’ are kept outside the door without me even knowing that I exclude them?

How wholesome or comprehensive is the therapeutic space that I can provide? How does my own identity or bias, how do my own belief systems and habitual assumptions restrict the therapeutic space that I can offer?
How do my own wounds incline me towards creating a partial, limited and conditional space? How much of human experience, how much of each client’s whole self do I invite and welcome into our therapeutic space?

This question is, of course, especially relevant in terms of the multitude of therapeutic approaches. Even many ‘integrative’ psychotherapists restrict themselves to just a couple of – often contradictory – approaches. How many voices of the ‘pluralogue’ (a phrase coined by my colleague Doron Levene) are heard in my consulting room?

We want to approximate a comprehensive embracing stance towards the whole spectrum of therapeutic approaches. I have previously used the term ‘broad-spectrum integration’ to indicate the recognition that ALL therapeutic approaches not only work, but have their unique gems (as well as shadow aspects, of course). We could also use the term ‘integral psychology’ (after Ken Wilber’s book) as a finger to point at that particular moon.

An integral approach (in any field or discipline) attempts to minimise any areas that are left out by default: no obvious established 'truth' is to be side-lined or ignored.
In the great, but relatively young tree that is modern psychology, the three main branches which need to integrated are the psychoanalytic, behavioural and humanistic (not excluding the systemic and constructivist which don’t easily fit any of those 3). 20 years ago I suggested that in terms of body, mind and spirit we might need to include as a minimum Reich, Freud and Jung (which form a triangle where each of the three points is needed as a reference point to help integrate the other two). But there are, of course, many other ways in which we can slice the whole cake; or many other lenses through which we look at all the facets of the diamond that makes up the whole field.

Footnote 1: Publius Terentius Afer (195/185–159 BC), better known in English as Terence, was a playwright of the Roman Republic, of North African descent. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on, impressed by his abilities, freed him. Terence apparently died young, probably in Greece or on his way back to Rome. All of the six plays Terence wrote have survived.
One famous quotation by Terence reads: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", or "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." This appeared in his play Heauton Timorumenos.

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