Lightmind Extract 038


Jim 3.13.05
One element I’d like to see added to the list of four factors that contribute to therapeutic change is the factor U Chicago psychologist Eugene Gendlin identified in his research. I’ve posted on this before and will paste in just a bit from an earlier post (that I posted on the older version of this forum):
For 15 years Gendlin and his colleagues did research that led them to conclude that psychotherapy patients who showed tangible changes on psychological tests and in their lives after therapy, were different than those patients who did not. They concluded that the difference between patients who changed and those who didn’t was detectable in recordings of early sessions in psychotherapeutic treatment.

The difference that Gendlin and his associates observed was so easy to detect that Gendlin says that they were able to explain this difference to inexperienced young undergraduates, and that once this difference was explained to them, they were able to easily detect the difference between patients.

The difference is in how patients talk, which is an outer sign of what they are doing inside themselves.

Gendlin calls the thing that the patients who changed do inside themselves an “internal act,” a “process,” and an “uncommon skill,” and since the mid-70’s he has referred to this “internal act” as “focusing.”
Two accessible books on “focusing” are Gendlin’s Focusing (for professionals his more technical and academic Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy might be better), and The Power of Focusing, by Anne Weiser Cornell, Ph.D.

Wilber puts Gendlin’s work in Wilber’s “recommended reading” list for the “existential level,” and Buddhist-oriented, transpersonal theorist, integral psychologist John Welwood says Gendlin was his mentor, speaks highly of his work, and says that when Welwood was a university student, Gendlin was the first person he ever met who “spoke directly about the actual process of felt experience — how it works, how it moves, how it unfolds and leads to sudden, unexpected breakthroughs.” Peter Levine, whose work on trauma I find impressive, also draws on Gendlin’s work, and I’m aware of a number of transpersonal/integral approaches that draw on Gendlin’s focusing-oriented approach to dreamwork (as explained in his book Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams). IMO Gendlin’s work is essential for anyone interested in integral psychology and an integral approach to psychotherapy.

The four factors, in order of their relative contribution to change, are:
*(1) extratherapeutic [40%] – what occurs in the clients life outside of therapy
*(2) relationship [30%] – this is the quality of the relationship established between the client
*(3) placebo, hope, and/or expectancy [15%]
*(4) therapeutic model, structure, and/or technique [15%]

I think that in the context of the other factors (to which I’d add the client’s ability to “focus” or tune into and follow her inner experience), #2 is critically important. I’m concerned that someone who has not studied psychology could read this list and think that they only need to learn around 15% therapeutic model, structure, and/or technique. I’m concerned about this because there seems to be a tendency in some circles or at least in some individuals to downplay if not negate the importance of theory, conceptual understanding, structure, and technique. My concern may not be apropos here, because people who are inclined to downplay or negate the importance of theory and conceptual and intellectual understanding would not be interested in Wilber’s work, but I have met more than a few people offline who seem to think that one can be an integral or transpersonal therapist without years and years of rigorous intellectual, conceptual, and theoretical work, as well as experiential work in developing skills, metaskills, and technique.

The list of course means that someone who has 100% learning and training in model, structure, and technique and who has also cultivated the ability to enter into a “therapeutic relationship” with clients, may find that the relationship is at least twice as important as the model, structure, and technique.

This is easy to see when we consider the problem of “bedside manners” among physicians. Medical training seems to neglect adequate emphasis on the human side of doctor-patient relationships. That, combined with an insurance-driven medical system that seems to be turning the entire field into a mill or factory through which patients are processed as if they are machines, has led to what IMO and my observation is a huge gap in the area of doctor-patient relations. Many physicians today see patients for minutes at a time while entering data into notebook computers, and the patients are shuffled through the system without ever meeting anyone who actually relates to them as a human being. I would say this works against the healing process.

Some mental health professionals also treat their clients as “patients” and tend to objectify them as things to be analyzed, interpreted, diagnosed, treated, and in some cases medicated. They talk to the patient not to establish a relationship and rapport and an intrasubjective connection, but to “gather data” that will enable them to find the correct diagnosis in the DSM-IV.

It’s often said that spiritual teachers and therapists can only bring their students and clients “up” to their level. Alan Wallace says, representing the Buddhist (and in particular the Tibetan Buddhist) perspective:
In choosing a spiritual mentor, if we make that choice, it would be misguided to seek out the teacher with the greatest reputation, the highest status, or the most disciples. Rather, we are well advised to seek the person from whom we receive the greatest blessings. What does this mean? By contact with this person, by simply being with him and conversing with him, we find our mind transformed in a wholesome way. Another teacher, perhaps even someone more knowledgeable and with deeper insight, may not bring about the change of mind and heart that this person’s words, presence, and teachings bring to us.

I must note that some seekers tend to put more weight on whether or not a teacher is “enlightened,” as if that’s an absolute value (as if a teacher is either enlightened or not enlightened) than on whether they find their “mind transformed in a wholesome way” with a given teacher. A.H. Almaas says that the superego (or inner critic) is the first obstacle for spiritual seekers, and I’m inclined to agree with him. What this means is that someone may ignore their own “bliss,” in the way Campbell used the word, in favor of a teacher who will outwardly manifest their superego. If someone is drawn to a teacher with a reputation for being a “Rude Boy” and they are drawn to this teacher because of that particular aspect of his reputation, I would say hands down that what we are looking at is the very same superego process that Almaas has written with a great deal of clarity about in his monograph, “Work on the Superego.”

In Process Work the factor of relationship is critical and would come under the heading of metaskills. And this is where we find some spiritual teachers sorely lacking; they have all the right teachings, the right words, and perhaps they are able to access high samadhis and abide in transconceptual nonduality, but if they ain’t got the metaskills, that’s a problem, a big problem. And I often wonder, if the Buddha couldn’t drive a jeep, as Wilber said, meaning that even enlightenment doesn’t automatically make one skilled at driving a jeep, how does enlightenment automatically make one skilled at working in transformational ways with individuals, couples, and small and large groups? If the Buddha didn’t know how to drive a jeep before his enlightenment, wouldn’t he need driving lessons after in order to become a jeep driver? How does someone who’s never had any experience or training in working transformationally with individual, couples, and small and large groups magically acquire those skills overnight?

Actually, I know the answer: Many self-styled enlightened teachers and non-mainstream therapists simply treat other human beings as guinea pigs, to be experimented with. It’s as if the Buddha instead of taking driving lessons learned to drive a jeep by trial and error. The clutch and gears might suffer, but at least those are just mechanical parts. It’s a different story when someone who has had zero training and experience working transformationally with others learns to work with others transformationally by trial and error. Then it’s not gears that suffer needless wear and tear but human hearts and minds. Unless it’s 100% up front and on the table and all students know and consent to be guinea pigs in the teacher’s experiments, then I think the teacher’s using students as guinea pigs so he can learn to work transformationally with others through trial and error, is ethically questionable.


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