New Dimensions In Psychotherapy – The Core Process

Deirdre Walsh, MA. and Debra Davies

I would like to look at psychotherapy and the changes that have taken place in it
 over time and what the possible face of psychotherapy will look like in Ireland in 
the future. Particularly, I would like to introduce Core Process Psychotherapy,
 which has been a slowly expanding presence in Ireland over the last five years.
 With upcoming weekend workshops and the beginning of a foundation course here 
in the near future, I believe the interest in this approach will blossom even more. 
CPP is a coming together of Eastern Buddhist Psychology and awareness practice
 and Western psychotherapeutic theories. It falls into the Humanistic and Integrative 
category of psychotherapies and is affiliated to the Association of Psychospiritual
 Psychotherapies, in England. CPP looks to work with people in a holistic way
 which includes the Spiritual dimension as well as the Mind, in its broadest 
definition, and with the Body, as the seat of the emotions and source of valuable
 information. The key focus for the practitioner is the development of Awareness.
 This is achieved through focusing on the therapist’s own ability to become more 
aware and open to experience by awareness meditation practice. I will attempt here 
to briefly explain where this approach has come from in terms of the history of

The Historical Perspective

Briefly, in order to examine what the future of psychotherapy in Ireland may look 
like and at where psychotherapy is going more generally in the Western world, I 
will look at where it has come from and its evolution. I intend here to show how 
psychotherapy has moved, evolved and expanded to include more and more of the 
human experience. Although many therapies trace their roots back to Freudian 
times and before, some are more directly connected theoretically than others are.
 Many have changed with the times to include newer experience, research and
 social focus. What’s presented here is a very generalised synopsis of 
psychotherapeutic ideas. The simplification is used in order to show the transition 
of interest in the main focus of the different psychotherapies over time. It is not 
intended to cover every type of therapy.

The Mind and the Psychodynamic

If we see modern psychotherapy as stemming from Freud, Jung and the whole 
psychoanalytic movement, we can see how the central focus was on the 
unconscious mind and the emotions. Both Freud and Jung initially kept the 
therapist out of it, in that the therapist was unobserved by the client during the 
sessions. This was intended to foster the focus on the client’s own process and free 
association, and to allow the full transference to manifest. Perhaps it was a
 reflection of the more rational scientific days before observer effect was 
recognised. The therapist was looked on as the “expert”, coming from the very prevalent medical model at the time. It was the therapist’s job to interpret the 
outpouring of the client in the light of established theory. Stemming from here
 came the whole psychoanalytic and the psychodynamic movement; looking at how 
the unconscious affects our behaviour now and looking at transference and
 projection from our early life experiences as a source of explanation. The focus for 
current difficulties was on understanding the past with the mind.

It is true to say that transference was Freud’s idea, but the focus of working with
 this was in the context of the relationship between the “expert” therapist who knew 
more and the focus was on the client only. Using the transference and 
countertransference; i.e. what comes up for the therapist in relation to the client’s 
transference, was developed more by later psychodynamic therapists. What I’m
 saying here is that the idea of the therapist being in authentic relationship as 
another human being didn’t come until later with Carl Rodgers and the whole
 personal growth movement. It is also true to say that Jung was interested in the
 Transpersonal with his ideas on the collective unconscious and the archetypes as 
universal images or symbols. But somehow the individual spiritual dimension of
 each person was not the focus, as it is becoming now, with the upsurge in interest 
in the psychospiritual therapies like; Psychosynthesis and Core Process 

The Interpersonal and the Humanistic

Newer focus, in the States, after the Second World War, began to look at the clinical 
evidence for what was found to be effective in therapy. Carl Rogers developed
 Person-Centred Therapy in the 40’s based on his findings that empathy; 
unconditional positive regard and congruence were the key features for effective 
therapy. He, along with others in the humanistic personal growth movement began 
to bring what was happening for the therapist more clearly into the dynamic.

Fritz Perls and the others involved in the early Gestalt movement in the 50’s, 
developed an approach which very much emphasised the importance of the here
 and now with an emphasis on how clients can learn to take responsibility and have
 choices concerning their lives. This introduced a very dynamic approach to therapy 
which included the use of therapist feedback and challenging in interventions and
 the well-known tools of empty chair and the more expressive, cushion work.
 Gestalt became a very individualistic style therapy, with less of an emphasis on
 theories of personality and so on. There was an emphasis in early Gestalt in New
 York, in therapists finding their own way of working and of not trying to tie down
 the dynamic quality of the approach with set theory.

The focus now seemed to be less on the mind, as in understanding intellectually, 
the reasons for current difficulties and more on the importance of what was going
 on emotionally right now in the moment in relation to the difficulties and to the
 therapist. Much of this style of approach became popularised in the sixties and
 seventies with the blossoming of encounter groups and increasing accessibility of
the ideas of counselling and psychotherapy in the more mainstream of society.

The Body and the Biodynamic

Running concurrently to these trends and developments in the talking therapies that
 I’ve discussed above, there is the theme of the body and how this comes into the
 picture of psychotherapy. To look at the modern origins of the body in
 psychotherapy, we look to Wilhelm Reich. He was a contemporary of Freud and 
very much influenced by psychodynamic ideas. His departure from Freud came
 because of his interest in how psychodynamics were held or manifested in the
 body. He was pioneering in his ideas about body armouring and developed theories 
around body types and how psychological defences where held physically in the
 body. His ideas opened the way for Bioenergetics and Biodynamic Psychotherapy 
with Alexander Lowen and Gerda Boysen. In brief synopsis here, body workers by-
pass the mind with its intellectual defences, and hope to work directly on the
 traumas in the body. The development within this branch of therapy has changed
 most significantly in how the therapist works with the body. With Reich and his
 early followers the work of the therapist was to break through the body armouring,
 the defences, and this perhaps was mirrored in the early talking therapies. What has
 developed over time is more of recognition of the necessity for our defences in 
order to function in life and this has fostered a more gentle approach to 
examination of defences and working with them for charge. This applies to 
changes in taking therapies also, but I believe was seen more dramatically in the 
bodywork field.

Other bodywork psychotherapy sees the body as the seat of the emotions as well 
as physically holding the effect of everything that happens in a person’s life in
 addition to inherited trauma. The work of Gendlin in the 50’s and his system of
 Focusing suggested for the talking therapies that the body is the place to look to
 find feeling in an unfixed form. Focusing works with the body without being
 hands-on. Carl Rogers took up Gendlin’s ideas in his work and Focusing is also 
part of how C.P.P. includes the body in the work.

The Psycho spiritual

To come now to the psychospiritual and the movement towards inclusion of the 
spinal dimension in psychotherapies, which was the missing or implied aspect of 
many theories.

The spiritual does have a history in older psychotherapies. Jung had a complex
 system of archetypes and myths from the collective unconscious, which puts
 Jungians firmly in the transpersonal realm, even if not the psychospiritual. The 
transpersonal suggests something above, beyond or outside in which the 
therapeutic relationship is held, something beyond the personal.

Roberto Assagioli followed on from Jung and Freud with a model which includes 
the spiritual dimension as an essential part of his approach which he called
 Psychosynthesis. Psychosynthesis has spread widely in Europe, from its roots in
 Italy, and has a number of different training institutes in England and has been
 practised in Ireland in recent years. Both Psychosynthesis and Core Process
 Psychotherapy are part of a subsection of the Humanistic and Integrative 
psychotherapy section of UKCP (UK conference of psychotherapy), called the 
AAPP, the Association for Accredited Psychospiritual Psychotherapists.

The spread and interest in CPP and Psychosynthesis, I believe is a part of the 
increasing interest in having the spiritual dimension of people included as a part of 
the whole. I believe that much of psychotherapy is actually soul work and I believe 
that the current versions of the therapies I have mentioned above often recognise 
and work with this, perhaps in a non-explicit way. Psychotherapy must and does 
respond to the societal trends which, as we bridge the millennium, seem to be
 searching more for spiritual meaning. What we have when we include this
 dimension is work with the mind, body and spirit in relationship. This is the
 holistic place that Core Process Psychotherapy intends to come from.

Core Process Psychotherapy

Having put CPP into an historical context I’d like to explain and introduce in more
 detail what CPP is and hope to give you a flavour of it. CPP is based on a depth 
understanding of human personality process and of human potential. The spiritual
 foundation and the understanding of the human mind come from Tibetan Buddhist 
Psychology. Forged with this is the history and practice of psychotherapeutic
 theories and skills as used in the West. There are many similarities with humanistic 
therapies, for example the present centred, focused, the difference being that with
 CPP the understanding of the power and potential of “being here now” is seen from 
a bigger perspective. The focus on the therapist in training is to learn to increase 
and improve their own abilities to be present to themselves, and to others, through 
awareness practice meditation, and to develop mindfulness and open-heartedness.
 The “core”, in CPP, is considered to be that unconditioned state inherent in every h
uman being. It is the potential of pure open awareness in the present whose q
ualities manifest as peace, compassion, loving kindness and joy. Our “core
 process” is the movement from this inherent core state towards a sense of 
separateness and personality formation. Each of us shapes our personality into a
 unique form, which we identify with and see the world through. CPP facilitates an 
awareness of this shaping process in which we hold the shape of our past
 experience in the present moment.

The focus of the work is to explore this personality shape and the suffering that
 arises in attachment and identification with it. In CPP there is always the
 possibility of being with the difficulties as they are in the present moment. It is
 often hard to actually be with difficulties, without trying to change or suppress 
them. Trusting the process is the key. This means trusting that however tough 
things are, our deepest core is moving us towards healing and self-actualisation. 
With this trust, grasping the nettle of our difficulties not only frees up the energy
 used to suppress the pain but also enables us to embrace experience as an 
opportunity to learn. In trusting the process we can recognise that our problems do 
not reside in our experience itself, but in our ability to tolerate our experience. This 
demands that we stay open and vulnerable to our experience; ‘this is how it is for 
me, right now” instead of “this is how it is’. The CP practitioner brings the same
 vulnerability into their work with clients. This creates a non-directive approach – 
we never can know how it is for another – and also establishes the practitioner’s
 experience as a rich source of information and a vital aspect of the relationship. The practitioner contains and is responsible for their own experience and 
awareness and also stays open to their experience in the session with the client.
 Working with compassion, the therapist intends to be fully present without
 judgement to people who may be in pain or suffering.

[Deirdre Walsh M.A., is an accredited Core Process Psychotherapist working in
 private practice in Cork for the last five years.

Debra Davies is a Core Process Psychotherapist with UKCP, who is living and 
working in West Cork.]