Certificate Programme Review: Psychosynthesis: Attending to the Hidden in Everyday Life

Facilitated by Phil Byrne and Dermod Moore at IICPS at Turning Point, Dun Laoghaire, over ten days between Oct 2011-May 2012.

Reviewed by Monica Haughy

I would highly recommend this lively and interesting course, for counsellors and psychotherapists, which was both personally and professionally enriching. Whilst we had no written assignments, we were invited before each of the days to reflect on the topic ahead in a manner which continually whetted our appetites and drew us along the path of integrating psychosynthesis a little more into our professional work as well as our personal lives. Prior to the seminar on Love and Will, for example, Dermod’s e-mail invited us to think about something that “inspires you to take action in your life, that motivates you, that energises you…”. These kinds of invitations, between seminars, helped us prepare for the next and kept us engaged with the course over the ten months.

Phil laid the foundations by elegantly placing psychosynthesis within the context of Jungian psychology and neuroscience. We gained an understanding of how neuroscience and the work of Daniel Siegel really only substantiates, in a scientific way, the body of work Assagioli developed as psychosynthesis. She made the links between psychosynthesis and the sub-personalities (also Jung’s complexes) and neuroscience; how repeated neural firing in our brains establishes ‘Valenced Plateaus’ which ensure we repeat patterns or ways of being. Siegal (2010) has coined the term “attunement” to describe how as therapists we can best be with our clients’ “open plane of possibility” where we are not attached to outcomes with our clients but totally present.

After this theoretical introduction to the map of the psyche, the course was hugely varied in the method of working. One lovely day was spent listening and engaging with music and really paying attention to how we felt in our bodies as we listened and experienced (and danced) to a wonderful mix of music which had been carefully selected by Dermod. After this musical ‘feast’ we then had the opportunity to work with clay; another therapeutic medium used in psychosynthesis.

Meditations, visualisations and journalling were all key features of the course and obviously are also central to the approach of psychosynthesis. Phil addressed the theme of major life transitions using a tri-phasic model describing the pre-ego, ego and trans-ego which can fit with our development through childhood to late adulthood. This tri-phasic model highlights the chaos we can experience at these transitions and indeed at any stage of transition in our lives, whether it be a death of a parent, having a child or encountering a serious illness. To know that chaos is inevitable, at those uncertain points in our lives when we are on a threshold, is helpful. It can help us hold our clients. Psychosynthesis works well with these transpersonal experiences.

What was most appealing about this course were the varied methods of working and the creativity demonstrated by the facilitators, thus promoting a very engaged group and a very enjoyable and worthwhile course.

Reference

Siegal, D. (2010) The Mindful Therapist. NY: Norton.