by John Rowan
Routledge, London 2005. ISBN 1583912363
In this book Rowan brings together theory, research and practices from an extensive range of therapies to challenge and provoke readers to debate and discussion on what is a very topical argument in the present climate of training assessment and accreditation. The book demonstrates Rowan’s passion for developing the practical applications of transpersonal theory, with the objective of enabling the ‘ordinary’ therapist of whatever persuasion or tradition to use the transpersonal in their work when applicable, whether seen as being radical or controversial to contemporary thought.
A major theme throughout the book highlights the tension between firstly the organisational and professional stance, and secondly the move away from just the academic and factual towards a more spiritual stance. In areas of working with the whole person it does seem strange to have a whole person without a soul or spirit and Rowan includes many examples of the inclusion of the transpersonal. The content is obviously painstakingly researched, with answers to questions which are already being asked or may not even yet be in consciousness with many in the profession.
He looks afresh at the whole area of training and sees three major aspects. Firstly the instrumental, which sees the client as needing help and being sorted out, and under this heading he groups together a number of cognitive-behavioural approaches alongside ideas from Egan and the work of Freud. The second aspect is a commitment to authenticity, and here is grouped together the person centred approach, with some psychoanalysts and existentialists.
The third aspect is the transpersonal, linked closely to the work of Ken Wilber and Roberto Assagioli. It is here that Rowan’s radical and challenging ideas appear, and take up a considerable amount of space in the book. It is about the letting go in some circumstances, of the boundaries in psychotherapy, and acknowledging the spiritual path of the work, where psychotherapy may be a spiritual discipline. He stipulates that the spiritual is not about religion – but many still confuse the issue. A major point being that many people today are searching for some form of spiritual practice, and this comes up time and time again in psychotherapy sessions, a point that is taken, or not taken up by the therapist. Ideas from Buddhist philosophy are also included.
Rowan covers the headings of theory, skills, supervision, personal work and group work, ethics and research. He synthesises radical ideas alongside common sense, and wisdom that is visionary – and commands a ‘sit up and listen’ attitude to what is happening around us.
With the expansion of multicultural work, the need for the transpersonal is imperative in certain cases, as members of some cultural communities are suspicious of western types of therapy. The need to look globally at the movement of peoples to western shores is a fact – and a different emphasis in psychotherapy and counselling is required. Health in the western world has been deeply influenced by complementary medicines from the east – often from countries steeped in centuries of spirituality.
Shirley Ward has been a psychotherapist for thirty years and is a trainer with Amethyst in Killaloe, County Clare. She is a founder member of IAHIP and is currently on the Governing Body.