By Frank A. Gerbode, MD
This article and other similar articles can be found in Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) available from our bookstore at www.TIRbook.com
Most work on personal change or improvement being done today falls into two camps: therapy, and what I will call “personal growth”. As facilitators (practitioners), aiding viewers (clients) to view (to make use of Applied Metapsychology techniques in a viewing session to achieve progress from the client’s point of view), some of us tend to characterize the work we do as a kind of therapy; others among us prefer to regard our work as the facilitation of personal growth.
What is Applied Metapsychology Really?
To answer this question honestly, we must examine the core, the defining, concept of Applied Metapsychology: the person-centered viewpoint. Applied Metapsychology is the study of human experience, as seen from the point of view of the experiencer. Built into the application of Applied Metapsychology we call “viewing” is the concept that the client is the sole arbiter of what is real or unreal, good or bad, for herself. The client is respected as the ultimate authority on her own universe. Furthermore, the client is the sole judge of what constitutes improvement for herself. Hence, the client is entirely responsible for setting the goals of viewing.
Applied Metapsychology vs. the Medical Model
The fundamental viewpoint outlined above does not align well with the medical model on which the concept of psychotherapy is based. According to that model:
- There is a certain range of thought, behavior, and emotion that is considered “normal” and “healthy”
- One makes a diagnosis, that is, one determines how the “patient” has departed from the “normal” state
- One then decides on a “treatment” to cause the patient to move forward to the state of normality, based on neurological, behavioral, or psychological models of mental illness and its causes
- The therapist then “intervenes” to “treat” the patient and thereby to cause the patient to move into the “healthy” state he should be in
- When the patient’s behavior, thought, and emotion lie within the range thought of as “healthy”, the treatment is adjudged to have been a success
The first problem is that the medical model on which psychotherapy is based places the locus of control squarely with the therapist. According to this model, the client is a “patient” and hence powerless. Although the client is expected to cooperate with the therapist, it is the therapist who is supposed to do the work. In Aristotelian terms, the therapist is “efficient cause”, and the patient is merely a “material cause”. In other words, the patient provides the raw materials out of which the therapist molds the cure. In viewing, it is the viewer who is the principal causative agent, the “efficient cause”. The Applied Metapsychology facilitator provides structure, and the viewer’s mental and physical environment provides the content for the viewer to work on. In other words, the facilitator is merely a material cause in this case, along with the viewer’s environment. This means that the whole ideology of viewing is structured to empower the client or viewer, whereas the ideology of therapy is structured to empower the therapist and, implicitly, to disempower the client.
The second problem lies with the concept of “normality”. From the person-centered viewpoint, it is up to the client to decide what she wants to have in the way of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. It is the facilitator’s job to help the client achieve them. The facilitator does not diagnose from the outside, based on observation of the client, and there is no fixed state of normality to achieve.
Thirdly, the medical model is entirely a negatively defined model. Its definition of “health” is “the absence of illness”. There is no prescription or accounting for the possibility of a positive direction in which growth could occur, beyond normality. The personal growth model is superior to the healing or therapeutic model, in this respect. It also allows for an indefinite amount of positive progress, how much depends entirely on how far the viewer is willing to go and how much he or she is willing to put into it.
What we are aiming for as facilitators is not a change into some particular state of being but simply a change for the better, “better” being defined by the client. That’s why, in our work, although we do have a viewing “curriculum” (since Applied Metapsychology is fundamentally educational in nature) for ability enhancement, with different sections that a viewer can go through in a certain order, we don’t identify them as “levels” or “states”. They are simply areas of life that a person can address systematically to gain an improvement, and when the viewer has attained an improvement she is satisfied with for the time being, she moves on to the next section. The sections of the viewing curriculum address (amongst other things) issues with help and control, memory improvement, communication, problem resolution, alleviation of guilt and hostility, overcoming resistance to change, discharging past traumas, moving out of fixed ideas and gaining a new ability to think clearly. When one has completed a certain area, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing more to handle in that area. The viewer can always revisit that section at a later time and make still more improvement in it. Personal improvement, then, is not the attainment of a fixed condition but betterment in one’s current condition.
If we look at the progression of an individual’s life from being in “bad condition”, through being in “acceptable condition”, to being in “superb condition”, what we see is simply a progression in personal improvement. We can adapt the concept of therapy to this model if, instead of referring to “normality”, we refer to “acceptability” as its goal, and if we modify our thinking to regard the client as the means by which this improvement is being done, and the improvement being, not in the client, but in the client’s mental and physical environment. In this modified sense of the term “therapeutic”, we could say that any method used for human betterment may be therapeutic if it is used to help people whose lives are in “bad condition” to bring their lives into an “acceptable condition”. And the same technique may be a “personal growth” technique if it is used to bring a person up from having a merely acceptable life to having one that is truly superb – again, from that person’s viewpoint – a type of life that is more desirable than most people would regard their life as being.
TIR, for instance, can be used either for therapy (in the modified sense given above) or for personal growth. For a person whose life is in “bad condition” because she is suffering from painful anxiety or the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TIR can be used therapeutically to make life more acceptable to her. The very same technique can be used later on in the viewer’s Curriculum to help her become extremely resilient and stable, free from much in the way of the future possibility of triggering. Viewing, in other words, is best perceived as neither inherently therapeutic in intent nor primarily as a means for personal growth beyond the normal. It is best seen as a way of achieving personal improvement in either the therapeutic range or the personal growth range.
Applied Metapsychology as Education
Viewing, in fact, is primarily educational in its intent, like various spiritual practices, martial arts, or athletic training. Meditation can be prescribed to help a dissociated person control his attention; it can also be used by a stably happy person to attain high spiritual states. Viewing is also like weight training: while the latter may be used as part of a rehabilitation program for someone with a back injury, it can also be used to do major body building or as training for championship athletics. In other words, many improvement techniques, including all methods used in Applied Metapsychology, are neither inherently personal-growth-oriented nor therapeutic; they may be used for either purpose.
Training, viewing, and consultation – currently the three major applications of metapsychology, what we call Applied Metapsychology – are best viewed as the three principal forms of education. They represent, respectively:
- Receptive education
- Integrative education
- Creative education.
Education falls naturally into these three stages. First we must have some kind of input of data. Secondly, we need to integrate the new data with old data that we have learned previously and with our whole world-view. Without this integration, the data is “indigestible” and unusable. Thirdly, we need to go out and apply that which we have learned to real life. That is the creative phase: we must use our knowledge to create better conditions in life. In fact, a good test of whether one has integrated a certain set of data is to find out whether one can go ahead and use it creatively in life. Un-integrated data is not usable.
Thus, we offer training courses to teach important life skills (e.g., communication and empathy) as well as professional skills, principally facilitation, the application of the principles of metapsychology by one person to assist someone to reach his/her goals).
Viewing is entirely integrative education. The facilitator never adds more data to what the viewer already has. She merely assists the viewer in achieving a better integration into his world view of the data he already has, so that he can achieve a world view that is more workable for him. She does this in a Socratic manner, by asking the right questions, rather than by attempting to provide the right answers.
Finally, we use consultation to help a client put into practice in life what he has learned in training and viewing. One form of consultation is the Life Coaching Schema Program used to help clients to put order into their lives.
Sometimes people need a fair amount of integrative education (viewing) before they are ready to receive more data or apply data they already have. In school, from parents, from traumatic incidents, people have often received a great deal of data without having really had a chance to digest and integrate it all into a coherent world-view. Once they have achieved a full integration of what they have already learned and experienced, then they become good candidates for training, and then they can go out and live more effective lives, with or without consultation.
Applied Metapsychology cannot fully be encompassed under either the rubric of therapy or that of personal growth. It is a form of education that results in personal improvement, movement in a positive direction, whether from a bad condition to an acceptable or better one, or from an acceptable condition to a superb one. In fact, Applied Metapsychology can be used for either therapy or personal growth, but is not inherently either one.