Saturday, July 31, 2010

Panel: What is the Relationship Between Integral Psychotherapy and Transpersonal Psychotherapy? (Part I) #itc2010

More fun stuff - I wish I could have seen more of the psychology stuff. This is part one of two posts on this panel - too much for one post.
Panel: What is the Relationship Between Integral Psychotherapy and Transpersonal Psychotherapy? Ray Greenleaf, Elliott Ingersoll, Janet Lewis, Andre Marquis, Joanne Rubin, Douglas Tatyryn, Jefferey Jessum
We were joined by a special guest, someone who has seen the evolution of transpersonal psychology into integral psychology, and has guided the process in some ways, Roger Walsh.

There's no abstract for this, but the topic should speak for itself.

Please note:
IP = Integral Psychotherapy or psychology
TP = Transpersonal psychology
IT = Integral theory

Roger kicked off the panel with a brief series of remarks:
  • Socio-economic forces are stacked against us in a big way - HMOs/drug companies are dictating the terms of the game - drugs & cheap, brief therapies
  • These therapies are not more effective - all therapies are equally effective when offered by skilled therapists
  • Spiritual practice is not how it reads in the books - we do not go into the woods, meditate a bit, and become enlightened - it's messier than that, and IP/TP offer guidance with that
  • The integral model brings the quadrants together in a way traditional models do not - when we consider things like lifestyle factors in depression, and that fish oil, exercise, and so many other things are effective, it's important to add these perspectives as options
  • The IP/TP models tend to encourage therapists to do their own work - shadow work, contemplation, etc - which makes them better at their jobs and improves outcomes
The discussion was kind of all over the place, so it's hard to present any one person's perspective, since that is not how it was organized. Nor is it really possible to present any series of comments or a conversation.

[Everything here is my best effort at a paraphrase.]

Andre made some good points, at various times that add up to a valid and useful critique of IP and Wilber's model in general - so I will just list some of them:
  • Wilber makes ontological statements about reality that are difficult to make - from the experience of interior states to the nature of reality - these are philosophically challenging
  • I can honor a client's claims about transpersonal experience without alienating the field - we do not need to make declarative statements about reality
  • I avoided superpersonal / transpersonal stuff in my book - in North Texas, where I work, transpersonal issues are not relevant - maybe spiritual issues, but not transpersonal
  • ~ He left Adi Da because of Nietzsche
  • ~ Nietzsche said that spiritual systems devalue this life but seeking something more
  • ~ Andre feels that Ken is guilty of this devaluing
  • ~ His main practice is hunting and fishing now - how many people experience or live in nonduality? Not many, and he can transcend himself in nature while fishing
  • He prefers an embedded / embodied practice - interpersonal, intersubjective
  • Nietzsche offers a "perpetual self overcoming" - what better practice is there?
Andre was probably the person on the panel who I most identified with - my sense of spiritual practice involves "we space" - the intersubjective space of relationship, especially with my girlfriend.

Joanne replied to some of Andre's points about Wilber:
  • Training in states of consciousness can verify Wilber's claims - her point seemed to echo Wilber's Marriage of Sense and Soul in suggesting that we take an injunction (Wilber's claims about ultimate reality) and test them (follow the injunction, the practice), then compare outcomes.
In general, I agree with that methodology - but I disagree with the privileging of nonduality, or of meditation as the singular path to getting there. I think this poses problems for people who are not inclined in that way, such as me. I can meditate the rest of my life, and I doubt I will experience any semblance of the loss of self and feeling of unitive consciousness I experience in an intersubjective embrace with my girlfriend.

Jeff commented a bit on this as well:
  • Different validity claims have their place - but translating them (as from subjective to objective) poses certain problems that are hard to surmount with our current framework
  • Integral theory as scaffolding
  • TP as a modality within the framework of IT
Moving on . . . .

Elliott is a cool guy (is it wrong to have a man-crush on him? None of the pictures online do him justice), who had a lot of interesting things to say.
  • Ontological assumptions in journal articles often go unchallenged. Example: depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain - not true. We don't even know what a chemical balance would look like, let alone imbalance. It's all "word magic" - creating illusions of certainty.
  • But if you posit a transpersonal or an integral etiology, the editors are all over it. Depression is a very integrally amenable illness with a variety of causes (quadrants, levels, states, stages, etc) and treatments. TP does not really offer this diversity of cause or treatment.
I think this is important - and it related to what Andre was saying about transpersonal states - if Ken says it, then like magic, it is assumed to be true. Many of Ken's ontological statements have gone unchallenged in the integral community, which is why yesterday's panel on critics was so useful.

More from Elliott:
  • "Systems of Modern Psychology: A Critical Sketch" - recommended book
  • The APA (American Psychological Association), ACA (American Counseling Association), and other "bodies" of psychology (boards, journals, etc) all decide what is real within their domains. They dictate the ontological truth. There is no division in the APA for transpersonal psychology.
Ray commented directly on this:
  • If IP becomes another division of the APA, the risk is the loss of its unique way of working with clients.
Doug replied to this:
  • As long as the people writing our textbooks are first tier, IP/TP will only be individual models among many many. Unless we write the books, IP in particular will not be seen as a meta-theory, an overarching map.
Moving on to a new topic, sort of . . . Jeff made this useful comment:
  • Theory is good. But his passion is practice. CBT is useful, as is holotropic breathwork, and other techniques
  • CBT can deconstruct a personality as well as any other method - different modalities can all be useful
  • The "kosmic address" of the client and the therapist are both important in choosing the modality and in creating the relationship
  • IP vs TP - maps can help with acceptance - IP has more potential for acceptance because of its mapping and meta-theory - a Trojan Horse approach
  • Integral is a perspective he uses with clients to bring resources to them - Are there therapies/techniques that are distinctly transpersonal?
  • Many techniques have been developed to attain transpersonal states/awareness
  • "Revisioning Transpersonal Psychology" - a more participatory approach, in answer to Doug (and to Andre)
  • So far, integral has been more about taking perspectives, more individually focused
[That is a great book, by the way.]

More to come in part two, later tonight. Now I must go see some of the posters.


Luke said...

"I think this poses problems for people who are not inclined in that way, such as me. I can meditate the rest of my life, and I doubt I will experience any semblance of the loss of self and feeling of unitive consciousness I experience in an intersubjective embrace with my girlfriend".

Me too, mate. Reading your blog and the comments you're making about yourself at the conference really makes me think we have a hell of a lot in common Bill.

william harryman said...

Good to hear I'm not the only one! ;)

Yeah, I think so - we'll have to find a way to meet up one of these days. I'll look into the class with Will Varey - if it's low time commitment, I can make it work. It would be cool to interact a bit more.