Mutual Healing Four Characteristics of a Process-Relational Psychotherapy for Individuals, Families, Communities and Societies
suggested by Mary Elizabeth Moore
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
Below please find an excerpt from "Critiquing Codependence Theory and Reimaging Psychotherapy: A Process-Relational Exploration" by Mary Elizabeth Moore. The essay can be found in Religion Online and originally appeared in Process Studies (pp. 103-123, Vol. 29, Number 1, Spring-Summer, 2000.) The excerpt is the conclusion of her essay where she raises the question: What would a Process-Relational Psychotherapy look like? Note that, for her, such therapy can be applied to individuals and families but also to "larger social bodies." Local communities, and indeed societies as a whole, can be the beneficiaries of what she calls mutual healing.
I. Process-relational psychotherapy would seek to enhance the will to life and the will to lif-giving relationship, both for individuals and communities. In such therapy, people would be encouraged to identify what in their actions or the actions of their community already represents their quest for fuller life. They would be encouraged to reflect on their most positive actions, but also on those actions that are destructive, seeking to discern the impulses toward life within those very acts. Further, people would be encouraged to name those experiences that best nourish their lives and relationships and, then, to seek ways to build such experiences more fully into their daily comings and goings. The nourishing experiences may he political activity, gardening, spending time with friends and family participating in active sports, exploring the natural world, exercising, or listening to music.
Although the focus of such therapy would often be on individuals and families, the work of psychotherapy would also be focused more directly on the life of larger social bodies. Psychotherapy would concern itself with the wellbeing of communities and, therefore, would encourage and support actions that nourish communal life and relationships -- communal rituals, common meals, and communal play. The forms of process-relational psychotherapy would be many, but one of the primary disciplines of healing would be to identify and engage in actions that support the wellbeing of communities and individuals, and to do so within the context of the larger environment.
2. Process-relational psychotherapy would seek to enhance the relationships that people have with the Spirit of Life, which many will call God and others will name inother ways or not name at all. The practice of prayer, contemplation and meditation would, then, be quite appropriate to psychotherapy. Such a recommendation seems more obvious for those who are pastoral or religious counselors than for those who are "secular" therapists. Certainly pastoral and religious counselors would have a unique contribution to make here, but some practices of meditation are not bound within a particular religious tradition, and some are shared by many traditions. The proposal is that psychotherapists seek ways to engage people in prayer, contemplation or meditation, and to do so in ways that are appropriate to the therapists and clients within their particular contexts. Some of this may take place in therapy sessions, particularly if religious frameworks and language are shared by therapists and clients. Some therapists may simply encourage clients to participate in their own religious communities.
3. Process-relational psychotherapy would encourage people to be involved in self-giving, focusing particularly on forms of giving that they judge to be most valuable to themselves and others, and forms of giving that are the least tainted by their past experience with self-abnegation. The possibilities of self-giving are limitless: giving through social protest (often protesting the very oppressions that have most affected them and their people); giving through helping others (individually and collectively); giving through service to the earth (caring for the air and land, recycling, participating in the political process to protect the eco-system); giving through developing one’s distinctive strengths and the quality of one’s own life, both for oneself and for others.
4. Process-relational pschotherapy would encourage people to enjoy life and enjoy relationships, seeking ways to enhance their ordinary lives and relationships so that they bring more enjoyment to all involved. This would include analyzing ordinary life to discern what is already present to be enjoyed, what is absent, and what might be transformed or initiated as a movement into enjoyment. The aim would be to enhance the quality of life and the quality of relationships, recognizing that relationships do exist, that they are often filled with brokenness and pain, and that the healing of relationships can contribute to the healing of individuals and the healing of the world.
All of the proposals imagined here are exploratory but underlying them is the hope that psychotherapy can empower people to critique and transform their world. Process-relational psychotherapy might be understood as the mutual practice of healing. People are encouraged to work together in healing their world, themselves, and the communities in which they live. The hope is to create and nurture communities of well being that will foster well being among their members and in the larger world.