The fundamental goal of all counseling and all psychotherapy (as well as of all creative education) is to maximize human wholeness. The various short-term counseling methods are understood as means of enabling people to handle life crises growth fully. The techniques of psychotherapy are essentially ways of helping people whose growth has been deeply diminished by painful early-life experiences or by multiple crises, to free themselves for continuing growth. Creative education and growth groups are means for enabling those who are living "normal" lives to use more of their potentialities and thus to increase the creativity, zest, joy, and significance-for-humankind of their life styles. All these growthing arts are ways of enabling people to use more of their unfolding strength and possibilities. The central task of counselors, therapists, and growth-oriented teachers is to awaken realizable hopes for creative change in persons and then to help them actualize these hopes. The process by which persons grow is called "potentializing" or "growth work."
--- Most persons possess a wealth of undeveloped strengths, assets, and capacities. Most of us use only a small percentage of our physical, mental, spiritual, and relational potentialities.
---There is a gentle, often suppressed, but persistent striving in persons to keep developing their evolving potentials. The process of activating this growth elan is at the heart of all effective education, counseling, and therapy.
---People need to develop their unused gifts in the six interdependent dimensions of their lives -- in their bodies and minds, their relationships with other people, nature, institutions, and God. Genuine "happiness" is a by-product of continuing potentializing in these six dimensions.
---The growth drive is diminished in many persons by a variety of factors including emotional malnutrition, toxic relationships, economic deprivation, social oppression, and their own fear of and resistance to growth.
---Adequate physical wholeness (resulting from good nutrition, exercise, and health care) is a valuable foundation for full development of the other five dimensions.
---Each life stage offers new growth resources and possibilities as well as new problems and losses. Wholeness is a lifelong journey of becoming.
---Health or wholeness is much more than the absence of gross pathology. It is the presence of positive whole-person wellness resulting from continuing growth.
---Psychopathology is essentially long and severely diminished and distorted growth. A low level of potentializing makes people very vulnerable to developing mental, emotional, physical, psychosomatic, interpersonal, and spiritual illnesses.
---When one's growth is deeply diminished for a long time, the growth energies and potential creativity often become distorted into malignant destructiveness, which hurts oneself, others, and often society.
---Counseling and therapy are means of helping people to overcome diminished and distorted growth, by developing their potentialities through moving intentionally toward their own growth goals.
---Counselors, therapists, and teachers are essentially growth-enablers who must themselves continue growing if they are to nurture the growth of others.
---Growth-enabling therapy and education involve helping people activate their intuitive, imaginative, right-brain capacities and integrate these with their rational, analytical, left-brain capacities.
---The growth-enabler's seeing and affirming the hidden strengths and capacities in others helps them to discover and develop those potentialities.
---Creative education and counseling-therapy are complementary diversions of one growth- enabling process.
---Spiritual growth, the enhancement of one's values, meanings, "peak experiences," and relationship with God, is central to whole-person growth.
All growth is a gift of Spirit, the source of all life, to be received and developed. In a profound sense, human growth is a joyful mystery to be celebrated.
---The gift of growth is received when we choose to develop our options intentionally. The process of growth, though deeply fulfilling, often involves pain and struggle.
---Laughter (particularly at oneself) and play are inherently healing and growth-enabling.
---Life crises, both accidental and developmental, can be used as opportunities for growth, if persons encounter them in a context of meaning and within the loving support of a network of caring.
---The futures that people expect, image, and work toward can pull them forward toward those futures. Hope, a future-oriented expectation, is the essential energy for constructive change. The effective counselor-therapist-teacher is an awakener of realistic hope for growth in persons.
---The present moment is the arena of potentializing. Only within the present can the painful and the enriching experiences of one's past and the call of one's future be integrated growthfully.
---Growth occurs in relationships. The quality of one's closest relationships and one's wider community of caring determines, to considerable extent, whether and how rapidly one grows.
---Relationships in which both love-acceptance-empathy, on the one hand, and openness-congruence-confrontation, on the other, are experienced (this is the "growth formula") tend to energize the growth elan of persons within those relationships.
---Reaching out to others with caring, to encourage and nurture growth, is essential for the continuation of one's own growth.
---Individual, relational, institutional, and societal change are deeply interdependent. Institutionalized injustice and social, economic, and political oppression diminish human potentializing on a wholesale basis, while teachers, therapists, and parents strive to facilitate it on a retail (individual) basis. Working to change the wider systems that diminish people's growth often is essential to sustain growth within them and their close relationships. Rather than adjusting people to growth-crippling institutions, constructive counseling and therapy seek to empower people to work with others to change the institutional and societal roots of individual problems.
---Our people-serving institutions (especially churches, schools, and health agencies) should redefine their purposes and revise their programs to become better human wholeness centers devoted to helping people maximize growth throughout the life journey. Every community needs a network of such wellness-growth centers. To increase their effectiveness in nurturing wholeness, these institutions need to develop a variety of nurture-growth groups. ---Churches and temples should become better spiritual wholeness centers, places for facilitating holistic health centering in spiritual growth.
* Howard J. Clinebell, Jr. (1922-2005) was Professor of Pastoral Counseling at the School of Theology at Claremont, California (1977). He was a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. He was also a licensed marriage, child and family counselor in the State of California. His extensive career and many areas of emphasis are profiled in his obituary; click here. Growth Counseling, a short excerpt from which is offered above, is one of his many books. It was published in 1981 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission of the author. It was prepared for Religion Online by Paul Mobley and is republished with permission from Religion Online.
Process and Counseling: Some Reflections
Along with Howard Clinebell, open and relational (process) theologians believe that:
"There is a gentle, often suppressed, but persistent striving in persons to keep developing their evolving potentials. The process of activating this growth elan is at the heart of all effective education, counseling, and therapy."
For process theologians, this striving is itself responsive to an inwardly felt lure within each human being that comes from God. It is a lure toward wholeness. Process theologians will add (and Clinebell will agree) that the lure is not toward personal wholeness alone; it is also for whole communities, including their mental health; and a whole planet, including its many forms of life. The divine lure is social as well as personal. But certainly the lure is toward becoming a whole person or, better, a whole-person-in-process. There is, after all, no final completion of the process of becoming whole, but we can be more or less whole at various stages of our lives, relative to the circumstances at hand. Some of these circumstances are of our own doing and some from factors beyond our control. In any case, we feel within us a striving, a desire, to be whole, to be fully alive. The lure toward wholeness is one way that we experience God.
Always the divine lure is invitational, not coercive. And always our response to the divine lure is multidimensional. As Clinebell puts it:
"People need to develop their unused gifts in the six interdependent dimensions of their lives -- in their bodies and minds, their relationships with other people, nature, institutions, and God. Genuine 'happiness' is a by-product of continuing potentializing in these six dimensions."
In naming some working principles for "growth counseling," Clinebell offers a helpful rubric for open and relational (process) counselors. They - we - can then use any of the particular therapies we find helpful: family systems therapy, for example, or transpersonal therapy. But always, whatever therapies we use, we are helping people find whatever wholeness is possible for them, relative to the circumstances of their lives, whatever their age, race, ethnicity, class, or circumstance - cognizant that we, too, need and seek such wholeness.
The grace of a non-controlling God is not that of a distant spectator somehow bestowing favor on us like a king on a throne. It is that of a friend, a living presence: an inwardly felt lure that works with, not against, our own spiritual, mental, physical, and relational potentialities. It is a lure toward wholeness. - Jay McDaniel, 9/25/2022