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Paradigms of Influence in the Process Work Approach to Multiple Role Relationships

Julie Diamond and Lee Spark Jones

In August 2001, we began a multiphase investigation into the Process WorkProcess Work model of multiple role relationships. In the helping professions, a multiple role relationship (also termed dual relationship) refers to any circumstance in which a practitioner assumes one or more roles additional to that of practitioner. Such roles might include teaching, employing, having a business relationship with a client, or socializing with a client. In undertaking this project, we intend to clarify the conceptual underpinnings of the Process Work model of multiple role relationships and to situate it in a wider paradigmatic context. We aim to explore how the model is enacted and experienced in practice, and identify its strengths and limitations. We are also interested in identifying skills and attitudes that contribute to successful multiple role relationships, with a view to shaping Process Work training curriculum in this area.

In order to address these goals, we have designed a four-phase research project. The first phase of the project, presented in this article, consists of a conceptual exploration of paradigms that inform the Process Work model of multiple role relationships. The second and third phases of the project comprise two qualitative studies of multiple role relationship experiences in the Process Work community and in other psychotherapy training institutes. These studies will explore beneficial and problematic aspects of non-sexual multiple role relationships in psychotherapy training contexts, and investigate the skills and metaskills that allow trainers and trainees to negotiate such relationships effectively. The final phase of the project will explicate more fully the Process Work model of multiple role relationships, based on findings from the three previous phases. It will also address implications for Process Work training in this area.

In Process Work’s multidisciplinary approach to individual and collective change, various paradigmatic influences are evident, prompting the current conceptual study. A paradigm is “an approach to phenomena; a filter through which we see, define, order, understand and communicate about the world around us” (Creswell, 1994: 1). Like any perceptual filter, paradigms are shaped by cultural, historical, and contextual factors that are frequently not consciously recognized by those who are immersed in them. Cultural norms and assumptions that lie outside our awareness tend to shape what we see and do. Paradigms are therefore a form of power. They define reality, interpret events, manipulate viewpoints, and mobilize biases. They exert power through what they focus on, and through what they ignore as well. Paradigms create or reinforce values and practices and limit the scope of inquiry to those issues that fall within a particular view of reality (Bachrach and Baratz, 1970). Thus, paradigms are both made up of, and forward assumptions about, phenomena and the social world.

Becoming aware of a paradigm is a critically self-reflective process, which entails systematically looking at the social, philosophical and historical traditions that shape us. This article looks at four sources of paradigmatic influence on the Process Work model of multiple role relationships: professional psychology, Jungian psychology, non-western spiritual traditions (notably shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism and Bhakti Yoga) and adult education. We believe that by making these influences more explicit, we will be in a better position to investigate Process Work’s approach to multiple role relationships in subsequent phases of our research project, and to explicate the model more fully at the project’s conclusion.

I. Professional Psychology

Although Process Work applications extend beyond the sphere of psychological health, the professional psychology paradigm is a significant source of influence in Process Work’s development as an awareness modality. Process work developed out of the depth psychology tradition, and many Process Work practitioners work as mental health, counseling, and psychology professionals. Professional psychology has influenced the formulation of ethical guidelines for Process Work practice, education, and training in the United States and in other countries around the world.

Current ethical guidelines for psychology professionals (American Psychological Association, 2002) prohibit sexual relationships between practitioner and client. They do not explicitly prohibit non-sexual multiple role relationships, although such relationships are generally proscribed by the profession. A spectrum of opinion exists on the degree to which non-sexual multiple role relationships are unethical and unacceptable. This debate can be characterized in terms of a received view, which characterizes much of the psychological literature on the topic, and an alternative view which has become more prominent in recent years. We will present these views as two ends of a continuum, and will then locate Process Work’s perspective on this continuum.

The Received View

At one end of the spectrum of opinion on multiple role relationships, it is argued that any contact with a client outside a professional context is strictly unethical and to be avoided at all costs (Keith-Spiegel and Koocher, 1985). Those who hold this position view clients as subject to an inequitable power relationship that restricts their capacity to set boundaries in relation to practitioners, and makes them vulnerable to exploitation or harm. They also believe that emotional fragility and dependence on the part of the client further limit this capacity to set boundaries, and render the client additionally vulnerable to the practitioner. Those who hold this viewpoint often forward a “slippery slope” argument, which contends that engaging in multiple role relationships increases the likelihood of a practitioner breaching confidentiality or crossing other professional boundaries. More minor boundary transgressions such as having coffee with a client are seen as likely to lead to more serious violations such as sexual encounters. In addition, a traditional psychoanalytic emphasis on neutrality and transference work contributes to a greater insistence on the strict separation of roles. Practitioners with this theoretical orientation maintain that all personal contact between practitioner and client, including therapist self-disclosure, is to be avoided. They consider that information about the therapist’s private life can burden the patient, and interferes with the “transference,” the process whereby a client resolves issues through the projection of parental figures onto a therapist.

This prohibitive view of multiple role relationships has its roots in modern medicine, which had a significant influence on the development of the psychoanalytic tradition and psychology in general. Modern medicine views the therapist-client relationship through the conceptual filters of health and illness, expertise and ignorance. From the medical viewpoint, patients are in a weakened condition in which they are unable to help themselves; thus, cure of their ills must lie in the hands of experts. This imparts greater rank to the professional’s role, which must then be mitigated by legal and professional regulations. Increased awareness of misuse of rank and power grew out of post-war research into trauma and abuse, and the consciousness-raising work of civil rights and feminist activists (Trickett, Watts, and Birman, 1994). Research into survivors of trauma and abuse showed that what looked like compliant behavior or positive response to therapeutic interventions might actually be a trauma reaction, fear of reprisal, or subservience to authority (Herman, 1997). As a result, professional associations have moved to protect clients by developing ethical codes that prohibit or strongly discourage multiple role relationships.

The majority of studies on dual or multiple relationships support the belief that such relationships in psychotherapeutic settings are problematic and even dangerous. In a national survey of ethical dilemmas encountered by members of the American Psychological Association, Pope and Vetter (1991) concluded that next to confidentiality, psychologists most frequently reported problems with dual or conflictual relationships. While many psychology professionals agree that such relationships constitute unethical behavior, discrepancy has been found between what practitioners say and do. In a large U.S. study, Borys and Pope (1989) examined ethical attitudes and practices of psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. A majority believed dual role behaviors to be unethical under most conditions; most reported that they had rarely or never engaged in such behaviors. Yet, a year earlier, Pope and Bajt (1988) examined conflict between law and values in the professional practice of psychologists of senior standing, and found that all respondents acknowledged non-compliance with a legal or professional obligation in light of a client’s welfare or some deeper value. Overall, there is a lack of comprehensive, systematically gathered data concerning psychologists’ beliefs about and compliance with ethical principles, and little is known about which resources they value as effective in guiding appropriate behavior.

An Alternative View

At the other end of the continuum of perspectives on multiple role relationships, some psychologists maintain that even though multiple role relationships may be problematic, neither the law nor the American Psychological Association can legitimately hinder the right to free association (including the right to define that association as sexual) of two consenting adults, whether they be teacher and student, employer and employee, therapist and patient, or assessment specialist and job candidate. Some also argue that multiple roles are an inevitable fact of all relationship life, and that non-sexual contact between practitioner and client may be unavoidable and even beneficial, particularly in small communities and educational settings (Lazarus and Zur, 2002).

While acknowledging the importance of addressing power inequities, and the potential for exploitation and harm, those who hold this view are critical of certain aspects of the guidelines set forth by the American Psychological Association. They argue that ethical guidelines in psychology are not based on a broadly conceived metatheoretical model that encompasses a diversity of psychotherapeutic modalities. They maintain that ethical standards have been disproportionately influenced by western medicine and psychoanalytic theory, since psychological practitioners hold a variety of theoretical beliefs about the nature of the therapeutic relationship, and the place and efficacy of multiple role relationships in the therapeutic process. For instance, a cognitive-behavioral psychologist might meet an agoraphobic client outside the office as an aspect of treatment. A humanistic psychotherapist will engage in selfdisclosure in order to create an atmosphere of genuineness and trust between therapist and client, on the assumption that this contributes to the efficacy of the therapeutic relationship. From this viewpoint, in formulating ethics policies for the profession psychologists have not given enough consideration to the diversity of theoretical persuasions in their profession.

Following this line of argument, some psychologists (Lazarus and Zur, 2002; Lazarus, 1994, 1998) maintain that existing ethical rules and standards regarding multiple role relationships are too rigid and may be counter-productive. They argue that the existence of ethical standards does not necessarily translate to their adherence (Zur, 2000a, 2000b) and warn that a climate of ethical rigidity in this area may lead to an increase in hidden relationships. A focus on the observance of external regulations also diverts attention from the education and training of practitioners in how to deal with the inevitable complexity of relationship. Zur argues that the question of how to educate caring clinicians is currently overlooked and even minimized by the focus on standards for behavior. He also suggests that prohibition of dual relationships might actually enable incompetent and ineffective therapists to remain unexposed, and without accountability. Zur also questions prohibiting clients’ familiarity or “duality” with therapists, suggesting that familiarity leads to informed choice and richness in therapeutic relationship.

This debate extends into the domain of education and training of psychological practitioners, although in training contexts there is less certainty and greater divergence of opinion about what constitutes an inappropriate dual or multiple role relationship between trainer and trainee. For example, Ryder and Hepworth (1990) state that dual relationships between supervisors and supervisees are intrinsic to many training contexts. In such contexts, most supervisors will have more than one relationship with their supervisees (e.g., graduate assistant, co-author, co-facilitator). As in ethical considerations about therapist-client relationships, concern about “exploitation” and “objectivity” is key in determining whether a particular relationship is ethical or not. Multiple role relationships between trainers and trainees are deemed problematic if they increase the potential for exploitation or impaired professional objectivity. Thus, for example, in the academic education and training of psychologists, counselors and other mental health professionals, it is generally recommended that trainers avoid situations that decrease their capacity for objective evaluation, or place a trainee at risk of exploitation.

Process Work and Psychology

For practical and theoretical reasons, Process Work’s position on multiple role relationships is aligned more closely with the viewpoint articulated by Lazarus and Zur (2002) than with rigid proscription of such relationships. Process work acknowledges the importance of ethical constraints, particularly in relation to sexual relationships and power inequities between practitioner and client. Process work also recognizes that the client role can diminish the client’s power relative to the practitioner, thus restricting his or her capacity to assert or defend herself in the therapeutic relationship. In addition, there is both theoretical and practical recognition of the value of a more flexible and contextually based approach to non-sexual multiple role relationships.

The Process Work learning community consists of a close-knit network of practitioners and clients, trainers and trainees. These roles may overlap or be interchangeable, depending on context. Therapists and clients, supervisors and supervisees, teachers and students, encounter each other in a range of social and educational contexts. As in other small communities and learning environments, multiple role relationships are a practical necessity of community life. In addition, the theoretical underpinnings of Process Work assume that multiple roles are an essential aspect of the fabric of human relationship. Relationship is seen as a channel of experience, and roles are viewed as non-local phenomena as well as status descriptors. Thus, roles such as “teacher,” “student,” “therapist,” or “client” are understood in two ways. On the one hand, these are viewed as fixed social positions, which belong to one or the other member of a therapeutic dyad and have particular functions, interests and responsibilities. Observing professional ethical standards is an aspect of a Process Work practitioner’s responsibilities. On the other hand, roles are understood to be designators of subjective experiences, which may arise in either participant in a therapeutic encounter, and which shift fluidly in response to contextual factors. Acknowledging both ways of understanding roles, Process Work supplements guidelines for ethical behavior with awareness training in the non-local aspects of roles and their rank. For instance, the Process Work practitioner is trained to enact the duties of her role responsibly, while also collaboratively discovering with the client how the roles of “therapist” and “client” or “teacher” and “student” might also be non-local, or played out in the experience and behavior of either individual in the dyad. Space considerations limit detailed discussion of Process Work theory on multiple role relationships in this article. However, as noted above, this will be forthcoming at a later stage in our multiphase research project.

II. Jungian Psychology

As we have shown, the paradigm of professional psychology exerts a strong influence on Process Work because it dominates the field of mental health care, in which Process Work is applied. Process work’s approach to multiple role relationships is also influenced by Jungian psychology, both conceptually and culturally, due to its roots in Jung’s Analytic Psychology and its early connections with the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.

The founder of Process Work, Arnold Mindell, was a graduate of the Jung Institute in Zurich, where he also subsequently served as a faculty member and training analyst. A number of his colleagues, who co-founded the Research Society for Process-oriented Psychology, also studied at this institute and were influenced by its methods of training and practice. This psychotherapy training environment was one of the first of its kind and provided a model for later institutes to follow. As adults mirror the habits, behaviors, and values of their families of origin,1 current Process Work learning environments still reflect aspects of the Jungian context out of which they originally developed. Process work’s approach to multiple role relationships is one area in which this influence is evident.

Jung’s Approach to the Therapeutic Relationship

Whereas Freud understood the transference as an unconscious regression to childhood, Jung saw the transference as a direction forward. The client projected archetypes of wisdom, healing and wholeness onto the analyst. Jung used metaphors from medieval alchemy to describe the therapeutic relationship. He envisioned it as a process of mutual transformation. The therapist “sat” in the alchemical vessel with the client, undergoing a transformation process with the client through the “cooking” or amplification of psychic images. Unlike the removed stance of the Freudian psychoanalyst, who must maintain distance lest his “real” personality corrupt and interfere with the client’s projections, the Jungian analyst was expected to be affected by the client’s process, and to use it in the interests of the therapeutic process (Wakefield, 1996).

Analytic psychology emphasizes individual exploration of self. It understands relationship as derivative of the individual’s intrapsychic parts (such as the anima, animus, “shadow,” and persona), interacting with another individual’s intrapsychic parts, often outside the individuals’ awareness. Relationship issues and complexities must therefore be navigated through selfawareness. The intricacies of interaction are of less significance than inner psychic parts, motivations, dreams, and projections. Jung’s concept of the personaalso influenced his views on the therapeutic relationship and the training of analysts. The persona is a person’s social face. As part of the analytic process, the individual comes to a deeper understanding of her full self, including the persona, through connecting with unconscious aspects of the psyche. A Jungian practitioner must be able to identify, explore, and remain in contact with “shadow” or unknown parts of the self. Clients and trainees in Jungian psychotherapy were implicitly encouraged to show their shadow side as an aspect of the therapeutic or training process.

The Jung Institute

Process work’s approach to multiple role relationships is not only influenced by the philosophy and theory of Analytic Psychology, but by the implicit norms and conventions of the Jungian training community and institute. The origin of the Jung Institute’s approach to education was a combination of many influences: the Zeitgeist of the early twentieth century, the European university tradition, the new field of depth psychology, and the relative lack of trained practitioners in this new field. For this latter reason, many early students became supervisors, teachers, and training analysts at the Institute, resulting in many multiple role relationships.

When Jung began his psychiatric studies, few psychiatrists shared a depth psychology approach to the unconscious. Jung turned to Freud as a colleague, thus beginning one of the earliest multiple role relationships in the history of depth psychology. Although they were colleagues, they analyzed each other’s dreams, supervised each other’s cases, and were political allies in gaining recognition for the new field of psychoanalysis. As founders of rival approaches, they were also competitors. European antiSemitism and the rising National Socialist movement likely further complicated their relationship. Jungian analyst Joseph Wakefield vividly describes this situation:

… the combining of personal analysis, training, friendship, erotic entanglement and power politics can tear apart the most well-intentioned professional association of analysts. Freud and Jung attempted simultaneously to be each other’s analyst, colleague and consultant. When they attempted to analyze each other by sharing dreams, neither would tell the other the truth. Freud refused to share his dream associations for fear he would lose his authority; for Jung, that was the end of Freud’s authority. Jung then told his dream of descending from deeper to deeper levels within a house, reaching finally two skeletons at the very bottom. Jung intuited the meaning as referring to his growing awareness of the collective unconscious underlying the personal unconscious. He intuited also that Freud would not accept Jung’s independent thoughts, which differed from those of Freud. Freud implied that the skeletons referred to a deathwish Jung had towards Freud. …To throw Freud off the track, Jung dissimulated and replied that the two skeletons associated to Jung’s wife and her sister.2 Overlapping roles at the Jung Institute resulted not only from the lack of available analysts, but also from Jung’s theory of the psychotherapy process, notably its focus on the mutual transformation of the therapist and client, and the importance of contacting and living close to one’s deeper self, beyond the social persona. Thus, while prizing introversion and individualistic focus, social interaction and relationship also played a large part in a learning community that accepted multiple role relationships and freely engaged in them. This mix may be reflective of Swiss culture, which is both reserved and socially expressive to different degrees depending on the context. The Carnival, or “Fasnacht” period is a time when the individual is given free reign to express his or her most outrageous behavior, without fear of social reprisal. The “shadow” is tolerated. Dancing, singing, loudness, and lewd behavior are normal. The social “rule” of Fasnacht is that the community contains the expressions. It is tacitly agreed upon that whatever you do, or see others do, is never referred to outside Fasnacht. Thus the shadow can express itself during pre-arranged festivities and does not endanger the fabric of community. (1996)

Jungian Psychology and Process Work

The influence of Jungian Psychology on Process Work is pervasive. Articulating specific points of convergence is like trying to distinguish where a river ends and the ocean begins. Nonetheless, some trends are evident. Jungian psychology’s emphasis on the mutually transformative nature of therapy is intrinsic to the Process Work model, and informs its approach to multiple role relationships. The therapist is not a “blank slate” or removed expert, but is part of the transformational process. Her inner process, dreams, feelings and experiences belong to her therapeutic toolkit (Goodbread, 1997). A large part of her training involves learning how to use herself in the therapeutic process.

In addition, the Jungian emphasis on teleology, or the purposive nature of the unconscious, as reflected in the concept of individuation process or life myth, is an essential element of the Process Work model. Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious is an early formulation of Mindell’s (2000) concept of the dreaming field, a non-local background pattern that structures manifest reality. Even though the relational and collective components in Process Work are more developed than in their Jungian predecessors (Mindell, 1995), the individual’s relationship to the dreaming process remains a cornerstone of Process Work theory and practice. Process work retains a Jungian emphasis on the individual’s responsibility to recognize projection and unconscious motivations in relationship entanglements. In these ways, the individuation paradigm of Jungian Psychology is still very present in Process Work today. In terms of multiple role relationships, this is reflected in the idea that interactional difficulties, regardless of rank differences, are seen to be potentially rich sources of growth for the individual’s process. In contrast to therapeutic models in which the individual’s safety and protection from harm are the sole concern, in the teleological paradigm of Process Work, the challenges of life events, including relationship difficulties and power differences, are also viewed as a manifestation of an individual’s life myth. Rules and ethical guidelines intended to safeguard the well being of the client are viewed as essential, yet not sufficient to dealing with the inevitable complexities of relationship. One of the main responsibilities of the Process Work facilitator, therefore, is to recognize the role that life myth and dreaming process play in navigating relationship difficulties and challenges, and assist the client in navigating them.

III. Non-Western Spiritual Traditions

As an awareness method for individual and collective change processes, Process Work also stands outside the paradigm of psychology and is influenced by a number of other traditions, particularly the spiritual traditions of indigenous and non-western cultures. Here we have chosen to examine the influence of four spiritual traditions on Process Work’s ongoing development as an awareness modality, and on its approach to multiple role relationships: shamanism (particularly the Yaqui path of knowledge described in the writings of Carlos Castaneda),3 Taoism, Buddhism and Bhakti Yoga.

Mindell’s earliest manuscript, The Death Walk,4 recounts the shaman’s journey of personal transformation from normal man to spiritual warrior. By the end of this journey, the warrior is no longer a victim of circumstance, no longer relates to life’s events as good and bad. The warrior accepts everything as fate, as food for awareness, meant to bring out power through alignment with natural forces. The death walk, or walk into the unknown, is a governing pattern for dealing with difficulty, challenge, and threat. It involves opening up to the unknown, to annihilation, ex-communication or attack. The warrior faces such challenge without flinching, and in so doing, vanquishes the foe through utter impeccability. The warrior seeks no external protection, does not turn to law, justice, or authority for help with the unknown. Absolute congruence and the integrity of the warrior stance is the warrior’s only protection. In Process Work, the shaman as warrior and the death walk remain governing metaphors for understanding the individual’s relationship to difficult circumstances, including the complexities of relationship. The warrior’s protection is awareness, not rules or laws. The challenge fate poses is valuable because it is a manifestation of spirit. In the warrior paradigm, the spirit creates these challenges for the benefit of the shaman’s power. Castaneda recounts how his teacher, Don Juan, told him that his benefactor, Don Vincente, used to say that the Spanish invasion was the best thing that happened to the Indian warriors. It forced them to perfect their skills, to rely on nothing but their own awareness, and brought out their impeccability (Castaneda, 1981).

A second fundamental influence on Process Work is the Taoist notion of following process or the Way. Taoism does not propose a universal program or approach to life. It recognizes the ceaseless, changing way of nature and its infinite variety of expression. The ancient Taoists also disliked rules and scorned the world of social law. Chuangtzu, the Taoist sage, believed laws were needed when people were not law-abiding. The presence of a governing body, he argued, does not imply law, but its opposite, lawlessness. The Tao Te Ching, the ancient book of Taoist wisdom, states that “He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.”5 In other words, if a leader does not trust the people, then they are untrustworthy. Laws governing human interactions imply that those interactions are not on track. While Process Work does not eschew laws or rules to this extent, it does view process as governing everything, including rules and regulations. From this viewpoint, what happens is the “way.” The essence of Process Work is to go with what happens, rather than strive against it. From this perspective, problems and difficulties exist simply as a “way” to which the person has not yet opened.

The spiritual discipline of Buddhism is a third source of influence on the Process Work paradigm, particularly in its emphasis on awareness and detachment from consensual or manifest reality. Buddhism’s focus on attitude, awareness, and perception relativizes the importance of the world “out there.” This invites a detached perspective, a meta-position called “Buddha mind” or empty mind. From this perspective, difficulties do not need solving. Suffering is rooted in our mental attitude towards what happens to us; we suffer when the mind identifies with the world of form. Process work is similar to Buddhism in its view of formlessness, which it terms the “sentient” or “essence” realm, as the underlying structure of manifest reality (Mindell, 2000, 2001). The forms, figures, and experiences of every day life are thus understood to be a function of perception, which creates the illusion of separateness; underneath the form, everything is connected.

Finally, Process Work has some overlapping characteristics with Bhakti Yoga, or the yoga of devotion, which is one of several paths to enlightenment recognized in the yogic tradition. According to this tradition, devotion is expressed as service to the divine, in either its formless state or embodied form. A teacher or guru is to be understood not merely as a human being, but as the embodiment of the divine. Loving the teacher as the divine is a way to achieve divinity oneself. Devotion is seen as a form of service, which involves giving oneself fully to the divine, in the form of the “other,” as teacher, path, community, or any and all beings. While Process Work has no particular emphasis on serving a teacher or guru, it does view the learning relationship as a spiritual phenomenon, and incorporates a central belief in the value of merging one’s identity with that of the “other” as a way of developing compassion and non-attachment.

The Spiritual Dimensions of Process Work

In psychological terms, Process Work can be seen as a form of transpersonal psychotherapy, since it views the unconscious not only as a repository of personal experience, but as the vast, eternal source of manifest reality.6 Further, as this brief review of spiritual influences suggests, Process Work may also be viewed as a spiritual path for a number of reasons. Its focus on trusting and following the unknown, its recognition of formlessness or “essence,” its belief that wisdom and meaning derive from difficulties and obstacles, and its emphasis on metaskills (the feeling attitudes that shape a person’s relationship to life) are essentially spiritual. In addition, Process Work’s focus on the edge (the border between the known and unknown) may be likened to the way in which many religions and spiritual disciplines are organized around a central problem of preparing oneself to meet the unknown. Edge work, which is a cornerstone of Process Work practice, may be seen as a form of spiritual practice, since it involves ways of working with change, suffering and death, which are sometimes likened to encounters with the divine. These various assumptions and practices often attract people to study Process Work as a way of bringing greater meaning to their lives.

The spiritual dimensions of Process Work, and the various traditions that shape them, affect Process Work’s approach to multiple role relationships in various ways. Spiritual traditions, each in their own way, seek to expand the awareness of the practitioner beyond limiting mind-sets, such as the suffering of the victim. They provide techniques for practitioners to liberate themselves from their everyday sense of self, and to identify with “no-thing,” and everything, around them. In the Process Work approach, one of the solutions to the problems of power, rank, and other complexities of multiple role relationship is to use awareness to be able to identify with all the roles in the field, as well to penetrate beneath them through awareness of an essential, non-dualistic reality.

The metaskills of Process Work contribute to its spiritual approach to multiple role relationships, viewing power differences, social status, and even personality and psychological issues as transitory phenomena, manifestations of an underlying non-dualistic reality. As an awareness process, a key goal of Process Work is to become aware of both surface reality and its non-dualistic essence. From this viewpoint, multiple roles are not a specific function of certain relationships, but an inevitable reality of the web of interconnected relationships, which has its roots in the sentient or non-dual realm. As in the tradition of Bhakti Yoga, the Process Worker incorporates the other into her identity, and through that, transcends the limitations of ego-identification. Process work also reflects a devotional perspective in viewing the unconscious as the directing and organizing force for our deepest relationships. The unconscious, or “dreaming process” is thought to move individuals in unknown ways, including bringing people together as practitioner and client, trainer and trainee. Thus, choosing a therapist or teacher is seen as both conscious choice and as an enactment of aspects of an individual’s life myth. The client’s deeper wisdom chooses the therapist; the spirit brings learner to teacher. From a Process Work perspective, these considerations also have an important place in discussions of multiple role relationships and how they may be addressed.

IV. Adult Education

Process work is not a specific form of adult education. However the adult education paradigm is intrinsic to Process Work in various ways. Process work is essentially a learning paradigm. Its methods are designed with the client-as-learner in mind, emphasizing the client’s self-awareness. Its self-therapy methods are based on the belief that a client can work towards her own self-development, without the help of a professional. The Process Work model is taught to adult learners, in adult education settings such as seminars, workshops, classroom instruction and fieldwork. It is often studied as continuing education, in conjunction with a higher degree in the field of mental health. Many students and practitioners attend institutions founded in adult education principles and practices, influencing the way Process Work is practiced and taught. For these reasons, adult education is included as one of the background paradigms influencing the Process Work of model role relationships, particularly in contexts in which it is taught (such as learning communities and institutes).

Historical Influences of the Adult Education Movement

Adult education refers to a sub-discipline in the field of education that focuses on education of adults past public school age. It has a long and rich history in the United States, with roots in the political movement to empower adults as democratic citizens. Following Dewey’s (1916) pragmatic approach to education, the adult education movement is based on the idea that in order for democracy to work, people need to be empowered to participate in the political process and in the choices and policies that affect their lives. A significant aspect of the adult education movement sought to help people realize the American Dream by integrating them (particularly immigrants) into the mainstream and helping them to become functioning citizens who were able to participate in American life.

Current Trends in Adult Education

Today, the adult education movement still reflects its historic roots, and is further shaped by the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s and the growing influence of relativist, constructivist approaches in the social sciences. The major trends in adult education today include self-directed learning, critical reflection, learning-to-learn, and multicultural and experiential learning models (Brookfield, 1996).

Self-directed learning means that the learner takes control of the learning process. She is responsible for setting her learning goals, locating resources, deciding which methods to use, and evaluating her progress. Within this model, the teacher is viewed as a resource, not as the expert. The critical reflection model, following the philosophic direction of the Frankfurt School, views education as the process of questioning and replacing assumptions that have been hitherto uncritically accepted as representing commonsense wisdom (Mezirow, 1991). This model strives to help learners embrace alternative perspectives on ideas previously taken for granted and to recognize how dominant cultural values shape and limit knowledge. The “learning-to-learn” model proposes that becoming skilled at learning in a range of different situations and through a range of different styles is an overarching purpose of adult education (Smith, 1990). Multicultural education acknowledges that traditional forms of education have overlooked the role that cultural styles and influences play in the education process (Cassara, 1990). Experiential learning is based on the belief that education should be grounded in adults’ experiences, and that these experiences represent a valuable resource. According to this model, “experience is the adult learner’s living textbook” (Lindeman, 1926: 7). The gradual accumulation of experience over the course of one’s life is seen as the chief difference between learning in adulthood and learning at earlier stages in the life span.

Adult Education and Process Work

The emphasis on awareness of rank, hierarchy, and critical reflection in adult education is reflected in the Process Work understanding of multiple role relationships. Modern theories of adult education address the problem of rank and power imbalance in traditional educational models. The traditional expert-learner model creates a passive style of learning, which adult education models seek to change by making the role of learner an active, initiating role in the learning activity. Rather than uncritically absorbing information and ideas, the adult learner directs her own learning journey and plays an active role in setting and achieving learning goals.

The adult education principle that the learner guides the learning process is similar to Process Work’s client-centered, feedbackoriented approach. The learner’s own style of information processing, integrating material, and becoming self-aware is paramount in the Process Work learning process. The learner is also expected to critically interact with teachers, peers, and the learning material, affecting relationships between supervisor and trainee, teacher and student, and even therapist and client. In contrast to the medical paradigm which underlies professional psychology, in which the client is seen as the less powerful member of the dyad, the adult education paradigm sees the learner as being “in the driver’s seat” of her educational process. Similarly in Process Work, the client or student directs the learning process through instruction to the therapist or teacher either directly, or indirectly, through feedback and signals of non-compliance, which the teacher and therapist is trained to notice and follow.

Like the Process Work paradigm, adult education is holistic, following the original vision of participatory democracy that the whole person must be developed to participate in the democratic process. Thus, adult education methods include not just intellectual learning, but personal experience, and bring emotional, spiritual, and relational dimensions into the learning process. Because relational and emotional intelligence is equally valued, challenging interpersonal situations that may arise in multiple role relationships are not avoided, but appreciated as opportunities for further learning. The participatory democracy paradigm behind adult education is also evident in the Process Work organizational structure, as students and teachers together co-create therapeutic processes and learning environments.

V. Conclusion

In the foregoing discussion, we have described four main paradigmatic influences on Process Work theory and practice, and its approach to multiple role relationships. This exploration seems to us to be a necessary first step towards a full articulation of Process Work’s unique approach to multiple role relationships. By exploring these various influences, we have positioned ourselves outside the Process Work model to a degree, enabling us to consider the theories, habits of culture, and historical and philosophical influences that have helped to shape it. This has helped us to relativize our understanding of the Process Work approach to multiple role relationships, and to explicate some of the biases with which we might enter subsequent phases of its investigation.

Process work is primarily an inter-disciplinary body of thought and set of techniques, influenced by a variety of paradigms. Its practitioners and training programs work in a wide range of settings. Currently entering its third decade of existence, Process Work is being challenged to reflect critically on the variety of influences it has come to reflect, and the many areas in which it may be applied. In order to relate to the wider field of facilitation and awareness work, it is increasingly important that Process Workers be familiar with the paradigmatic assumptions of Process Work and how these relate to other disciplines and modalities. Additionally, as Process Work communities around the world seek recognition and accreditation from national or state licensing boards, they are being required to articulate Process Work methods and approaches in terms of mainstream professional standards. The capacity for critical self-reflection and the adoption of mainstream ethical standards may be seen as signs of Process Work’s increasing maturity and involvement in the world at large. A further step in this process requires that Process Work’s unique approach to multiple role relationships be explored in detail, articulated in a way that is congruent with its background paradigms, and communicated effectively to the wider community.


  1. Mindell entitled the lecture in which he first presented Process Work to the Jungian community, “Jungian Psychology Has a Daughter.”
  2. Joseph Wakefield. “Dual Role Relationships in Training.” (June 11, 2003).
  3. See Carlos Castaneda. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (New York: Penguin, 1968), and Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972).
  4. Later published as The Shaman’s Body: A New Shamanism for Transforming Health, Relationships, and Community (San Francisco: Harper, 1993).
  5. Jane English and Gia-Fu Feng, trans, Tao Te Ching, 17 (New York: Vintage, 1972)
  6. Arnold Mindell, Dreaming While Awake: Techniques for 24-hour Lucid Dreaming. (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads, 2000).



Julie Diamond, Ph.D., is one of the original founders of Process Work worldwide and co-author of its training programs. She has helped develop Process Work communities in North America, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Her upcoming book, The Language of Dreaming: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Process Work, co-authored with Lee Spark Jones, will be available in 2004.

Lee Spark Jones, Ph.D., is a Process Work diplomate. Originally from Australia, Lee is now based in Portland, Oregon, where she has a private practice and specializes in teaching qualitative research methods for expanding Process Work research. Lee is currently studying non-verbal communication, particularly in inter-species relationships.