The website Intuition in Psychotherapy is based on half a century of work in psychoeducation and psychotherapy. Consisting mostly of written documents, it is submitted to potential readers as sharing of knowledge and professional experience. It does not advocate psychotherapeutic approaches which disregard scientific knowledge or ignore anthropological and psychological research. Au contraire, I am profoundly convinced that intuition is an indispensable guide in psychotherapy, if and only if it is based on deep and broad culture and is constantly submitted to self-criticism, scrutiny by peers and verification of the effects of intervention on the client.
The approaches I use and teach are based on abundantly documented hypotheses and theories : the psychodynamic theory of personality, the epigenetic principle, psychoeducational and holistic approaches, the concept of vital energy, the hypothesis of echo healing.
Work during and after my Ph.D. studies in sociology has lead me to conduct research projects respecting the requirements of scientific methodology, largely inspired by the « exact sciences » : careful observation of a phenomenon, elaboration of hypotheses, testing of them through a detailed research protocol, presentation and discussion of results that become the basis for further research. Indispensable as a general guideline, the scientific method may become counterproductive in the day to day practice of psychotherapy if it is followed through minutely detailed specifications. Then the client feels reduced to the status of a “case”, resists the testing of hypotheses or refuses to follow the course of action proposed; he feels threatened or diminished in his personal integrity, perceives the action of his therapist as an attempt to dominate him.
According to my professional experience, psychotherapeutic intervention cannot be based on phenomena observed according to preset dimensions nor follow point by point a predetermined protocol. The inner and outer worlds of both client and therapist constantly change. Each encounter is a new universe, where the client reveals himself under aspects previously unknown or superficially known, both by him and his therapist. His world is constantly modified by new events that often influence him in a powerful way. In the strict sense of the word, psychotherapeutic intervention cannot present itself as science, although it is quite legitimate to describe it as an art-and-science : intervention is done by someone who, on the basis of knowledge taken from scientific research and heritage, constantly adapts to and helps his client adapt to reality as a moving, fluid universe. The therapeutic process is « work in progress » where client and therapist are engaged in a cooperative venture, as in exploring unknown or little known territory. For that reason the therapist’s intuition is an indispensable resource.
Intuition? The French philosopher Henri Bergson defines it as “intelligence rooted in instinct” (l’intelligence chevillée à l’instinct)1. It is a form of understanding based on what the client expresses through verbal and body language, his whole life story and also by the way he interacts with his therapist. A subtle interplay of transference – counter transference leads the therapist to pay much attention to both his subjective feelings and those of his client as he expresses them through verbal and body messages (posture, facial expression, tone of voice, gestures). On that basis he tries to differentiate between his own subjective world and what is felt by the client, all of this put in the perspective of each interlocutor’s biography. By adding to verbal interaction several body psychotherapy techniques whereby the client, on the spot, with the active collaboration of his therapist, engages in exercises such as assisted relaxation, secure expression of aggressiveness through martial arts, sequences of massage therapy, guided or spontaneous imagery, psychodrama, one obtains an interactive situation where the therapist is both actor and observer, emitting as well as gathering a heavy flow of information.
In processing this mass of data he tries to ascertain how his client evolves in his healing process, how he gradually conquers his autonomy and identity. For my part I endorse as one of my guidelines a theory proposed by Professor Jean-Charles Crombez, psychiatrist, whereby each individual has his own self-healing process.2 The therapist’s role is to find how this process unfolds and facilitate its accomplishment.
In his efforts to treat a great quantity of data, he is lead to trust his own processes of analysis and synthesis, part of which are unconscious, where emotional elements are highly important. In this sense I speak here of intuition, a form of knowledge that is not strictly of the intellect, where empathy for the client is a guide of prime value, not to be mistaken for automatic responses generated by unconscious counter-transference. As well illustrated by the work of Conrad Lecomte and collaborators3 , the psychotherapeutic process unfolds in the encounter between two subjective worlds, the therapist’s and the client’s, who also has intuition.
How does intuition operate? Whether it belongs to the therapist or the client, on what conditions may it be trusted? Such questions are impossible to answer within the confines of a short presentation of this website. But all the documents found on this site may be considered as attempts to provide answers to questions about the nature and use of intuition, although they are not solely oriented in that direction. The site will also harbour documents by colleagues who highly value intuition or others who offer different but stimulating views. Finally, let us add that reliance on intuition requires from its user the completion of his own psychotherapeutic process, with the support of a knowledgeable and experimented guide.
In sum the documents found on this site express in multiple ways endeavours to practice and teach psychotherapy with recourse to scientific knowledge while giving great importance to intuition and its development. Thus I hope to support those who show interest for psychotherapy, possibly to the point of practicing it for themselves or in support of others. Within a holistic perspective of human development, my goals are to help understand psychological processes, support the development of healing power, favour personal growth and stimulate contributions to the common heritage.
- Bergson, H., 1996. L’évolution créatrice. Paris: Quadrige/PUF, 26. [↩]
- Crombez, J.-C. (1994). La guérison en écho. Beauport, Qc: Publications MNH. [↩]
- Lamboy, B., Blanchet, A. et Lecomte, C. L’opérationnalisation du concept de conscience réflexive du psychothérapeute, dans Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée, volume 54, no 3, Septembre 2004, pages 189-205. [↩]