Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy
ISSUES OF THE CULTURAL PARADIGM SHIFT
A New AHP Energy Center
Leland “Chip” Baggett
issues that represent a growing concern among many members of AHP, but which, as
of yet, have not found a clearly defined niche in our organization,
namely—professional issues related to a major paradigm shift which seems to be
occurring in our culture—will be addressed by a new AHP energy center.
concept of paradigm shifts was developed by Thomas Kuhn in his book, The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions, first published in 1962. The term has since
become widely popularized in the culture, I suspect because it speaks to
something of core importance to many people.
as is often the case, in its popularity it has been so loosely translated and,
in some cases, misapplied, that the term has become ambiguous and a point of
controversy. For this reason, I would like to begin by offering a brief summary
of the concept as developed by Kuhn.
word “paradigm” refers to a working set of assumptions and premises about a
given topic of scientific research. It represents a theoretical construct which
defines the phenomena being investigated, and to a large extent determines the
appropriateness of approach and methodology of research to be used.
to Kuhn’s historical perspective, the development of scientific thought does
not occur in a simple linear process whereby one idea is built upon another,
then another, in a smooth building-block fashion until a single agreed-upon
conclusion is arrived at. Rather, there is often a kind of competition of
hypotheses and theories held by different factions or schools of thought.
paradigm may be prevalent until it runs into a snag. That is, until some aspect
of the phenomenon being investigated cannot be accounted for according to that
paradigm, and/or when significant anomalies become apparent which cannot be
adequately explained (or researched) within the constructs of the paradigm. At
such a time, there is a theoretical gap out of which alternative (competing)
paradigms may emerge that more adequately account for the phenomenon and/or
anomalies being observed. In many cases, competing paradigms may coexist for an
extended period of time. This is when each paradigm answers some but not all
questions, and, therefore, cannot claim exclusive dominance in the field. In
such cases, we could say that “the jury is still out.” A paradigm shift
occurs when the predominant paradigm is superseded by a new one.
to Kuhn, the history of science is replete with competing and shifting
paradigms. Some of these shifts might be considered to be relatively minor in
that they involve only a narrow, esoteric domain of research within a particular
scientific field, never entering popular consciousness. Other shifts may be more
penetrating in their implications, sometimes involving interrelated fields and
having a noticeable impact on popular consciousness. From a cultural point of
view, these may be considered major paradigm shifts.
advent of humanistic psychology represented an emergent competing paradigm in
the field of psychology in the 1960s when Maslow and others challenged the
dominant (psychoanalytic, behavioral, and physical science) paradigms as being
inadequate to deeply understand the human experience. While the fundamental
precepts of humanistic psychology have matured and spread since then, we are
still in a period of coexisting paradigms in psychology. From a strictly
theoretical perspective, this coexistence provides a healthy and much-needed
diversity of thought, stimulating dialogue, and growth for the development of
openness to such diversity is not generally welcomed in the professional field
of applied psychology, specifically as related to psychotherapy and related
mental health services, which are still dominated by the medical model rooted in
old paradigmatic thought. The political and financial institutions that control
licensure, standards of ethics, and third-party payments, are rooted in the old
paradigm and continue to hold exclusive rights to define and regulate
professional practice. This limits practitioners and clients to certain
constraints that many find unhelpful, if not counterproductive, to the healing
process. At a time when, in clinical practice, much emphasis is being placed on
managed care and symptom relief, many healing professionals are being forced to
comply with mainstream thought and practices, even though their own experience
and wisdom impel them to address broader and deeper issues [and practices] of
consciousness and healing. A serious rethinking of clinical theory, skills, and
ethics is called for. Yet, these practitioners must grapple with these issues in
relative isolation, without professional or political support.
chasm between these professional orientations is becoming even more pronounced
now, at the turn of the millennium. Many thinkers believe that we are entering
an unprecedented turning point in the history of human consciousness. A growing
body of thinkers from fields as diverse as physics, consciousness studies,
social sciences, and the healing arts believe that we are in the beginning
stages of a major paradigm shift in our understanding of what it means to be
fully human. The dramatic increase in the reliance of cyberspace communication,
the expansion from identification with a local sense of community to a global
one, a pervasive rethinking of gender-related issues, a deepening understanding
of world ecology, and the evolving relationship between science and
spirituality—can all be seen as aspects of this shift. The current paradigm
shift can be seen as involving an awakening into an identity that transcends our
psycho-biological understanding of self into a multidimensional, cosmic
ramifications of this shift are multifaceted, impacting us in many ways. One
area in which this shift is evident, particularly in the west, is the
significant increase of individuals seeking alternative, holistic medicine, and
spiritual or trans-personal-oriented therapies. A remarkable number of persons
report having had mystical experiences, expanded perceptual experiences, or
other non-ordinary state experiences for which they seek assistance in
understanding and integration. Conventional psychological approaches often prove
inadequate to address these types of experiences. Given the current
political/professional/economic milieu, finding appropriate professional
assistance can be problematic.
spiritual and transpersonal aspects of human experience, though controversial at
times, have been an implicit interest of humanistic psychology since its
inception. Early on, in our organizational adolescence, some of these
controversies, such as the relationship between existential and transpersonal
psychologies, were not resolved. Many who were transpersonally oriented split
off to form a separate association: the Association for Transpersonal
Psychology. More recently, a growing number of persons who embrace both
humanistic and transpersonal perspectives consider the separation between these
orientations as representing an intellectual dichotomy that does not accurately
reflect or adequately serve integrative, multidimensional human experience.
current climate of reconciliation between these orientations is especially
timely in light of the paradigm shift, if not part of the shift itself. Yet,
there has not been a formalized body within AHP that addresses these issues in
the clinical application of the healing arts. While many humanistic and
transpersonal therapists and holistic healers feel a deep affinity with the
ideas and values espoused by AHP, our response as an organization has been
minimal, creating a void in our service to professional practitioners.
A new energy center is being created to fill this void by providing a forum for addressing the wide range of cultural, philosophical, and metaphysical implications of the paradigm shift, especially as these relate to professional practice. Particular emphasis will be placed on clinical, theoretical, ethical, and political concerns.
The formal structure of the energy center will continue to evolve as members present their interests and needs in dialogue, written papers, e-mails, presentations, and interactions on the AHP “Professional Issues of the Paradigm Shift” energy center’s web page on ahpweb.org If there is sufficient interest expressed to have a conference specifically addressing these issues, this may happen, too.
Those interested in joining this exciting endeavor can contact CHIP BAGGETT by e-mail: cbaggett@NClink.netor by conventional mail, 382 Montford Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, or by visiting http://ahpweb.org
Reprinted with permission from the August/September 2000 AHP (Association for Humanistic Psychology) Perspective magazine.
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