• Google translate:  
Increase Font Sizesmallerreset

Sex, Lies & Co-Counseling

Article Index
Sex, Lies & Co-Counseling
What is Re-evaluation Counseling?
Why This Article Now
Harvey Jackins Sexual Abuse of Women
Sex in Counseling Situations
Punishment, Denial, Complicity
The Rational Island versus the Wide World
Does RC Philosophy Contribute to Abuse
Credits and Contact Info

What is Re-evaluation Counseling?

And some of you may simply be wondering, what is this Re-evaluation Counseling? It's an international peer therapy organization with perhaps 10,000 members in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. RC has appealed to many progressive-minded people because it provides low-cost training in simple therapy techniques, because co-counseling sessions have a seeming egalitarian quality (counselor and client trade off roles), and because the movement emphasizes human liberation from all forms of oppression and injustice.

RC postulates that "everyone is born with tremendous intellectual potential, natural zest, and lovingness," but that these qualities become blocked by accumulated emotional "distress." Most of this distress is said to reflect not only individual hurts, but also internalized oppression, such as sexism or homophobia, which warps the psyches of people in both dominant and target groups. Co-counseling practice centers on helping persons in the client role to "discharge" their accumulated distress, or "patterns" -- to release the pent-up feelings through cathartic processes such as shaking, crying, laughing, and yawning. Discharge is said to enable people's essential goodness to "re-emerge", to help them to "re-evaluate" their experiences, to think more "rationally" or "clearly" than before. The counselor's role is primarily to encourage discharge through warm, attentive listening and encouragement.

RC theory draws a sharp distinction between one's distress patterns and one's "real" self. All hurtful or oppressive behavior, it asserts, results from distress patterns -- thus hurt is never anyone's fault. It is often important to interrupt the behavior, to "prevent the pattern from operating," but the person should not be punished. RC places great emphasis on "appreciating" people. It discourages criticism (unless couched in appreciative terms) and -- in theory -- shuns ridicule, shame, and blame.

People usually join RC by taking an introductory class of about 15 weeks. After that, some people just find one other person to "co-counsel" with; others become active in the RC "Community": more classes, workshops, conferences, support groups. There is an elaborate structure: RC teachers get certified, usually by the leader of the local chapter, or "area," who is called the "Area Reference Person" (ARP). Next in rank is the "Regional Reference Person" (RRP). Leadership for anti-oppression work throughout the Communities is exercised by "International Liberation Reference Persons" for women, lesbians and gay men, working class, Chicanos, Jews, Blacks, elders, mental health system survivors, middle class, and many other social groups. (Including men: thus Charlie Kreiner's position.) At the top, in Seattle, is Harvey Jackins, "International Reference Person for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities." Jackins also heads the organization's press, called "Rational Island Publishers," as well as "Personal Counselors, Inc." which, unlike all other formal RC practice, provides one-way, fee-for-service counseling. (1) [Notes are at the end of the article.]

Everyone in RC is encouraged to "become leaders" and, in theory, people exercise formal leadership to the extent that they have learned to counsel well and have "freed up" their submerged rationality. In practice, there is nothing to distinguish the system from -- at best -- a benevolent dictatorship. Jackins has the power to appoint and remove all Reference Persons and other leaders; he can bar people from RC events or expel them altogether; he can create and dissolve whole areas and regions. Through Rational Island, he controls the many RC publications. Jackins delegates much of this authority to officials below him in the organization, and many policy decisions are discussed widely before being decided, but there are no independent checks on Jackins' power. This institutional authority is largely augmented by Jackins' personal charisma and the admiration of his followers, but it's the institutional authority which is key. When I was part of the Ithaca RC Community, it was somewhat fashionable to deride "Harvey Jackass" (note: very un-cultlike behavior) without actually doing anything to challenge his power. Being able to mouth off about Harvey, I think, made it easier for people to avoid facing the organization's blatant lack of democracy.