An Overview: Growth Counseling and the Five Streams of Psychotherapy

Contemporary Growth Therapies
by Howard J. Clinebell, Jr.

An Overview: Growth Counseling and the Five Streams of Psychotherapy

The basic assumption that undergirds this book is that 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.”

It’s important to spell out more fully the perspective from which the various therapies will be viewed in this book. I call this perspective Growth Counseling. This is an approach to perceiving and understanding people, and to helping them grow through counseling and therapy. Here is an overview of the working principles of Growth Counseling:(1)

— 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 ad-justing 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.

The Five Streams

The abundance of therapies available today poses a perplexing problem for those who are convinced that no one approach has all the therapeutic answers. The issue is how to develop an integrated eclecticism that utilizes insights and methods from a variety of sources coherently and in ways that maximize the unique personality resources of the practitioner. The difficulty that stems from just assembling therapeutic components from different sources is that this approach usually produces a kind of hash eclecticism –a theory from here, a technique from there — with no integrating structure, no internally consistent core of assumptions about the nature, process, and goals of therapeutic change. Those who practice the growthing arts on such a shaky conceptual foundation run the risk of unwittingly using concepts and methods that work against one another and thus diminish the effectiveness of the process. Their approach lacks the power-for-growth that can come from using a consistent coherent conceptuality.

For a number of years, I used the psychoanalytic, neo-Freudian system as such a unifying conceptual framework. I now find the basic principles of Growth Counseling as summarized above to be a more change-producing conceptual framework. This orientation offers a framework of assumptions and principles within which a counselor-therapist-teacher can develop her or his unique, integrated approach to the practice of the various healing grow-thing arts.

There are various ways of categorizing contemporary psychotherapies. I find it most meaningful to divide the many approaches into five major categories or streams.(2) Each stream includes a variety of different therapies. The streams overlap at many points. Some of the therapies can be placed logically in more than one stream. But in spite of these problems, I see this schema as a useful way of identifying the major thrusts within contemporary therapies.

Growth Counseling draws on insights and methods from all five streams but more heavily from the last three. Viewing all five streams from the growth perspective heightens aware-ness of how they complement, balance, and enrich one another in many ways as well as how they are in conflict in other ways. Here, then, is an overview of the five streams that will be explored from the growth perspective in this book.

Stream 1: Traditional Insight-oriented Therapies. This stream includes the vast majority of therapies developed before the last fifteen years. The stream began with the seminal work of Freud, around the turn of this century, and includes the many variations on the psycho-analytic-insight model of therapy. Many of these traditional therapies are “contemporary” in that they are still used widely today. Strictly speaking, they are not “growth therapies,” but they must be considered in this book because they provide crucial insights that illuminate the dynamics of the depth dimension of personality and of deeply diminished growth. In the first four chapters of this book I will highlight some growth resources from a variety of these traditional therapies.

Stream 2: Behavior/Action/Crisis Therapies. This stream includes a cluster of diverse therapies linked by the common assumption that maladaptive learning is the cause of pro-blems of living and that behavioral and/or cognitive relearning is the heart of effective ther-apy. In chapter 5, I will highlight some growth resources from several behavior therapies.

Stream 3: Human Potentials Therapies. This stream includes those therapies whose explicit goal is the actualizing of persons’ full potentialities. From among these therapies I will dis-cuss (in chapters 6, 7, and 8) three that have influenced my understanding and practice most –transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, and the body therapies.

Stream 4: Relational/Systems/Radical Therapies. This stream includes a variety of therapies that focus on changing social systems so that all their members will be freer to grow to-ward wholeness. The stream includes therapies utilizing ad hoc therapy groups, growth gro-ups, and self-help groups as well as those which seek to enable healing and growth in natural groups such as families. From among this cluster of therapies I will highlight growth resources from family therapies (in chapter 9) and from feminist therapies (in chapter 10). Feminist therapies are “radical” therapies in that they aim at both personal growth and social change.

Stream 5: Spiritual Growth Therapies. This stream consists of those therapies which regard spiritual growth as central .and essential in all healing and growth. The Jungian and existentialist therapies (see chapter 4) are a part of this stream. From this stream, I will ex-plore (in chapter II) the remarkable growth resources in psychosynthesis, which is also a human potentials therapy. The stream also includes pastoral counseling and psychotherapy (which incorporate healing-growthing resources from the Hebrew-Christian tradition) and the Eastern approaches to enhancing consciousness which have many parallels with Western psychotherapies.

For Further Exploration of Growth Counseling

Clinebell, Charlotte H. (This was the author’s name when she wrote this book. Subsequently she chose a new name, Charlotte Ellen). Counseling for Liberation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976. Explores counseling and consciousness-raising as methods of liberating women-men relationships.

Clinebell, Howard. Growth Counseling: Hope-Centered Methods of Actualizing Human Wholeness. Nashville: Abingdon, 1979. Discusses the theory, methods, and theology of Growth Counseling.

—Growth Counseling: New Tools for Clergy and Laity. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1973, 1974. Fifteen do-it-yourself cassette training courses for learning Growth Counseling techniques. Part I — “Enriching Marriage and Family Life”; Part II — “Coping Constructively with Crises.”

—Growth Counseling for Marriage Enrichment: Pre-Marriage and the Early Years. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975. Applies the growth counseling approach to marriage enrichment, particularly during the preparation and early stages.

—Growth Counseling for Mid-Years Couples. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977. Marriage enrichment and counseling methods for the mid years.

—Growth Groups. Nashville: Abingdon, 1977. Spells out the growth-group approach

and applies it to marriage and family enrichment, creative singlehood, youth work, women’s and men’s liberation, social problems.

Goble, Frank. The Third Force: The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. New York: Pocket Books, 1971. A systematic overview of Maslow’s basic theory.

Gould, Roger L. Transformations, Growth and Change in Adult Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1978. Describes growthful ways of coping with adult life crises.

Maslow, Abraham H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking Press, 1971. Explores health and pathology, creativeness, values, education, and transcendence.

—Religions, Values and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964. Discusses transcendental experiences, the split between science and religion, hope and values in education.

Toward a Psychology of Being, 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand, 1968. A classic statement of Maslow’s growth-oriented psychology.

Miller, Jean Baker. Toward a New Psychology of Women. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976. Describes how growth is stifled by sexism and how sexism can be overcome.

Otto, Herbert A., ed. Human Potentialities: The Challenge and the Promise. St. Louis:Warren H. Green, 1968. A collection of papers by Gardner Murphy, Abraham Maslow, Charlotte Buhler, Clark Moustakas, Alexander Lowen, Herbert Otto, and others exploring human potentialities.

—and Mann, John, eds. The Ways of Growth: Approaches to Expanding Awareness. New York: Viking Press, 1968. A collection of nineteen papers describing a wide variety of methods for facilitating growth.

Schultz, Duane. Growth Psychology: Models of Healthy Personality. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977. Discusses the nature of wholeness in the thought of Allport, Rogers, Frornm, Maslow, Jung, Franki, and Peris.

Shostrom, Everett L. Actualizing Therapy. San Diego: Edits Publishers, 1976. A synthesis of growth concepts and methods from various psychotherapeutic approaches.


1. For an in-depth discussion of these principles see my Growth Counseling (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979), chapters I and 2.

2. I am building on Abraham Maslow’s observation regarding the first, second, and third

forces in psychology. What he described as the “fourth force” — transpersonal psychology — is the fifth stream in my schema. (See Maslow’s Toward a Psychology of Being, 2nd ed. [New York: Van Nostrand, 1968], pp. iii-iv.)