‘Rooted and reaching’ – a qualitative exploration of the place and efficacy of psychosynthesis in contemporary psychotherapeutic practice in Ireland

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Hamilton, Wayne
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The purpose of this research was to explore the place and efficacy of Psychosynthesis in contemporary psychotherapeutic practice in Ireland. The literature examined looked at the roots and origins of Psychosynthesis along with a layer of understanding of transpersonal psychology given that this is the aspect of Psychosynthesis that differentiates from other mainstream approaches. It was important for the researcher to provide a rounded perspective on the approach covering its understanding of the psyche, its application in clinical practice as well as assessment, contraindications and critiques. Furthermore the presence, accessibility and availability of practitioners and training courses in Ireland were established. The relevance of these core headings holds that psychotherapy is a profession that is soon to come under the umbrella of CORU following statutory regulation under which robust, evidence based approaches will be favoured as has been the case in the UK context. Therefore some attention was also given to how psychosynthesis integrates itself within other jurisdictions. The research design was qualitative in nature and used semi-structured interviews to gather the data. Six participants were recruited who had a core training in Psychosynthesis. This control group provided a stratified sample range of experience and varying orientations in terms of how psychosynthesis lends itself or conflicts with other modalities. Thematic analysis and the use of hermeneutic empathy sought to broaden the sphere of understanding and to further open the conversation around why psychosynthesis has something of an unclear identity in the Irish context. A further theme that emerged was the enmeshment of transpersonal phenomena with the current crises of faith following the church scandals in Ireland and how this brings a resistance to philosophies like those underpinning psychosynthesis. Another theme looked at how the wider culture struggles with integrating approaches that are holistic in nature and assessed whether political and economic barriers in Ireland may be restrictive in what can emerge within the profession along with the entrenched position of the health services in what therapeutic approaches are favoured. Some interesting findings emerged in terms of the length and breadth of the psychodynamic constructive work that is favoured by psychosynthesis practitioners before they would work at a transpersonal level with clients. The approach contains elements like creativity and mindfulness that are becoming increasingly popular as standalone interventions and therefore can be suggested to be a very comprehensive framework for mental health service provision. What materialised strongly from the research was that psychosynthesis in Ireland has work to do in terms of identifying and disidentifying itself given the resistance encountered in a culture that may be said to hold inherent trauma memory and as such is characterised by repression rather than expansion. Some nuances of theoretical understanding were also evident however this could possibly be attributed to the broad scope that is ‘the Egg’ model of the psyche. The researcher is well aware that this project comes with limitations and some of the findings may be said to be subjective rather than conclusive. Hence he has recommended further research in the areas of existential crises of faith and resistance to the transpersonal sphere and a quantitative study that would establish the demand for approaches of this nature. A further topic for exploration would be to probe why the superego dominated collective culture splits off holistic, creative elements from its understanding of psychological interventions, particularly when this may be said to be less cost effective if these are provided and funded separately.