Psychosynthesis as a leadership coaching psychology
3 July 2016
In early June, we (myself, Paul Elliott and Maggie Hacker) attended the Psychosynthesis International Conference in Sicily, at which we ran a well-attended workshop on Psychosynthesis as a leadership coaching psychology. You can find a copy of our slides here (although they might need some explanation!).
This post unpacks some of my observations and learnings from the conference.
- My map of the psychosynthesis community subtly changed, as I discovered more camps, sub-camps and possible splits than I had previously imagined. The conference was organised (or ungenerously one might say, disorganised) by the Italian institute and mainly attended by Italian therapist and counsellors. As such it was a wonderful demonstration of how strong psychosynthesis is in Italy. I am grateful to Keith Sylvester, who helped me appreciate the distinction between the Italian school of psychosynthesis which has focused on the transpersonal dimension as well as Assagioli’s mystical leanings and the anglo-american school which evolved separately and has sought a more holistic integration of psychosynthesis with psychodynamic depth psychology and is well represented in northern Europe and Scandinavia. I concluded that the best chance of finding people sympathetic to and supportive of our project to making it more accessible to the organisational and leadership world would be with the later. We are taking steps towards joining the EFPP (European Federation of Psychosynthesis Psychotherapists), on the basis that we could help create a group within this focused on organisational practice and leadership coaching. We are planning to attend their conference in Germany next year, as part of continuing to build our international connections. There seems to be an appetite for a European version of our PGCPLC that concentrates the contact time, for example into two blocks of five days and builds in more virtual meeting and self-directed learning, rather than five long weekends.
- I didn’t see so much of the split I had previously come across from reading a number of excellent papers, i.e. between the ‘integral psychosynthesis’ direction espoused by Kenneth Sorensen and the ‘therapeutic healing of the wounded child’ version developed by Firman and Gila. This is far too complex a story to even briefly describe here, so I will return to it in another post. Suffice to say I lean towards Sorensen’s perspective which involves returning to Assagioli’s original writing and unpicking some of the relativistic pluralistic biases which have become too identified with psychosynthesis. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Kenneth speak passionately about the seven core concepts of Assagioli and I introduced myself to him afterwards. He runs a training school in Norway but only for therapists, so I see a potential link up on the coaching front.
- Despite what I said earlier, we saw plenty of evidence of the rapid emergence or leadership as a hot topic within the psychosynthesis community. Despite being bizarrely left off the initial topic list by our Italian organisers, many speakers and workshop leaders spoke about leadership from a psychosynthetic perspective. For example, I attended a session on inner leadership by Dorte Schrienert (from Germany) in which she combined the same three perspectives that weave together on our PGCPLC course – psychosynthesis, developmental psychology and systemic practice (another post on the topic of leadership is going to follow shortly).
- We also noticed the extent to which many therapists are becoming coaches, as well as vice-versa. We met people from across the world working with both modalities or looking to run a coaching practice alongside their therapy practice. Paul attended an excellent session by Didi Firman and Jon Schottland (from the US) on life coaching and how to work with the Will, in a similar way to how we combine Trifocal Vision with the coaching GROW model.
Why are therapists migrating to leadership coaching? An obvious draw to leadership coaching is that organisations are able to pay more than individuals. There is also the challenge of working with the complexities of organisational systems as well as an opportunity to make a difference to more people through helping individual leaders develop. Our course is also about connecting with evolutionary purpose and meeting the emerging crises in society with a transformational and evolutionary level of leadership.
Our PGCPLC course is the only short programme that brings psychosynthesis together with leadership coaching in the UK. The six-month programme sets up new coaches to start practising and helps experienced therapists or counsellors adapt their skills to coaching. As well as a Post-graduate certification and qualification through the Institute and Middlesex University, students also gain fast-track professional membership of APECS. HR departments increasingly expect coaches to have all of these credentials. Those students new to Psychosynthesis can continue with the MA in Psychosynthesis Psychology with the Institute to deepen their psychological mindedness, skills and development, whilst practising as a supervised coach.
Coaches learn how to work with the whole person and navigate the relationship between our inner and outer lives; to tackle issues of performance, behaviour and change within the context of purpose, meaning and values. Our evolutionary approach focuses on the core human skills of communication and relationship, on developing awareness, activating the will and actualising potential.
Having started in Sicily I’ve ended this piece with a plug for our course, the second run of which starts in September. Please forward this blog link to anyone you know who might be looking for a coaching course!