My therapeutic orientation is in Process Work, also called Process-Oriented Facilitation. I received my primary facilitation training at the Process Work Institute in Portland, OR. For three years I have benefitted from the healing power and effectiveness of this paradigm – first as a client, then as a student, and now as a facilitator.
What is Process Work, anyway?
Process Work can be tough to define because it has so many branches and applications, but to simplify, it is focused on finding meaning and significance in our own inner and outer conflicts/crises, and to successfully integrate that meaning into our daily lives. I am personally interested in Process-Oriented approaches toward altered and extreme states of consciousness, which are often labeled as “mental illness.”
When it comes to unusual states of mind, Process Work takes a different view from more traditional interpretations, in that its approach is non-pathologizing. In other words, Process Work does not fully embrace mainstream notions of mental wellness and illness. Instead, Process Work uses the more specific terms altered and extreme states of consciousness – states of mind that are outside of what is called “normal” but that nonetheless exist within all of us.
We tend to disavow these states in ourselves and others. Yet altered and extreme states contain so much meaning and important material for individuals experiencing them, as well as their communities.
Key to Process Work is the belief that when something disturbs you (like another person, mood or unusual state), there is meaning behind that disturbance – and that meaning is accessible in the moment. Something new and useful is trying to emerge. Frequently such emergences are deeply disturbing to both the people experiencing them as well as their families and supporters.
Process Work uses a three-tiered model of reality.
Consensus Reality – that is, the reality that most people agree on – is only part of the picture. There are also non-consensual levels of reality. If someone is not living in the reality you and I are experiencing, they may have less awareness of consensus reality than you and I do. But they might have greater awareness of more subjective, dreamlike experiences as well as moments of profound oneness. In Process Work the goal is to notice subtle signals from these places and help connect them to everyday reality.
A fundamental belief in Process Work is that when we marginalize something – an experience, a part of ourselves, or a part of someone else – the marginalized energy will come back stronger and stronger until we give it an opportunity to make its meaning known. The quality of the marginalized energy that disturbs your everyday life can be viewed as another part of you that is trying to come forward.
There is more to Process Work than what I’ve described here. To learn more please visit the website of Arnold and Amy Mindell.