I’m Jean Hamilton, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California since 1986. I have also been a member of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities for over 45 years. I took many classes in RC before I became licensed as a therapist—in large part because RC’s theory and practice made so much sense to me. Its understanding of the nature of human beings, how they get hurt, and how they heal from those hurts rang true to me. Its way of assisting people to recover from past hurts, or distresses, and regain their full intelligence has been, and has continued to be, a guiding force in my life and work.
Before I became a therapist myself I had some experience with the mental health system. And since becoming a therapist, including my years in graduate school and internships and my many years practicing as a therapist, I have been exposed to many other theoretical orientations to providing psychotherapy. I currently work with many therapists who have been trained in different schools of thought. None of what I have learned from other more traditional forms of psychology has offered what RC has to me and to the people I have assisted in my clinical work.
RC’s model of human beings and how we accumulate distress is not entirely out of sync with other forms of mental health work; however, what RC has to offer is a fuller picture that humans can heal, through the discharge process, from the hurts and distresses they acquire. The discharge process, which is natural to all humans if not interfered with, provides for healing to take place. It includes the release of emotions or feelings through crying (grief), shaking (fear), laughter (embarrassment), yawning (physical hurts) as examples. I’ve often suggested that people watch babies or very young ones who spontaneously use this healing process when they cry or yawn or tremble in someone’s arms. They do this naturally and are more relaxed as a result.
What we’ve learned in RC is that this process works best when people are paid attention to by another warm, open and accepting person. Then they switch roles, one becoming the client or talker and the other person being the counselor or listener. We learn how to do this by attending classes and workshops and by seeing techniques demonstrated for their effectiveness. All of our theory and practice is build on and from our actual lived experience with each other.
What also makes RC unique in its perspective about human beings is its understanding of oppression and liberation from oppression—that most of our hurts or distresses come from living in a society (a global society, also) that is oppressive to all of us and to some groups more than others, mostly based on class (economic exploitation) and racial or ethnic identities and backgrounds.
In my work with clients over the years I have shared RC ideas with them and I can honestly say that everyone I’ve talked to about our nature as humans and about oppression and how it operates on us by confusing us about who we are has nodded in agreement with these ideas. What we have to offer through our theory and practice comes naturally to humans and people respond positively and openly when they hear this, learn more, and have the opportunity to use the process.
Some of the criticisms which RC encounters are criticisms I’ve heard about self help groups, peer counseling, and different forms of psychotherapy—of therapy itself. I see this as people wanting, longing for, a fuller picture or perspective about ourselves to help us make sense of the world we live in and to find ways to feel better about ourselves and each other.
As a long time practicing therapist and as an even longer time practitioner of RC, I am ever more grateful for the ideas I’ve gained from RC. In my mind, the attacks or criticisms of RC don’t seem to really be about RC. They seem to be about peoples’ fears and their not knowing what else is possible or available to them. What we in RC are dedicated to is reaching peoples’ minds so that they can have a theory and practice that makes sense to them, is natural and real to them, that they know to be true for them as they remove and recover from the hurts installed on them.
Jean Hamilton, Palo Alto, California