helpful? cult-like? both?
August 26, 2008 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Re-evaluation Counseling- helpful or cult-ish? (or both?)

A couple friends swear Re-evaluation Counseling (or co-counseling?). I was thinking about giving it a shot, but I'd like others' experiences especially because I'm guessing groups vary a lot from place to place. And if I do decide to check it out, how do I find a group in my area? (and no, it's not listed on the website)
posted by genmonster to Human Relations (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: they "swear by" it. not just swear.
posted by genmonster at 8:22 PM on August 26, 2008

From the website's abundance of resources, including it's financial pages outlining how local communities should use money (and that resource use should be explained to funders and members), I don't think that this is a cult.

From Rick Ross:

Peer group counselling is an exciting if problematic concept. It requires further research into such issues as the optimum therapeutic competence non-professionals may attain in dealing with major emotional trauma, and whether it is in fact possible to maintain traditional professional boundaries between therapist and client when the relationship is founded on egalitarian assumptions. However, it may in principle have the potential to offer low cost counselling assistance within a supportive environment to many people. Thus, it has been acknowledged that insofar as RC enables people to be listened to it assists them to improve their lives.

On the other hand, there are crucial aspects of the theory and practice which distract people from practicing such basic listening skills. In particular, the organisation's reliance on dramatic displays of emotion in group contexts (i.e. artificially engineered peak experiences) tends to whip up a stampede towards conformity, during which dissent is trampled underfoot. Discussions with RC members suggest that the actual impact of these processes is uneven: there may well be significant geographical areas where RC operates in a much looser fashion, with minimum interference from Seattle, and with its members placing greater stress on simple peer group counselling activities. In such circumstances, it would be premature to suggest that they are embroiled in the full panoply of cult activities, placing them on a par with highly destructive cults..

I would say draw your own conclusions. Go to a meeting if you find one and ask for a one-on-one session rather than a group session. Go home after and decide whether it is worthwhile to attend the group meeting. If you go, write down and keep a mental checklist of signs that some cult-watchers use then go home and think about whether direct therapy from a licensed professional may help more.
posted by parmanparman at 8:43 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Among the important characteristics of cults are that they separate you from your family, friends, and community, they encourage mistrust of others, they stifle criticism of themselves, and they encourage you to give increasing amounts of money. Does RC have those characteristics? My memory is that it doesn't, but you're in a better position to judge.
posted by alms at 9:26 PM on August 26, 2008

My parents did it a ton in the seventies and eighties, and apparently it was very very helpful in dealing with emotional pain and issues. I think there are some people who really are in need of professional help though and co-counseling is not the place to deal with this. But it can be enormously helpful, especially if you have some basic understanding of the therapeutic process. It's definitely not a cult though, as far as my understanding.
posted by Rocket26 at 10:29 PM on August 26, 2008

A few people close to me have tried this out. After hearing about their experiences I came to the conclusion that it's not for me. One person who had a very bad experience with it said that basically he opened up to his co-counselor, made himself most vulnerable, and the co-counselor became hurtful and manipulative. Perhaps not on purpose, but it doesn't really matter does it? He went on to try more traditional forms of talk therapy and had positive experiences.

Also, it's been my observation that one of the goals of RC is to get you to unearth early traumas with the intent of working through them. The idea being that once you work out your past you're free from it. Not too radical in and of itself, but for whatever reason, it seems to me that co-counseling has a tendency to create false memories. For instance, one person talked about remembering nursing as a child (stopped at 18 months) and another remembered being born. I don't buy it.

I guess for me it boils down to this: You're likely considering counseling for a reason: something's wrong. Everyone else there: same thing. Why risk having their neuroses affect your own? At least with a trained professional they've spent years studying the therapist/patient relationship and have some tools/experience to handle when shit inevitably comes up.
posted by funkiwan at 11:38 PM on August 26, 2008

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