PERSONAL THERAPY AND
GROWTH WORK IN
ROBERT ELLIOTT & RHEA PARTYKA
The experiential-humanistic tradition in psychotherapy subsumes several therapies that share core concepts and values. These therapies include classic approaches such as person-centered (e.g., Rogers, 1961), gestalt (e.g., Perls, Hefferline, & Goodman, 1951), and existential (e.g., Schneider & May, 1995), as well as neohumanistic approaches such as focusing-oriented (e.g., Gendlin, 1996), experiential (e.g., Mahrer, 1989), and process-experiential/emotion-focused (e.g., Greenberg, Rice, & Elliott, 1993) psychotherapies. While therapists in this tradition vary in how they work with clients, all share a set of common values (Elliott, Watson, Goldman, & Greenberg, in press), including support for immediate experiencing, client self-determination, personal and political pluralism/equality, wholeness, therapist presence or authenticity, and personal growth throughout the life span.
This last value means that, in these therapies, individuals are viewed as possessing a growth tendency, regarded as an ever-present developmental tendency that forms the basis of therapeutic change. This tendency involves a continual process of reorganizing experiences at increasingly higher levels of complexity, thus maintaining and enhancing the self, as well as attaining maximum creative flexibility in whatever environment persons find themselves (Greenberg et al., 1993). Two important resources that support this growth tendency are self-awareness and a lifetime of learning and experience. A therapist can and should support his or her own growth tendency through ongoing personal growth activities that foster self-awareness in a variety of contexts.