Psychosynthesis – a comparative essay

The aim of this essay is to evaluate psychosynthesis within its theoretical context and examine a therapeutic relationship within its framework. I will also be discriminating between the person-centred approach (PCA) and psychosynthesis and comparing and contrasting the two approaches. There will be some evaluation of the two models in terms of culture and diversity. This essay will be written from my subjective frame and therefore it will include my perception of psychosynthesis.

Dr. Roberto Assagioli, (1888-1974), was the founding father of psychosynthesis. In 1910 he started the creation of his wide perspective and vision of a holistic approach in psychology, which put an emphasis on growth and the spiritual dimension of human experience even though its “roots are in psychoanalysis…” (Whitmore 1991 pp2-a), His aim was to create a psychology of the whole person.

I admire Assagioli for being ahead of his times as his creation of psychosynthesis, which is humanistic and transpersonal, began in a time where the dominating psychologies were, psychoanalysis and behaviourism. Humanistic and transpersonal, were not recognised. I think this may have had a lot to with the very vast knowledge; experiences and contacts that Assagioli had that were both from the western and eastern countries. His major western influences were; Carl Jung, William James and Abraham Maslow. His major eastern influences were raja yoga and karma yoga.

So, being humanistic like the PCA, psychosynthesis has an optimistic view of human nature, and holds the belief that individuals are unique and have the capacity to self heal and fulfil their potential. I think that it is important to include a definition of the word Psychosynthesis as it aided me in understanding from the offset what the approach was about, it is a combination of the Greek word Psycho, which means Self, Spirit or Soul, and Synthesis which is the combining of ideas or parts to form one complex or connected whole. According to Assagioli, psychosynthesis is an attitude, an approach to the psyche which “began with the premise that whole is.” (

The belief is that each person is potentially whole, this is not something that we have to strive to be as this is what we in essence already are, but as I understand it, the external conditioning that each person experiences takes us away from being our whole self and we can get back to this state of wholeness, with the aid of the tool, that is psychosynthesis. I find it to be similar to some of the concepts in the PCA. Firstly the PCA also views the person as a whole and complete being, and in the therapeutic process it encourages the counsellor to engage with the whole being of the client. Also similar is the concept of external conditioning, which in the person-centred approach is called the conditions of worth.

Psychosynthesis’ purpose is to further the ongoing process of evolution, it is believed to be “… a broad vision and context of personal, interpersonal, social, global and universal evolution…” (Whitmore, 1991, pp ix-b). The approach is primarily concerned with growth and development and has a big emphasis on healing and the expression of individual potential, which comes about as a result of a coming together of the whole person, and can be used as a philosophy to live by. I am imagining that like the person- centred approach it can also be seen as a ‘way of being’!

There are two levels of psychosynthesis which are, personal and transpersonal. I will briefly explain each, beginning with personal psychosynthesis which aims to “foster the development of a well- integrated personality…” (Whitmore, 1991, pp4-c). The primary objective of psychosynthesis is to alleviate suffering and following on from this, other objectives would be; “…to foster integration between the inner and outer world of the client…” (Whitmore, 1991, pp5-d ). This seems like a similarity to the PCA, I think that it is parallel to the process of internalising the locus of evaluation.

Also psychosynthesis seeks to “help the client become the creator of her own life and to express herself meaningfully…” (Whitmore, 1991, pp5-e ). This to me means helping the client to take responsibility for themselves, and to be able to express what he/she may be feeling- again this is similar to the person-centred approach, which “…challenges each person to accept responsibility for his or her own life.” (Mearns and Thorne, 1988, pp6). Finally psychosynthesis aims “…to evoke the client’s inner authority and wisdom…” (Whitmore, 1991, pp5-f ). This is another aspect that I find comparable to the PCA, which refers to a person having an internal locus of evaluation, when a client “…has his or her source of wisdom deep within and accessible.” (Mearns and Thorne, 1988, pp11-a).

From the learning I have done in the PCA I would say that the personal stage of psychosynthesis, is comparable to a client that is moving towards a more integrated state, is becoming more congruent, more open to experience, more psychologically adjusted and so on. In psychosynthesis it is encouraging the client to become a strong individual that is fully devoted in life and helps the client to “…function well and effectively.” (Whitmore, 1991, pp7-g) this alone is seen as a great achievement.

Then psychosynthesis goes a step further into the transpersonal, “which offers the possibility of realising ones higher nature and purpose in life.” (Whitmore, 1991, pp4-h). Transpersonal psychosynthesis is the heart of the approach and a great emphasis and value is placed on it. Transpersonal psychology goes one step further than the integrated personality, to the experience of human interconnectedness and an awareness of the “…social conditions most conducive to fostering potential.” (Whitmore, 1991, pp3-4-i). In psychosynthesis, the transpersonal is likened to spiritual growth, or an awakening of the spiritual, but this does not necessarily have religious connotations. It goes beyond a persons immediate sense of who they are, like, our name, likes and dislikes or opinions, in a sense it’s like saying there is more to a person than meets the eye.

So the transpersonal is thought to go beyond our everyday sense of identity and individuality, which is referred to as the ‘I’ or ‘self’ and is found in our middle unconscious, central to our field of consciousness, although the ‘self’ is distinct from our consciousness that has contents which change, and the identification of the ‘self’ is central to the personal psychosynthesis stage of counselling. But the transpersonal goes beyond our perception of our everyday living, “working tranpersonally goes beyond the boundaries of a clients individuality.” (Whitmore, 1991, pp13-j). This ‘I’ or ‘self’ that we are conscious of, is seen as only a reflection of the ‘higher’ or ‘transpersonal’ self that can be recognised and connected to through the process of counselling.

In the transpersonal dimension, through connecting with our ‘higher’ self, we also find unity, which according to psychosynthesis is a yearning we all have. “Without the experience of unity, life is liable to become increasingly fragmented and meaningless.” (Whitmore, 1991,pp12-k). Transpersonal …

After this the focus will be on the transpersonal dimension. I will briefly go through the techniques used at this stage of work. There is inner dialogue, which aids in addressing the clients existential difficulties and meditation, which “…can contribute …

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