Psychology Wiki

Harvey Jackins

34,117pages on
this wiki
Revision as of 23:38, January 6, 2008 by Dr Joe Kiff (Talk | contribs)

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Clinical: Approaches · Group therapy · Techniques · Types of problem · Areas of specialism · Taxonomies · Therapeutic issues · Modes of delivery · Model translation project · Personal experiences ·

Carl Harvey Jackins (born [June 28 1916, died 12 July 1999) was the founder and principal theorist of Re-evaluation Counseling.

Born in Northern Idaho, Jackins attended but did not graduate from the University of Washington. He reportedly was a labor organizer in Seattle, Washington, during the 1940s.

Jackins first incorporated Personal Counselors Inc. in 1952, to "engage in, conduct and teach the art and science of Dianetics." [1] "Co-Counseling was the "brain-child" of Harvey Jackins in the 1950s in America where he [eventually] labelled it Re-evaluation Counseling.

On June 14 1954, Jackins testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which persecuted people accused of Communism in the United States.

Early development of co-counselling and Re-evaluation Counselling

Jackins claims in his own publicationsto have "discovered" co-counseling essentially accidentally during prolonged efforts to help unionised co-workers whom he was attempting to assist as a local union convenor in Seattle, WA, USA. Repeated efforts to help them failed, he wrote, until one day a particular "client" repeatedly cried and then felt better - after many attempts to stop him crying, Jackins relented and found that the client's condition and life improved. Interested, Jackins began to experiment in encouraging others to cry, then found that laughter, shaking and other types of bodily "discharge" were useful in relieving or venting pent-up old emotional feelings. These he theorised led to limitations on the flexibility and intelligence / rationality with which people approached everyday situations. He and his helpers (he soon identified others who were capable of sharing the "work" of "co-counselling" with him on an equal basis of exchanging attention and time and thereby encouraging each other to discharge) experimented with different approaches and discovered that effective discharge frequently led to improved clarity of thought, a process they dubbed "re-evaluation". The process of discharge helped to alleviate or remove "distress", a term Jackins used to describe apparently organised and structured distortions, blockages or "patterns" of pent-up emotional hurt and it's consequences in the mind; Jackins became convinced that these could with persistent, thoughtful and aware "attention" from another committed helper, be discharged, causing very considerable relief and (potentially) empowerment for the person discharging.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s Jackins systematised these views into a new system or disciplined approach to encouraging discharge and re-evaluation which he dubbed "Re-evaluation Counseling" (often known as "RC" - it is not clear when this term was first used, but the first books and the journal of Re-evaluation Counseling, "Present Time", appeared in the late 1960s.) In the late 60s the embryo "RC movement" spread beyond Seattle through a series of teaching workshops run by Jackins. In the mid-70s, Jackins travelled outside the US, teaching RC to people first in the UK, then Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

Liberation theory and re-emergence

During the 1970s Jackins himself and a number of newly won "converts" to the RC methodology began to work on specific "oppressions" which they noted tended to create a "persistent and chronic" tendency for people to remain "stuck" in "patterned" states; these oppressions he and others identified as the results of upbringing and child rearing in society, centred around the objectification of treatment of people for each specific element of themselves, for example, people are oppressed as women, black, men, children, young adults, workers, by class background and in other ways. During the 70s and 80s there was considerable disagreement and controversy within RC (including sometimes from Jackins himself) as to the precise way in which these should be dealt with; the movement gradually evolved a focus on meeting within such groups as co-counsellors to work on the specific distresses arising from each category of oppression. Jackins dubbed these "same-oppression" groups "Wygelians" after the Wygelia plants growing outside his window, for want of a better word. Jackins held the belief that by working in this way, people would come to be freed from the original oppressions associated with their Wygelian type (eg, white person, old person, etc) and would then be able to connect better and have more meaningful relationships both with other members of the same group and other groups.

Later developments in RC

During the period 1975 - 1990, Jackins created, primarily through the force of his own personality, a considerable organisational structure for RC, which consisted of local teachers (qualified and approved), area representatives (area reference persons), regional leaders (regional reference persons), international representatives of each "liberation group" or sub-category of people identifying in a particular way (international liberation reference people) and himself as the overall leader, or "international reference person". He created a set of Guidelines for the organisation and held bi-annual international conferences. Before he died in 1999, Jackins was keen to extend RC rapidly and supervised a number of efforts to connect the views and activities of RC members with what are (within RC) dubbed "wide world organisations". (eg, mainstream organisations.)

Jackins achievements

Total numbers of RC-trained co-counselors worldwide are debated; Jackins himself once claimed more than 1 million people worldwide had passed through RC basic "Fundamentals" classes. The April 2004 edition of Present Time listed 270 organised areas worldwide; there is reason to think that some of these are very small or defunct, whereas others are more active. Assuming a typical situation of one class per year per area of 6-8 people per class, and this level of activity having lasted since 1980, not more than about 60,000 people have learned RC. Present Time is circulated to around 5,000 people. The likeliest number of currently active RC co-counsellors worldwide is around 12,000. The central office of RC (called Personal Counselors in Seattle) does not publish or comment on these figures. Despite this, both Harvey Jackins himself and RC are fairly widely regarded as being influential in a number of psychological, therapeutic, social and cultural fields.

Jackins influence and the influence of RC

In humanistic psychology and general psychotherapy, the influence of RC has been considerable. Commonly used phrases and words first coined in RC or by Harvey Jackins like "discharge", "distress", "re-evaluation" (as applied to human thinking), "co-counselling", and others have moved into quite common usage. In other areas, concepts of RC liberation theory like "internalised oppression" (the tendency of oppressed people to oppress themselves on behalf of their oppressors) have moved into common parlance in areas such as pop psychology, political debate and radical-left politics. Interestingly, a number of previously hotly disputed views originating from RC publications or individuals have now passed virtually into the mainstream, for example, key RC concepts or "postulates" like the need for "survivors" of specific oppressions to get together and work, or discharge, on their issues, has become a very widespread aspect of the self-help and therapy movements. In addition, particular individuals who have trained in RC have gone on to have a significant impact in a range of other organisations, particularly those involved in campaigning on "rights" issues in the US and elsewhere.

Jackin's political and social views

Harvey Jackins never made any secret of his radical-left views; his books and journals frequently extol the virtues of Marxist or neo-Marxist thought, he was a keen admirer of Chairman Mao and his talks or classes often referred to these leaders. However, he also championed independent thinking and re-evaluation or re-definition of their views and was sometimes scornful of particular aspects of socialist history or theory, particularly those advocating violence towards, or rejection of, people of non-working class backgrounds, and what he perceived as the tendency of left organisations and leaders historically to focus on the masses rather than the individual.

Although Jackins did not frequently mention influences on him other than those from socialist history, he also appears to have been strongly affected by strands within US and international science fiction; also by early forms of what later became the techno-progressive movement; and by the popular and influential General Semantics theory. Some people have discerned in particular the style and obsessions of US science fiction authors A.E. van Vogt and Robert A. Heinlein in his published writings, particularly those dwelling on the evolution of mankind and the development of supermen. Jackins was photographed 2 with Van Vogt in the 50s. There are also some similarities between Jackins theories and those of Zen Buddhism (for example, the reaching of "clear" states of mind), a connection either derived from California new age philosophy or Jackins' own (broad) reading of religion and philosophy. Perhaps the key point is that the same rich mix of cultural, social and philosophical trends in postwar US west coast culture which gave rise to movements like Scientology and New Age religions also stimulated Jackins, although he was later contemptuous of some of them, and refused to declare Re-evaluation Counseling a religious viewpoint, insisting instead that it was rational. It is plausible that one of his motives in doing so originally was to distance himself and his movement further from Scientology; RC does retain a number of "Postulates" that appear to be religious or unprovable in nature, for example, Postulate 8 states that "the natural relationship between any two human beings is loving affection, communication and co-operation".

Jackins was also strongly motivated to create opportunities for, and develop, leadership skills and leaders in the movements of the left and of radicalism. Much of his personal work, especially in later years of his life, focused on these efforts; he felt that through extensive discharge and skilled counselling, leaders would emerge who would be stronger and more able to sustain forward progress in human society in what he considered to be desirable directions; he was particularly focused on what he perceived to be threats to the long-range survival of the human race from capitalism and industrial society, and regarded working class organisations such as trade unions as cornerstones in the battle to save humanity; therefore he particularly attempted to foster and encourage leaders in these and similar areas of activity.

Criticism of Harvey Jackins

A number of criticisms have surrounded Jackins since fairly early in his development of RC. These are difficult in some cases to disentangle from criticism of RC itself as a theory or practice (more at Re-evaluation Counseling). Jackins had a forceful personality and a direct way of speaking that sometimes offended or angered people. It is also clear that in some cases Jackins went out of his way to provoke, either to pressure people to discharge on what he saw as their distresses or (in some cases) to assist people in leaving RC who he felt were disruptive or detrimental to it. Jackins advised ignoring attacks, and later had this principle included in RC official policies. He believed that the persistent nature of critical distress patterns would eventually weaken when ignored. To some extent this appears to have further annoyed his critics, and those of RC. A number of websites, mostly not frequently updated or maintained, contain extensive material on the criticisms listed below; these are further cited by mainstream anti-cult sites. The result is either a believable critique of Jackins and RC or a mess of competing critical distresses, depending on the viewpoint of the observer. Perhaps the final impression is of a strong, appealing personality who also made enemies through outspoken views, some of whom are persistent in condemning him.

Personality cult

Critics have contended that Jackins ran RC (and set it up) as an authoritarian structure or even a cult. These critics focus on aspects of RC such as the perceived inability to challenge leadership decisions, reluctance of leaders to discuss basic theory or guidelines in the organisation as not being fixed, or specific greviances about the conduct of particular leaders, including Jackins himself. Some cult websites list Re-evaluation Counseling as a cult, these invariably refer back for justification to a particular Phd article by Dr. Dennis Tourish (then at Aberdeen Business School) and Pauline Irving (then at University of Ulster) written in 1994 - a close reading of which casts doubt on the status of RC as a cult. The usual cult-like characteristics, including attempts to restrain people from leaving, use of fear or withdrawal of love, removal of substantial sums of money from the cultee, personality cult, etc, are hotly denied as being present by many RC'ers within RC. Jackins did however tend to focus all decision making within RC on himself and in his published Guidelines reserved the right to change rules or make decisions without reference to others. He appointed all regional reference people, who in turn held authority over decisions affecting lower levels within RC and who "approved" his decisions at international meetings. This system continues with Jackins successor as International Reference Person, his son Tim Jackins. Within RC, these controls are seen as necessary to limit the effect distresses have within the organisation; the leadership, culminating in the international reference person, are seen as being more able to think well and counter the effects of distress on decision making in areas such as classes, appointment of teachers and policies.

Lies or distortions

Some claims are made that Jackins had a tendency in written word or public statements to distort facts or tell outright lies. A good example was his oft-repeated story of the origins of RC (see above). There is good independent evidence (including Jackins' own statement to HUAC in 1954) that Jackins actually was involved in early Dianetics and was a contact for L Ron Hubbard (founder of Dianetics and later Scientology) in the West Coast of the USA, most probably during the period 1952-4. As has been often pointed out, much of the basic terminology in RC, such as "clearing up patterns", "rationality", "present time", "passing distress by contagion" and so on, particularly in the early days of RC, is broadly the same as that in use in Dianetics. Jackins appears to have re-worked the story of the origins of RC away from the Dianetics background, presumably because of the growing bad reputation during the 60s of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Hubbard's Scientologists declared RC to be "suppressive" (eg, an enemy organisation) on their internal list using the name Re-Evaluation Counselling Applied Philosophy which was in use as the official name of RC in the early 60s. Clearly by this time Jackins and Hubbard had fallen out.

Jackins did privately tell RCers internally that he had once had connections with Hubbard, "had tried to help his son and had been treated badly as a result of it - so gave up". It is a mistake to view RC as currently connected with Scientology; RC theory is radically different, it does not use auditing or other Scientology "technology" and the theoretical views of RC are distant from Jackins's Dianetics origins. The "origins of RC" debate is mainly of interest because it shows that (a) Harvey Jackins was happy to repeat a lie or half-truth often if he wanted to and (b) it has not subsequently been challenged by his successors, either because they unquestioningly believe his version or because they choose not to admit it publicly. Taken together, these are the most damaging critique of Jackins' work and of RC, since they suggest that the implied commitment to honest, open and fair dealings with each other combining as "integrity" in the basic structure of the movement's views are open to manipulation by it's leadership if facts are considered detrimental to the organisation.

Improbable claims or anti-science

Some claims of Jackins or made by him on behalf of RC, are viewed by some as improbable or anti-scientific. For example, Jackins claimed frequently in his earlier days that he could and would live for ever; this was a "direction" to self, and based on scientific research into extending longevity. Jackins also believed (and at one time had included in the official table of RC Policies) that all past extinct creatures and flora should be re-generated using genetic science. (he was not specific about how far into pre-history this should apply) In another book he argued that in the future everyone would live underground and that all future societies would be managed with endless committee meetings. (the latter could plausibly be said to have come to pass) He also claimed that RC was wholly self-proving and internally self-consistent as a theory and that it was a valid scientific and logical system in its own right, as well as having been developed from empirical knowledge, and was therefore analogous to a pure science rather than a human discipline. These and other improbable views tend perhaps to reveal his educational limitations, but also suggest that his emphasis on "rational" beliefs, "objective present time reality" - his equivalent of Marxist Dialectical Materialism - and "science before belief" had personally-set limits.


Jackins was criticized within RC for his views published in the mid-80s that homosexuality was most probably the result of distressed parenting and specific mistreatments of children, and could therefore be "recovered" from, along with other types of sexual distress. This caused a number of RC members to leave the movement and either attack it from outside or form their own organised co-counselling groups. The published views of Jackins on this subject are not included in official RC postulates or The List (1990) which contained Jackins' official views at that time. Current-day RC tends to emphasise the need to discharge on "early sexual memories" and fantasies, and avoid sexual contact or straying into non-counselling relationships ("socialising"), also that "heterosexuals" as well as "lesbians gays and bisexuals (LGBs)" should discharge in this area.

In addition, Harvey Jackins was at various times accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from accusations that he favoured attractive young women and appointed them into leadership roles, to direct allegations of rape or sexual abuse of clients. (the latter were made specifically in a Seattle-based CBS-affiliate (Kiro TV) show shown in 1981, focusing on a young female teacher, Deborah Curren from Seattle - after taking out a lawsuit, she later withdrew the allegations.) These allegations are extensively repeated on websites, but given the long time that has elapsed since many of them were made it is difficult to determine their authenticity. At the time they were made, most RC leaders claimed that they were politically motivated or covert attacks from the authorities against Jackins. Some leaders left RC at this time, most notably the French leader of breakaway "Present-mindedness", Daniel Le Bon. The centrepiece allegation accuses Jackins of "wrestling", a common technique in RC (and now other therapies) aimed at inducing discharge by reminding the client of early childhood play and contact experiences. The repeated allegations did not appear to knock Jackins significantly off course and the RC organisation more or less succeeded in suppressing further mention of them internally. Some of the allegations appear to be made by specific interest groups with whom Jackins strongly disagreed, such as mental health professionals, making it additionally difficult to ascertain if they are accurate.

Mental health

Jackins often expressed a strong opposition to psychiatric medicine and the "mental health system" and encouraged RC'ers to oppose it. He repeatedly stated that skilled counselling and "aware attention" using the methods of RC should be sufficient for any person labelled as "mentally ill" or similar to recover from the effects of their distresses. No experiment has so far been set up within RC to prove this, but anecdotally a number of RC'ers claim such recovery and are actively opposed to the mental health system. This has in turn led to criticism or counter-attack against RC or Jackins in particular from some mental health professionals. To some extent, Jackins identified with the Anti-Psychiatry movement and was influenced by, and may have influenced, leading British radical psychologist R.D. Laing. This and Jackins' original Dianetics heritage partially account for the frequent confusion that Jackins was a Scientologist; the Church of Scientology shares a loathing of medical psychology, but reacts differently to it; Jackins urged sustained counselling of patients and "survivors" of the mental health system as opposed to confronting it, although he was sometimes supportive to those who did.

External link

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Advertisement | Your ad here

Around Wikia's network

Random Wiki