Wednesday, April 1, 2009


The Psychotherapeutic Relationship and the Healing Archetype With a Special Focus on Michael Conforti’s Archetypal Field Theory

This essay explores the psychotherapeutic frame as a concept intrinsic to the psychotherapy field. Based on a review of relevant literature, it draws the distinction between the common understanding and use of the frame in most psychotherapies and the more traditional view held by practitioners of analytical psychology. Based on new developments in analytical psychology concerning archetypal fields, the need for re-evaluation of both conceptualizations is identified.

Oftentimes during routine business transactions, while at social functions, and even with family and friends at hometown gatherings, at some point in the process of social chitchat I am invariably asked what I do for a living. I used to simply reply that I am a therapist, to which my questioner would say “oh yes, a physical therapist, I went to one once” or, alternately, respond with “really, a massage therapist? I don’t think I could ever get a massage.” After enough times of this, I added the “psycho” to therapist and now the responses are more in keeping with what I do. Now, though, the shadow of the old question reappears when I sometimes am asked “what is it that you do exactly, as a Jungian psychotherapist?” This question surprises me, since psychotherapy is such a widely practiced and common part of contemporary society. Perhaps this is because, as Zeig and Munion (1990) point out, “psychotherapy is a rather idiosyncratic endeavor that is practiced in many guises” (p. 9). The answer to this question is both as simple as saying that I help those who seek help and as complex as Zeig and Munion’s.

Helping or healing is the mandate of psychotherapy, as the name makes clear. Just what constitutes help or healing, however, is not clear. Psychology has a long history that stretches back to the oracles of ancient Greece, and beyond that to the Assyrians and early Egyptians (Ehrenwald,1991; Meier, 1989; Robinson, 1986). But it is only in modern times, from the mid-nineteenth century on, that psychology as we know it, along with psychotherapy as applied psychology, developed into a human science distinct from philosophy and religion. Thus, the roots of psychotherapy draw deeply from many different understandings of the psyche and approaches to healing it. Not all psychotherapies are the same, and although they all share the goal of healing, the understanding and practice of that healing will vary slightly or dramatically dependent upon the theoretical orientation of the therapist as well as on the therapist’s training and personality.

There are anywhere from 240 to over 400 forms of psychotherapy practiced in the United States today (Corey, 1996). Some of the more familiar psychotherapeutic approaches are: the depth psychotherapies developed by Freud, Jung, Adler, Klein, and Fairbairn; the humanistic psychotherapies of Perls, Rogers, Frankl, Yallom, and Glasser; the behavioral approaches of Skinner, Bandura, and Lazarus; the cognitive-behavioral approaches of Ellis and Beck; the family systems approaches of Minuchin, Haley, and Satir, among others; the medically-based therapies of drug intervention; and, finally, the eclectic approach wherein the practitioner combines a number of different theoretical orientations and methods to effect healing.

Research suggests that all psychotherapies are effective with “all cohorts of patients improv[ing] on the average over time” (Frank cited, Sahakian, 1986, p. 392). This is an interesting finding since psychotherapies are distinguished one from the other by an underlying philosophy, a theory, and a method. Since psychotherapies are applied psychologies with each having its own particular system and thus all different to some degree, the question of how they can be equally effective is an intriguing one. One explanation for this, it is hypothesized, is that all psychotherapies, regardless of their theoretical underpinnings, share four basic components: a supportive and confidential relationship; a reason given for the patient’s symptoms; a special healing setting; and a structure (Sahakian, 1986, p. 392). The way in which each of these framing components is understood, implemented, and managed over time within the therapeutic situation, however, varies markedly across the various psychotherapies as well as from therapist to therapist. Thus, the suggestion that these shared framing elements account for the equal effectiveness of psychotherapies is not convincing, since there is such variability in their application. Alternative research and anecdotal information suggest that it is really the relationship established between the therapist and patient that is the most important factor in treatment outcome. In other words, this suggests that the extent to which the therapist is able to foster a good working alliance with the patient is the primary determining factor in the success or failure of the therapy (Strupp & Binder, 1986).

That the psychotherapeutic relationship may be key to the patient’s healing should be of little surprise since the therapist-patient relationship, based as it is on the relational dynamics of the caregiver-healer, mirrors the first relationship that we humans have, the mother-infant or primary caregiver-infant relationship. As Conforti (1988, intro.) points out, “the mother-infant relationship…is the individual’s first experience of dependency and of having to respond to another’s psyche.” The psychic or archetypal roots of this “maternal aspect of the therapeutic relationship” are so deep, in fact, that they “can be seen in accounts of healing rites from the Asklepieions” (Conforti, 1988, intro.), particularly those associated with the goddess-centered mystery religion of Eleusis (Kerenyi, 1967; Meier, 1989). From a Jungian perspective, the therapist becomes “an indispensable figure absolutely necessary for [the patient’s] life” (Jung, 1969a, p. 74). This dependence, therefore, is not to be taken lightly. Neither is it to be taken literally. Jung (1969b) stresses that it is a demand concealed within the dyadic interaction and metaphorically represents the patient’s “ not consciously realized need for help in a crisis” and equally important, for “protection” from the upsurges of activated unconscious forces (p. 74). For Jung (1976) and his adherents, who focus on the symbol as psyche’s guide to healing, the emphasis is not just on the personalisitic quality of the psychotherapeutic relationship (Jacoby, 1999), as is the case in all other psychotherapies which are concerned only with the personalistic-subjectivity of ego-consciousness and its workings, but on the “metaphorical layer of the work” expressed through archetypal representations (Sullivan, 1989, p. 149). “The essential idea behind this insight,” writes Sullivan (1989), “is that psyche is always trying to transcend its immaterial nature” (p. 149), and does this through matter. In other words, psyche is there to be seen if one has the eyes to see. Although they came to different conclusions about psyche, both Jung (1961) and Freud (1989) understood this fundamental fact, one that many depth psychotherapists either don’t take seriously enough or have difficulty maintaining a connection to (Sullivan, 1989).

In Jungian or analytical psychology, it is the phenomena embodied in the deeper layer of communication below the surface layer of communication and originating in the unconscious which informs and directs consciousness by way of the symbol. Thus more important and central in analytical psychology is the symbolic significance of the therapist-patient interaction, that is, the archetypal configuration that is made manifest in the therapeutic field created by the mutually influenced therapist-patient encounter (Conforti, 1999; Jacoby, 1999; Jung, 1982). Thus Jung’s understanding of the infant-like dependency of the patient is based on the energetic process of therapy itself, and the relationship that develops within the container of therapy is recognized as the vehicle or instrument for the unfolding work (Conforti, 1988; Jacoby, 1999; Jung, 1969a; 1976; 1982). In other words, the parental dynamic active in the therapist-patient dyad is a functional part of the therapy relationship, rather than a mere artifact, and is not to be dismissed by reducing it as Freud does to a final cause such as sexuality or by labeling it as maladaptive (Jung, 1969a; 1976). The challenge for the therapist as “instrument” is in providing the space or “facilitating environment” in Winnicottian (1965) terms in which the work can unfold (Jacoby, 1999). This facilitating environment operates when the therapist makes himself or herself “available to the inner process” of the patient (Jacoby, 1999, p. 134). This in turn is dependent on the therapist’s ability to create and maintain a stable and secure container in which to observe the therapist’s and patient’s mutually interacting psyches within the therapy dyad. The therapeutic dyad mirrors the mother-child relationship in that, just as the mother fosters the child’s development through her care and attention to its needs, so does the therapist foster the patient’s psychological maturation in the analysis of psychic material (Jung & Kerenyi, 1978).

The parental dynamic of mother and child active in the patient-therapist coupling is an archetypal reality knowable through its symbolic representation in dream material, fantasies, thoughts, and behavior. It is, however, only the most immediate expression of the central archetype, the Self, the “primacy uniting the many” and “the continuum of everything” (Tougas, 1996, p. 72), which supports the potential for change, transformation, and growth in the patient – in a word, healing. This archetypal reality, experienced as an inner psychological force and observable in projected psychic phenomena, irrevocably moves the patient along his or her developmental path whether actively aided or not. The experience-based phenomenological stance of analytical psychology with its focus on the reality of psychic material as archetypal idea “with its multitude of meanings, all presenting different facets of a single, simple truth” (Tougas, 1996, p. 72) discernable to a perceiving consciousness – and for Jung consciousness means self-reflecting - makes analytical psychology the ideal approach for working with the many-layered unity that is psyche. Analytical psychology, as Jung (1969c; 1976) made clear when discussing his psychology in relation to other psychological approaches, however, is but one path to health or wholeness. Because all fields of knowledge are archetypally structured, all provide an avenue from which to gain insight into individual behavior and its relation to a greater reality. The unitary basis of knowledge, writes Jung (Jung cited, Assisi Conference Bulletin, n.d.):

has always claimed my greatest interest: the manifestation of archetypes or archetypal forms in all phenomena of life: in biology, physics…theology…and in dreams…The intimation of forms hovering in the background not in itself knowable gives life…depth” (n.p.).

Certain temperaments gravitate to certain psychologies, religions, or philosophical systems based on how the world is understood, and this is as it should be (Jung, 1982). No discipline has a corner on truth; one either agrees with the Jungian approach or does not. What makes analytical psychology distinct from other psychologies as well as from other disciplines is its basis in experience rather than absolute truth. Thus Jung (1969b) writes that “the psychological archetype differs from parallels in other fields in only in one respect: it refers to a living and ubiquitous psychic fact, [italics added] and this naturally shows the whole situation in a rather different light” (p. 68). Concerning psychology explicitly, Jung writes:

the fundamental error persists in the public that there are definite answers, ‘solutions,’ or views which need only be uttered in order to spread the necessary light. But the most useful truth…is no use at all unless it has become an innermost experience and possession of the individual…. Nothing is more fruitless than talking of how things must or should be, and nothing is more important than finding the way to these far-off goals (cited, Jacobi, 1953, p. 265, 266).

Analytical psychology offers one path to healing, wholeness, and self-discovery, among many. For the Jungian psychotherapist or analyst, healing comes about through a transformation of consciousness through its relationship to the unconscious. Healing in this way is not about “wellness” in the accepted meaning of the term, but about healing the split between ego-consciousness and the well spring of the unconscious so that psychological growth may continue.

To return to the question of why psychotherapies are equally effective, from an analytical psychology perspective, the equal effectiveness of therapies is not solely the result of the empathic and caring relationship of therapist for patient, although the therapist-patient bond established within the therapy situation is the axial point around which the work of therapy revolves (Jung, 1976; 1982), nor is it solely because all psychotherapies share basic frame components, although the establishment and maintenance of the therapy frame is essential for discerning the psychical dynamics alive in the therapy relationship (Conforti, 1988; 1997; Langs, 1985); the extent to which the psychotherapeutic frame truly becomes a container for the work will, in fact, determine treatment outcome as both Langs’ (1985; 1979) and Conforti’s work demonstrates (1988). Both the therapy relationship and the other frame components are factors intrinsic to the healing work of psychotherapy, but their function is not just the result of professional mandates or personalistic concerns. When the psychotherapeutic frame is approached differently, that is phenomenologically, it is seen for what it is - the expression of the archetype of Self - not what it seems to be, a matter of business transactions or the degree of rapport between therapist and patient. Thus, at the most fundamental level, psychotherapies are equally effective because of the influence of the archetype of Self, the inner, innate drive to health and wholeness active within all of us, which becomes manifest within the psychotherapy relationship as expressed through the containing function of the psychotherapeutic frame. Whether or not the patient, or anyone for that matter, wants to change and grow psychically, the process is inevitable; conscious of it or not, like it or not, we are each caught up in an inevitable movement to psychic health and wholeness guided by the archetype of Self. Normally paralleling and complementing the natural process of physical development, psychic growth can become diverted or even stalled due to certain of life’s variables such as genetic factors, family concerns, and social influences. When this occurs, psychotherapy is one avenue of redress. When the psychotherapist intervenes in the patient’s interrupted development by actively engaging and reinforcing the energetic field of the Self, the natural healing process is served.

Psyche is a unified field of dynamic interaction in which everything is always in the process of becoming, even in death (von Franz, 1986). Thus the Self supports our engagement with life throughout its course, while also preparing us for the inevitability of our death (Jung, 1969e). Death, one of the two great mysteries of the life process – the second “bookend” which culminates life - is its natural partner (Jung, 1965). Whereas “consciousness moves within [life’s] narrow confines, within the brief span of time between its beginning and its end,” the far greater unconscious underlies the whole process of how one lives and “in how one dies” (Jung, 1969a, pp. 411, 412). Because both life and death are processes structured by the archetype of Self, “dying,” Jung (1969a) writes, “has its onset long before actual death” (p. 411); it is an ever-present partner to life that is visited each time one opens up to the unconscious, in sleep, fantasy, creativity, or in the psychotherapy process (Giannini, 2002). Death is the benchmark by which life is measured or, put another way, death is the acceptance of life’s fulfillment (Jung, 1969a). It is in dying that we achieve life’s goal, its completion. The purposefulness of Self to wholeness, that is, the innate process of unification “of distinct yet inseparable parts” (Tougas, 1996, p. 58) of psyche that begins at birth, possibly before (Fordham, 1994; Jacoby, 1999; Sidoli, 1996) and ends in death, is a tenet fundamental to analytical psychology. It may be restated as the belief that each individual progresses inevitably toward conscious connection with a transcendent dimension, toward a meaning derived not only from one's life, but from a religious dimension that directs life to its natural completion, to “Wholeness and Oneness” (Jung cited, Tougas, 1996, p. 61). Analytical psychology is not about the individual’s achievement of perfection, a humanly impossible task, but is concerned instead with helping along the natural psychic process to wholeness or completeness – individuation - which is the realization of the Self (Jung, 1969b). “The ideal of completeness is the circle or sphere, but its natural minimal division is a quaternity” (Jung, 1969d, p. 167), symbols of enclosure and psychic centering representing the archetype of Self and central to the healing process. The analytical psychology stance draws upon the deep roots of psychology, from a time before it was uprooted from the fertile commingled soil of philosophy and religion and transplanted into the more sterile field of science (Jung, 1976).

An example of the differences between analytical psychology and other psychologies is the current medicalization of mental illness - that is, the treating of psychological issues within the conceptual framework of medicine. In our contemporary Western allopathic model, all mental illness is treated as symptomatic of neurological malfunction or disease, and is to be eradicated, fixed, or managed. Psyche is viewed as no more than an epiphenomenon, a mere byproduct of biological processes. In contrast to this is the dis-ease model of psychology, shared by a number of different psychological approaches including analytical psychology, in which the symptom is seen not as disease (which is not knowable), but as a symbolic expression of inner-outer conflict between the individual’s need for self-expression and fulfillment and society’s demand on the individual for adaptation and conformity to social mores. Within a dis-ease approach to psychology, the symptom carries a moral dimension (Albee, 1986; Jung, 1969d; 1982; Szasz, 1986). In other words, the symptom becomes the key that unlocks the meaning contained within it. That is, the “problem” itself points the way to healing (Jung, 1965). On the other hand, when symptoms are seen as signs of disease and treated as such, their meaning is ignored and the “problem” that gave expression to a particular symptom continues. The “old” symptom is gone, but other symptoms will manifest until the meaning of the symptom is understood for what it is (Jung, 1960; 1969d; 1982). The dis-ease model is based on the dialectic of healing within the dyadic relationship of patient-therapist, the disease model on psychopathology and medically administered treatment (Szasz, 1974).

Dis-ease and disease are disparate ways of thinking about and working with psychic disturbance; the viewpoint one holds regarding mental illness (disease) versus psychic unrest (dis-ease) depends upon whether one views psyche as “nothing but” an epiphenomenon of physio-chemical brain processes or whether one views psyche as something more than neurons and neural connectors, that is, as having a religious function. “At bottom,” Jung (1969c) writes, “psyche is simply ‘world’ ” (p. 173); the individual psyche “is transformed or developed by the relationship of the ego to the contents of the unconscious” (1965, p. 209) by way of the symbol. The individual moves beyond the personalistic sphere to that of “world,” the transpersonal, and through this connection comes to new meaning about his or her life. As Kerenyi states, “in the symbol the world itself is speaking” (cited, Jung, 1969c, p. 173). In this dialectical relationship of individual self and transpersonal Self, the individual connects with something greater, the religious dimension (Jung, 1961).

The division of psychology into two basic perspectives is to a certain extent an arbitrary one since there are models of psychotherapy that include both viewpoints. In addition, it is important to note that the distinction made between psyche and matter is in reality an artificial one, since body and mind are inseparable components that interact to make the human being - Jung used the term “psychoid” to denote the unity of psyche and matter – just as the unconscious and consciousness are inseparable components of psyche that act together to form personality. Physiochemical imbalance may be a factor in psychological disturbances, but it is not the only one. The age-old question, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” reworked for psychology, is “is psychological disturbance the consequence of physiochemical imbalance or is physiochemical imbalance the consequence of psychological disturbance?" From the perspective of unitary reality, both have a part to play. That said, whatever psyche is, it, suggests Jung (1982), makes little difference to psychology, in so far as the psyche knows itself to exist and behaves as such an existent, having its own phenomenology which can be replaced by no other (p. 89). “The psyche” Jung (1982) continues “reflects, and knows, the whole of existence, and everything works in and through the psyche” (p. 90). For this reason, psyche is ultimately unknowable, and Jung (1968a), therefore, accepted that absolute knowledge was beyond the limits of psychology. It is not, however, beyond the limits of his interest which reach beyond medical science to other fields, “the practical importance…[of which] is generally difficult to explain” (Jung, 1982, p. 84). At its essence, analytical psychology is an approach rooted in the understanding that psyche has a religious function of supporting the search for meaning in our lives. Regarding this, Jung (1965) writes,

The decisive question for man is: is he related to something or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid our fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance….In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted….Man’s task is…to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious (pp. 325, 326).

Analytical psychology is first and foremost a depth psychology, meaning that its emphasis is on the unconscious and its influence on consciousness. It is a psychodynamic approach as well. It emphasizes the processes of change and development that occur in psyche through the effect of the unconscious on consciousness and of the active interaction between the two. Analytical psychology is an emphatically interdisciplinary approach. Knowledge gained from other disciplines contributes to the understanding of psyche, thus informing, deepening, and expanding our knowledge of ourselves and of the world we live in.

The psychic issues with which Jung concerned himself tend to be those of mid-life and beyond - the “closing years” of life - rather than life’s beginning phases. Jung’s approach to psyche is known as the “classical analytical approach” which is distinct from other variations of Jung’s psychology in that its focus is the central archetype of Self, and the symbols that guide the development of personality (Kaufmann, 1996; 1999; Samuels, 1985). There are other Jungian approaches to psyche. In order to understand more fully the symmetry of mother-infant and therapist-patient dynamics active in the therapy relationship, one needs to turn elsewhere - to the work of the classically-oriented Jungians, Neumann and Wicks; the object relations school of psychoanalysis; and the developmental school of analytical psychology, which has been strongly influenced by the clinical research of the object relations school of psychoanalysis (Jacoby, 1999). While each of these schools and approaches within schools has a particular focus, when studied together, they present a fuller understanding of the therapist-patient dyad. For example, Jung was interested in the archetypal basis of the psyche and the parallels to the development of the adult personality that he discovered in the mythologies and philosophical-religious systems of the world. Adherents of Jung’s classical approach, Neumann (1973) and Wickes (1978), concerned themselves specifically with the archetypal processes governing the unfolding of the unconscious during the beginning years of life. For Neumann (1954), the mythological symbolism of the mother-child relationship was paramount, while for Wickes (1978) it was the way in which the parental psyche influences and shapes the child. The developmentalists, while still Jungians, do not focus on the archetypal-mythological basis of psyche. Instead, their concern is with the “clinically reconstructed child” observed within the therapy relationship as well as with empirical research of the observed infant which supports it (Jacoby, 1999, p.13). Developmentalists seek to understand the formative years of psychic development or the past in order to then understand later behavior and the present (Sidoli, 1996). As mentioned earlier, the Jungian developmentalists are influenced by psychoanalysis and the mother-child clinical work of the object relationists.

Michael Conforti, a Jungian psychoanalyst, bridges the gulf that separates classical analytical psychology (a synthetic-phenomenological-hermeneutical approach) from traditional psychoanalysis (a more theoretical approach), thereby providing the structure traditionally absent in analytical psychology for the therapist’s identifying, understanding, and working with both the patient’s and his or her own psychic material within the dynamic of the therapist-patient dyad. In this way, Conforti (1988; 1999) not only builds upon Jung’s (1969a; 1976; 1982) researches on energetic processes and the “confluence of psyche and matter” (Conforti, personal communication), but also provides through the Assisi Conferences and Seminars, of which he is the founder and director, an interdisciplinary forum for sharing ideas and current research in the new sciences. (The Assisi Conferences and Seminars is similar in many ways to the Eranos Seminars that Jung was instrumental in shaping during their formative years.) Conforti (1988) presents a particular way of thinking about and working within the inter-subjective field of the therapy relationship. He suggests that the patient-therapist relationship involves not only two spheres of interaction - the manifest layer of subjective psychic material and the latent layer of objective or archetypal material as is traditionally conceptualized - but is constituted of at least six interacting psychic fields of energy (field referring to the force or effect of the archetype). One way to think about these fields is to visualize them as radiating in concentric circles with the beginning circle as the patient’s field and each subsequent field becoming consecutively larger as it moves out from the core. These fields are as follows: 1) the morphogenetic field that generates form; 2) the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded; 3) that of the therapist; 4) the archetypal configuration of the therapist-patient coupling; 5) the therapy situation; 6) the field of the collective or larger world outside of therapy; and 7) the field of the collective unconscious; and below or beyond all these fields, an eighth field which Neumann (1989) identifies as the Self-field, “regulatory and superior to the archetypal field” (p. 20) of the collective unconscious, which both encompasses all the other fields and is the self/Self that we experience as the center of psyche.

What archetypal field theory suggests is that all knowledge is “present or emergent in the living field” (Neumann, 1989, p.15) which encloses the participants. More specifically, each field is governed by an archetypal dominant which constellates or expresses itself in a way particular to it and its mandate. The therapist’s job, writes Kaufmann (1996) is “to get to the point of seeing what is there, rather than imposing an objective reading of the situation” (p. 1) - in other words, reading the archetypal pattern alive within the field of the therapist-patient coupling and forming interpretations based on this phenomenological data. This field-generated information is crucial to forming an accurate understanding of the archetypal field in which the patient is embedded and the patient’s subjective psychic alignment to the archetype, and for crafting finely-tuned interventions that are needed to promote psychic change (Conforti, 2001; Kaufmann, 1999). This reading of archetypal patterns within the therapy relationship is possible because of the self-organizing tendency of psyche. This means that psyche functions to a purpose and is consistent in its functioning. Thus behavior manifested within the therapeutic field is consistent with the mandates of the archetype which underlies and structures it. An apt analogy to this is the hologram wherein each part contains the whole so that in order to know the whole, in this case the archetypal dominant, all that is necessary is to understand a piece which stands for the whole (Conforti, personal communication). Neumann (1989) writes, there is a

transgressive unitary structure of the archetypal field…[which is] the basis for an abundance of similar phenomena, in which the boundaries between inner and outer, psychic and physical melt away (p. 24).

An important point needs to be made, however, concerning archetypal representations - although the archetype is multivalent and expresses itself in countless forms, ergo the hologram analogy, the particular archetypal representation or symbol through which the archetype shows itself is always evocative of a specific psychic situation. For this reason, the symbol which forms a message bridge from the unconscious psyche to consciousness must be understood for the specificity of its expression, for at the moment of its appearance in consciousness this symbol alone and no other is the perfect conveyer of psychic truth necessary for attitudinal change and meaning-making (Conforti, personal communication; Jung, 1964; 1982; Kaufmann, 1999). That the archetypal symbol always stands for something more than its obvious and immediate meaning, the universal or transcendent dimension, is a given in analytical psychology - the way to connection with this greater supporting realm is always through the subjectively tuned image (or behavior) which itself becomes magnified within the field of the therapist-patient dyad (Jung, 1964).

Conforti suggests a number of things with this archetypal field model of psychic process within the psychotherapeutic relationship. First, and more generally, he suggests that the patient-therapist relationship that develops is not a straightforward affair, but a highly complex one that operates at different levels simultaneously. Thus the therapeutic relationship is not simply a matter of the degree of empathy and care that the therapist shows for the patient, nor is it solely about a good “fit” between the therapist and his or her patient, although both these aspects of relational attunement are important, as has been discussed earlier. The psychotherapeutic relationship also is not simply a matter of the therapist developing enough of an affective alliance with the patient early on in the therapy so that the patient is more likely to continue the therapy, which is often a long process, to its natural termination. Both of these things, the quality of relationship and the length of time that it takes for the therapist to establish a working alliance with the patient, are useful variables to consider among others, but are not necessarily the conditions of treatment that make or break the therapy, contrary to accepted belief (Jung, 1976). Conforti (1988; 1999) suggests instead that the patient-therapist relationship is governed by an archetypal dominant configured by the interaction of the therapist’s and patient’s individual fields. This understanding is not new; Jung (1982) called the bond that linked patient to therapist and therapist to patient, the transference bond, a mixatum compositum of the therapist’s “own mental health and the patient’s maladjustment” (p. 171). Conforti’s conceptualization of archetypal fields is, however, a fine-tuning of Jung’s original intuitive understanding of the dynamic inter-psychic relationship binding the patient and therapist together in the embrace of the therapeutic endeavor. The patient-therapist dyad or coupling formed by this third field of archetypal phenomena must be understood and properly worked with for therapy to proceed (Conforti, 1999; Jung, 1976). This archetypally configured coupling is enacted at the initial contact, for example, the request for an appointment, and is active throughout the psychotherapeutic relationship (Conforti, 1988), contrary to accepted belief (Guggenbuhl-Craig, 1971; Jung, 1982). The work of the therapy is to bring out the meaning which this archetype carries for the patient. In other words, the therapist brings the patient to the threshold of change and a new understanding of his or her situation based on the phenomenological reading, if you will, of the archetypal pattern of the psychic data emergent within the therapeutic interaction. It is this interpretation of the unfolding archetypal reality which assists the patient's movement toward individuation, that is, the realization of the transcendent reality active in his or her life. Because this careful work is only possible within the secure container of therapy, the psychotherapeutic relationship does not develop apart from the other therapy components - setting, theoretical orientation and method - but is understood because of them, and is itself archetypally structured. Thus, all the framing elements of the therapy function together as a whole to contain, support and further the patient’s healing.

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- Submitted by Stephanie Buck


  1. I stopped reading when in one swoop you both --as 'therapist'' usurped role of 'mother' AND patronized your 'client'as being a 'baby'...?

    I am sure it would be more healing for the therapist to be EQUAL...?

    In fact in psychedelic therapies there is not much for therapist to do but to provide the set and setting

    I am not being hostile, just challenging this assumption that you are 'mother'

  2. Intervention services do not always end up successful, but they do have a high success rate of at least 85%. As such, each member of the intervention group is provided with drug intervention training to prepare them and make them effective interventionists.