What is Process Work?

Process Oriented Psychology (Process Work) is a cross-disciplinary approach to facilitate individual and collective change. It offers new ways of working with human difficulties, including emotional disturbances, physical illness or symptoms, relationships, and larger community conflicts.

Process Work has its philosophical roots in Jungian Psychology, Chinese Taoism, and the Shamanism of many indigenous peoples.

Jungian psychology provides much of the therapeutic underpinning of Process Work, particularly its ‘teleological approach’ - that raw experiences may yield meaning and purpose when amplified in a manner appropriate to the situation, as determined by the constant observation of the effects this amplification produces. Taoism supports an appreciation of the natural state of all things and faith in the inherent rightness of events no matter how harmful or pathological they may appear at first glance. From Shamanism comes the basic concern with the value of unexpected and unintended events and a willingness to allow and be guided by altered states of awareness.

Process Work was founded and initially developed by Dr Arnold Mindell, a Jungian analyst then based in Zurich. In 1969 he realized that body experiences and symptoms mirror dreams and are meaningful expressions of the unconscious. He used the term `dreaming body' (later ‘dreambody) to identify the numinous underlying process expressing itself through both dreams and the body. Together with his colleagues and students, Mindell has continued to research how the `dream', the `living unconscious in its momentary expression', is constantly found in every aspect of our lives.

This work has repeatedly showed how physical body symptoms, addictions, family and relationship problems, group conflicts and social tensions all mirror our night time dreams, and vice versa : all these experiences, even the most chaotic-seeming processes, when approached with curiosity and respect, reveal an inner order and coherence that can bring new information vital for our personal and collective growth.

The Core of Process Work

As individuals or groups we usually find it difficult to give equal value to all aspects of ourselves and experiences. (Instead we tend to identify ourselves in a particular way. For example we may consider ourselves to be strong or weak, loving or detached, spiritual or worldly.)  A central concern of Process Work is to support the totality of our personal richness and to help the less-valued aspects of ourselves find expression and a place in our lives. Included in this concern is the support we will need - to express and live such disavowed parts of ourselves often brings us into conflict with the culture we live in and our basic belief systems

Process Work has been applied in many areas and used as a method of individual, couple or family psychotherapy, for personal growth and for working with life crises;

It can be a means of meditating on one's own psychological or life process, and a way to work with body symptoms and physical illness (either alone or with a process work therapist.)

Because of its interest in groups and systems it has been actively taken up by organisations needing change management

Because of it’s valuing of altered states it has often been helpful for people nearing end of life, those with psychiatric conditions and even in extreme altered states of consciousness such as coma and medical trance states.

As the field of Process Work has grown, its practitioners have moved beyond the parameters of traditional psychotherapy, extending their work into such areas as conflict resolution with groups,

institutions and communities, addressing social issues and even ethnic and international conflict;

They have been widely involved in organisational development in business, educational work with children in schools and applying the values of process work to creativity and the arts, (theatre, music, visual/tactile arts, writing), dealing with environmental crises and exploring the needs for a new spirituality.

A significant off-shoot of such efforts is the concept of Worldwork, where the principles of Process Work are applied to large and small group meetings addressing a wide variety of human concerns at a community and international level.

Such diverse research, development and applications place Process Work beyond the usual definitions of ‘Psychology’ or Psychotherapy.

Question. Why not call Process Work "therapy."

Answer: We often do, but in essence, process work is more than "healing" in the sense of "making someone  better" but rather focuses on following the individual, relationship or group's overall nature and proces