Michel Lamarche, PRH educator
In order to bring out the specific structure of a psychological helping method such as the PRH helping relationship, we can study the characteristics of its anthropology, psychology, methodology, its aims and its limits.
1. The specific anthropology and psychology underlying PRH personal accompaniment
It is through an understanding of human beings and of the mechanisms of their psychological functioning that we can help someone, that we can diagnose problems and that we can accompany persons in their search for solutions and in their growth journey. Each school has its own theories about the human person. In PRH, the anthropological and psychological foundations are recorded in the book, “Persons and Their Growth”. We recall here some of the basic principles accompanists use to listen to another: the positive core of the personality, the five pivotal centres of the person with their specific functions and interaction, the phenomenon of the aspiration to exist and the need to be recognised, the person’s growth mechanisms, the phenomenon of wounds from the past and their healing, the phenomenon of re-education to harmonious functioning, the importance for growth of being open to Transcendence, etc. This understanding of the human person developed by PRH has led to faith in persons’ capacity for growth and in their ability to find for themselves the solutions to the problems they encounter, and to a respect for the freedom of persons being accompanied.
2. What is specific to the PRH method of personal accompaniment?
- The PRH helping relationship is one in a series of educational means (workshops, personal growth tools, methodical personal growth program, growth journal, etc). Personal accompaniment is usually proposed along with other means. Experience has shown that it attains maximum effectiveness especially when used in conjunction with work done in a group setting. PRH differs here from many other methods which exclusively use the interpersonal relationship between therapist and client.
- It is a structured method, involving preparation for the interview by the person being helped and a development of the interview in four stages: an expression of the reason for requesting an interview and the context of this request, re-wording of the request by the accompanist, dialogue concerning and/or an exploration of the problem, a conclusion taking the essential points from the interview and their concrete implications on the person’s daily life and a written evaluation of the interview.
- Paradoxically to the structured aspect of this method we find a great flexibility and capacity for adaptation in its implementation. For example, according to persons’ needs, accompanists can situate themselves differently, either by using a directive approach, or the opposite, taking a non-direct approach, allowing the person to analyse what they are living without external interference. Or, they use a dialogue approach where both persons are involved in order to enable progress. Another example is that accompaniment can be used only occasionally, or it can be used regularly, according to a rhythm adapted to persons’ needs. These two examples distinguish PRH from other methods which advocate a sole method of relating to the person being helped, or even frequent interviews or, on the contrary, interviews for a very limited time (called “short” therapy).
- The method calls upon the five pivotal centres of the person and not just their intellect or their emotions, or even their bodily experience as in certain other methods. It calls upon the being, where individuals can draw from their deeper resources (their taste for truth, their desire to progress, etc). It calls upon the “I”, where persons’ intelligence allows them to analyse, to understand, to make connections and to anticipate the near future, where their freedom refers to the deep conscience with a view to making constructive decisions and where their will helps them to be tenacious in their work. The sensibility and the body are the basic materials persons bring with them, along with sensations having psychological content which these two centres experience.
We can note here the important role the “I” plays in the work which takes place during an interview. In fact, it is partly the work of knowledge and awareness and partly the implementation of one’s potentialities that allow persons to progress. One specific aspect of the PRH accompaniment method is to rely largely on the tool of analysis, which was developed by the founder of PRH, that is, the analysis of sensations having psychological content.
- The PRH method of accompaniment gives first place to the persons being accompanied. They lead the interview. Individuals decide what seems to be best for them in order to progress. Educational tools are available to them so that they can learn how to receive help. Their counsellor, who is very present and always listening, has a secondary role, while remaining interactive. He/she accompanies the individual concerning the topic they have decided to approach, helping them through their attitudes, their silence, their reflections, their questions, the trails they suggest. His/her role is to be a facilitator of the person’s work, their autonomy, their adjustment and the verbalization of what the individual perceives, feels or thinks. The requirement for authenticity toward the person they are helping may lead counsellors to express their point of view, to question a dysfunction not identified as such and exceptionally, to be directive when it is clear that the person is not capable of making a decision where their life is at stake. So we neither enter into the logic of neutrality or of almost complete self-effacement of the accompanist as in certain psychoanalytical approaches, nor in a directive approach as in certain behaviourist approaches.
Close to Roger’s humanistic current which emphasizes empathy, the PRH method in fact relies on the benevolence of the counsellor toward the person being helped. It is a helping relationship based on a quality human relationship, which gives persons a sense of security. The training of PRH accompanists insists on ways of being in order to help persons. Six attitudes constitute the basis of these ways of being toward the person being accompanied: in depth listening in order to understand the other, non-judgement and benevolence, faith in the other, respect for the other’s freedom, sympathy and affection, authenticity. As they observe these attitudes being lived by the accompanist, individuals can gradually let go of their defences, access deeper levels within themselves which up to now had been buried in their subconscious, and take the risk to talk about these. They gradually rediscover the freedom to exist according to who they are, knowing that they will be accepted and loved.
- Remuneration differs from certain other approaches that see paying the therapist as an authenticating and stimulating factor in motivating their clients. PRH proposes a scale of fees, and it is individuals who, in good conscience, calculate their fee, taking into account their resources and personal situation. Furthermore, professional accompanists and at times volunteers make their services available specifically to persons who are financially disadvantaged.
- In PRH accompaniment, we take into account transference which can occur toward the accompanist and counter-transference. It is identified and used as a way of approaching the individual’s painful past, or as a very active life-giving element for the individual’s restoration. However, it is not the central element around which the process of accompaniment revolves, as can be observed in psychoanalytical approaches.
- Unlike other methods, PRH individual accompaniment does not use specific techniques in order to provoke feelings or emotions (hyperventilation, eye movements, hypnosis, etc) nor does it use association of ideas, dreams, interpretations, classifications (of character, of mental illness, etc), nor provocative behaviours meant to uncover defence mechanisms.
3. The specific aim of PRH individual accompaniment
Even if the initial request made by an individual asking for help from a PRH accompanist can be focused on a particular difficulty, an embarrassing symptom, an obstacle or a dysfunction, accompanists always have, as a concern at the back of their mind, the overall growth of the person with whom they are speaking. This is the essential aim of work undertaken using the PRH tools whatever they may be: that the deep resources of the individual can develop, that their potential in terms of psychological well-being be called forth, that their essential activities can be actualised, that their behaviour be as harmonious as possible with their deep conscience, that they discover the meaning of their existence, that their openness to Transcendence lead them towards something that is ever new. In brief, that persons can stand up in themselves, lead their lives and bring their contribution – the best of themselves – to the society to which they belong. The only reason for working on dysfunctions and on problems is to free persons from that which can hinder this dynamism and, in this way, foster the natural movement of growth which exists in all human beings.
In other words, the aim of PRH accompaniment is not exclusively centred on the disappearance of symptoms or on solving problems, or only on the awareness of the origin or persons’ difficulties. All healing work is undertaken from that perspective. PRH accompaniment aims at having individuals assume their true identity and learn a way of life consistent with who they are in their very depths.
4. What is specific regarding the limits of PRH personal accompaniment?
Looking back at 35 years of experience reveals how much this form of accompaniment has effectively helped and continues to help a large and varied number of adults throughout the world. However, as with all methods, PRH personal accompaniment has its limits. This form of accompaniment is not suitable for individuals who have serious psychological problems, or for individuals whose intelligence does not usually function well, due to the degree of intensity of their emotions or difficulties which invade and affect their field of awareness.
Certain individuals with strong cerebral tendencies may benefit from complementing their PRH accompaniment with an approach where the body is more involved, in order to awaken their sensory dimension (relaxation, massage, Vittoz method, etc).
Other individuals may need to complete their PRH growth journey with specialists who will help them to approach their person differently, with other points of view and with other methods. A method, no matter how effective, cannot pretend to alone contain the riches of a diversity of approaches.
Other limits exist. They are inherent to all forms of psychological help and are related more to the manner in which certain individuals use this accompaniment tool or commit to using it, or to the way certain problems lock individuals into impasses difficult to overcome.
In a human growth journey, methods of helping remain means, admittedly more or less suitable or effective, always open to being improved, but never magical or self-sufficient. Time factors and life events will always remain essential elements in this growth journey and they provide Life with spaces to do its work secretly within individuals, according to its own rhythm.