Community-based Counseling is Movement Counseling

Alexander Lynn

(Originally published by Social Justice Education, 2012)

Community-based Counseling is movement counseling. It is counseling in the service of the people’s liberation movements. Community-based Counseling is premised in the Liberation Pedagogical principle of taking sides — it is avowedly in the service of the oppressed. Community-based Counseling addresses people’s internalized oppression, our emotional/mental illness, by consciously linking it to the dis-ease of the social order. Therefore, community-based counseling begins immediately by connecting ill folk to healthy community — to spiritual associations, to political activist groups, to recovery circles.

The recovery movement has been putting psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy out of business.* This is taking place behind the back of this movement, as the public relations policy of Alcoholics Anonymous, et al, has always been to reach out with the utmost enthusiasm for the helping and cooperative hand of the medical field, and inside this field, the mental health professions of psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry. (Bill W., 2005)

Indeed, there have been monumental contributions to the recovery movement, to recovery treatment models, to the disease concept of addiction, made by individual medical field practitioners. It is the health care industry, as an element of the social system in which we live, which is being ruined by an approach which does not require money. In this regard, the federal and state governments have employed the, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” approach to the recovery movement. All half-way houses, clinics, substance abuse programs, detox’s and other treatment facilities which are given federal funds today are required to be connected in practice to the recovery movement, to provide recovery meetings, to teach recovery principles in counseling and therapy, and to provide recovery texts such as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, or the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous. In many states parolees and ex-offenders on probation are required to attend Twelve-Step meetings as a condition of their parole or probation.

The fact of its being absolutely free means that when government agencies link their programs to the recovery resources, they are making a major financial savings. In this context, thousands of recovery meetings are being watered down by the mandatory participation of men and women from government-run treatment facilities or from the mandatory attendance of parolees and people on probation. This forcing of clients/patients/parolees to attend meetings directly runs counter to the reason-to-be of recovery: Recovery only works when the addict, of his own volition, becomes aware of his need for this help. (There is no doubt that many of these people who are forced to come to meetings end up benefiting, but it is nevertheless equally without doubt that the success rate for such individuals is much less than for those who come of their own volition.)

Just as capitalism continues to morph and adapt, psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy, as elements of the health care for-profit industry inside capitalism, have adopted the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em” method of survival to save their professions. As a consequence, any reputable psychiatrist today, in addition to prescribing debilitating psychotropic drugs to their patients, will, in an obligatory fashion, recommend a Twelve-Step association which addresses the specific presenting ill-behavior of their patients.

Freud and Jung When we say that psychotherapy is, in the main, junk, we are not speaking about your individual therapist, who may be doing a great job. We are referring to the origin/foundation stones of psychotherapy in Freudianism and Jungianism. Both of these foundation stone ideologies of psychology situate mental and emotional illness inside the individual, in isolation from the ill social system. Freudianism is accurate regarding many bourgeois (that is, nuclear) family psychoses, with the caveat that it is not conscious that it is speaking of a family form which has been here for a minute time on the planet, and but for bourgeois law it is practiced by a tiny minority of the world’s people. In identical fashion to the way bourgeois ideologists understand the bourgeois social order as universal, so too does Freudianism appropriate the nuclear family as if it is universal. Freudianism is the ideological reflection of nuclear family relations under capitalism. It has no bearing on anything beyond this limited purview (in large measure because it is unconscious of this purview).

Freudianism denies the source of individual mental illness in a sick social order. In doing so, it denies the bottom-line solution to emotional/mental disorder — participation in healthy community building, participation in non-nuclear family and community.

Freudianism is the chronicle of the pathology of the nuclear family. It has no bearing outside of the bounds of this social construct, and inside this strength its application to the nuclear family is inaccurate, narrow and stunted for at least three reasons:

1. By presenting itself as examining psychopathology in general, rather than that associated with nuclear family relations under capitalism, Freudianism cannot unearth the source of the pathology inherent in the nuclear family, in private property, and capitalism. Freudianism is a variant of bourgeois ideology;

2. By presenting as representing universal human experience, it misses the root of present day psychosis in patriarchy, that is, in an era of less than 5,000 years duration — the time of prevalence of class society. Freudianism is male supremacist;

3. By presenting itself as universal, it is not conscious of the support it gives to the narrow objectives of Western civilization, its Eurocentrism. Freudianism, missing this specific limitation in application to the nuclear family, resolves itself in practice to being a brand of white supremacy.

To chronicle the life and times of Jungianism as the penultimate foundation stone of Western psychology is to witness the decay of this culture in all of its most putrid manifestations. The record shows that Jung himself was a mere “Johny-on-the-spot” opportunist, when there was no one to fill the position of President of the International Medical Society for Psychotherapy, the psychology arm of Hitlerite fascism in its build-up to and during World War II. No one else would take the job. In this position Jung wrote of the Fuhrer: “There is no question but that Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man…. [S]ince the time of Mohammed nothing like it has been seen in this world. This markedly mystic characteristic of Hitler’s is what makes him do things which seem to us illogical, inexplicable, curious and unreasonable [like incinerating millions of people…]…[S]o you see, Hitler is a medicine man, a form of a spiritual vessel, a demi-diety or even better, a myth…” (Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff, Common Courage Press. 1993).

When the truly mystic elements of the Fuhrer wore off — the defeat of the Nazi’s — Jung adroitly remade himself, while at the same time building on his medicine man theory, and turning it into his theory of “archetypes,” the theory for which he is currently heralded (Lynn and Reyes, 2001). As a die-hard Aryan supremacist in hiding, Jung began to study the indigenous peoples of Africa and North America. By viewing these objects, he devised his theory of archetypes which, boiled down, is merely the most crude and at the same time one of the most salient expressions of cultural imperialism in the history of this decayed impulse — the stealing of the ways of indigenous peoples, determining that the latter are less than human, and then passing off his “discoveries” as products of his deep research.

To study Carl Jung is to understand how far this culture will go into decay before letting go.

Connecting to healthy community Community-based Counseling, including the practices of thousands of forward-thinking and sincere therapists today, begins by connecting constituents to healthy community, whether it be in a recovery circle, a spiritual association, or some other community effort — such as women’s groups, men’s groups, other self-help associations, youth organizations, parent committees, urban community garden clubs, tenant groups, neighborhood crime watch committees, community building mobilizations and community justice campaigns — in other words, the activities that residents in all oppressed communities engage in, independently of the government and the powers-that-be, to address their basic needs (Lynn and Owens, 1997, pp18–19). Any of these group activities that can stand in against the emotional and social isolation/dislocation which is the reservoir for mental illness in this culture, can be a support for reclamation of self for the sufferer/survivor.

Community teachers in public schools develop programming whereby students can address their emotional and spiritual needs. Otherwise public school is a warehouse and a pre-prison system. Young people come to school with major baggage from their experiences at home and in the neighborhoods of oppressed communities. Community teachers try to help the young people create safe space in the schools where these issues can be addressed. Community teachers organize with each other, with their charges and with the families of the students to demand that peer leadership programs, youth in recovery programs, real mental health counseling, is in place, instead of the “guidance counselor” who is generally despised, and who tells the students that they are setting their sights too high when they aspire to be lawyers… (This is still going on, 60 years after Malcolm…)

Authenticity, authority and agency in counseling “Back in the day,” 30 years ago when this scribe discovered the need for counseling help, the peoples were very creative. One of my “therapists” was a Yoruba Priestess. Her sessions consisted of rituals from West African indigenous practices. Another counselor of mine came directly out of Cherokee Nation spiritual traditions. Her exercises and meditations were derived from rituals from this indigenous people.

Today, we have Mass Health. In other words, our “universal health care” which provides “health insurance for all,” is predicated on micro-managing our psychological counseling, and it consists in the psychiatric practice of doling out debilitating and addictive psychotropic drugs. And when the client applies for therapy, the health care provider presses a button, and the next White American graduate from Boston University School of Psychology comes up on the screen — and is assigned to you as your “spiritual guide.” It must be pointed out in this regard, that universal health care is a principle of socialism. As such, it can only legitimately be implemented under a People’s Government. “Universal health care” under capitalism is curtailed, distorted and crippled by the profit motive in the capitalist health care industry.

The counselors referred to above from “back in the day” had no such credentials. They came out of the people’s liberation movements of the time — 1970’s — in this country. This scribe does have a Masters degree in counseling/psychology, which means I had to endure “training” from some bizarre White American professors on the subject of mental and emotional health. This after the training I received as a child 30 years earlier, growing up in an upper middle class White neighborhood in which at least three of its residents were psychologists or psychiatrists, and at the same time were each Lester the Molester.

It is in this connection that movement-based counseling recognizes the authenticity, authority and agency of folks who are devoted to the University of Recovery; that such community people have at least as much legitimacy going in than do middle class White American graduates of the psych schools in this country. Authority and agency in spiritual health, after all, must come from life experience, and can never be legitimately based in a piece of paper gained from Western (in other words, white supremacist and male supremacist) schools of psychology and psychiatry. Everyday, in recovery meetings all over the country, can be witnessed counseling skills in practice which are derived from the University of Recovery, counseling skills which are far more legitimate and effective than any that could be gained from studying white supremacist and male supremacist psychology books.

Agents of change and growth Movement-based counseling directs the sufferer/survivor to investigate and uncover the role of poverty, racism, sexual abuse, patriarchy, able-ist discrimination, et al, in the presenting psychosis. Movement-based counseling, opposite from blaming the sufferer, and claiming that the psychologist’s views, or the psychiatrist’s drugs, are the cure, directs the sufferer/survivor to see themselves in community as the agent of change and growth. Community-based counseling sees us in the circle as the healers. Community-based counseling relies on the indigenous ways of the peoples to find our source of strength, the source internal to our people, to our communities, to the individual-in-connection with a Higher Power within each of us. The source of change, for growth, for the development of emotional wellness cannot be the psychologist, psychotropic drugs, prison, the psychoanalyst’s couch, or mental institutions. It must be within the sufferer/survivor, in the life process of the building of healthy community. Community-based Counseling is a force for Liberation Pedagogy in the field of health care.

* That was written in 2012, and since then the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry have induced a fantastic comeback for the field of psychiatry. The average psychiatrist today is nothing short of your local neighborhood drug dealer, except that he is making much more money at it. NPR reported yesterday (5/13/2019) that one out of every two adults in the United States takes some form of prescribed drug each month. Among these prescriptions, the psychotropic drugs (debilitating addictive drugs which Big Pharma is dosing out daily and hourly) have created what has become nothing short of a mental health crisis.

On the level of the social system and the era in history in which we are living, it must be observed that the capital these two industries (health insurance and Big Pharma) have accumulated have made it possible for them to create “new” drugs to “cure” those addicted to the old drugs they have gotten the population addicted to.

It is in this connection that Community-based Counseling provides the anti-dote to the mental illness produced by conditions of living under the monopoly capitalist system. It is in the process of relying on the circle of our loved ones, in the process of helping to make the circle whole, in the process of family-building and community building that we find the antidote to the spiritual/mental/emotional illness of obsession and compulsion, to the spiritual disorder of total self-centeredness — the route of the spiritual decay of the social order.

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References

Alcoholics Anonymous. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book of). New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

Bill W. (2005). The Language of the Heart. New York: The AA Grapevine, Inc.

Lynn, A. and Lisa Owens. (1997). Mattapan Commodity Health Center. Boston: United Youth of Boston.

Lynn, A. and Delores Reyes. (2001). “Prostitution and recovery.” Social Justice Education.

Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff, (1993). Against therapy. Common Courage Press.

Narcotics Anonymous. (2008). Narcotics Anonymous (the Basic Text). Chatsworth, CA: Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

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