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Re-evaluation Counseling

Re-evaluation Counseling, or RC is the best-known and largest organization for Co-Counseling. RC today spans over 40 countries and offers many individuals an inexpensive or largely free form of counseling and personal healing/growth.

Founded by Harvey Jackins and his followers in the 1950s and early '60s, it is headquartered in Seattle, Washington USA. Jackins, who died in 1999, had a deep interest in helping and empowering people, combined with a visceral commitment to social justice. He was active in trade union organizing in the 1940s. His interests led him to explore and investigate approaches as diverse and unrelated as Marxism, Dianetics, a number of progressive movements, and other movements and organizations that purported to help people feel and function better. Finding none of them to be satisfactory, he created RC as an attempt to combine the best features he had seen work in practice, with his own insights about how people heal, to form a new therapeutic method based on co-operative and free sharing of time and attention between individuals to each others' problems which he called "Co-Counseling" and a new overall movement, establishing formal teaching methods and workshops to train Co-Counselors, which he termed "Re-evaluation Counseling", delivered through Seattle-based "Personal Counselors", a small company which trained people in his methods.

Origins and basic beliefs

Jackins' version of the origins is essentially that he first began exploring the ideas that led to Re-evaluation Counseling after observing a profound change in his very troubled friend after listening to the friend talk and cry at length about his troubles. Curious, Jackins began to work with a small group of people who together slowly and methodically developed a methodology that consisted of sharing attention between one another in order to promote healing from painful feelings and memories through natural biological reflexes such as crying, laughing, and shaking which were termed "discharge". This emotional catharsis led in turn to "Re-Evaluations" or new ways of thinking, following the relief of having discharged the legacy of past hurts. RC theory asserts that the process of freeing one's self from past hurts allows rational thought, because the past hurts are no longer coloring one's view of reality with emotional biases.

The RC organization and literature do not describe its practice as psychotherapy, but instead define the process of dissolving distress patterns through emotional discharge in the context of appreciative attention as a natural process that does not imply either psychopathology on the part of the individual or the need for professional treatment.

The core organization structure of RC consists of classes and local communities set up by experienced Co-Counselors, which are in turn organized by regions and country.

The term "Re-Evaluation" refers to the client's need to rethink their past distress experiences after the emotional hurt in those experiences has been discharged, and thereby regain ("re-emerge" with) their natural intellectual and emotional capacities.

In RC, the client and counselor are expected to work co-operatively, participants are expected to provide non-judgmental active listening and to "contradict" the misinformation or other conditions thought to be associated with distress patterns. RC also engages techniques such as "non-permissive" counseling, in which the counselor intervenes to "interrupt" client patterns.

RC approaches the issue of feelings between Co-Counselors by having a strict "no-socialising" rule. RC Co-Counsellors are expected not to socialise or have social or sexual relationships with other co-counselors unless these relationships pre-dated their becoming co-counselors. This is one reason why many consider a well-organised community of Co-Counselors with clear rules to be essential in the successful practice of Co-Counselling.

Re-evaluation Counseling places a high importance on the need to understand and adhere to a comprehensive theory about the nature of the universe and of human beings (known in general as the "Benign Reality"), the best ways of assisting the discharge process and of pro-liberation attitudes in Co-Counseling. RCers believe that, when taken together, these enable the counselor to keep a clear picture of the client's "re-emergence" and are therefore very effective.

Practitioners of RC view the methods of RC as more effective than those of therapy groups at healing emotional hurts and increasing the effectiveness of rational thought. However it should be noted that as a matter of policy RC does not ally itself with any other self-help, counseling, or pyschotherapy practice. As a result, there are no independent or empirical studies done on the effectiveness of the RC "process", which the organisation accepts. It is therefore difficult for those outside RC to assess these claims in any objective way. Academics studying the value of different types of therapy have not had access to RC to attempt this (but this is equally true of a number of other well-known similar movements). RC'ers claim that RC has attempted to systematize and analyze the counseling process more comprehensively and (to some) believably than other counseling disciplines; but its detractors maintain that the theory is a hodge-podge of borrowed ideologies, linked by a collection of allegedly irrational premises (such as "all people are born good"). There has equally been no well-researched evidence of such harm presented.


Eventually Jackins' organization became officially known as the "The International Re-Evaluation Counseling Community", or slight variations of that name. The "International Reference Person" is Tim Jackins, a former Math teacher from Palo Alto, California, and the founder's son, who assumed the title when Harvey Jackins died in 1999. Tim Jackins is a Yale graduate and received his masters' degree from Stanford. The core organizational structure of RC consists of classes and local communities set up by experienced co-counselors, which are in turn organized by regions and, sometimes, loose country-wide affiliations. RC is against nationalism and hopes that by avoiding organizing on traditional national lines, this enables co-counselors to avoid national "restimulations" (RC terminology for behavior caused by a legacy of emotional hurts that have not been "discharged", influencing the response to current events without being aware that the behavior is linked to those past events) There are currently 270 organized areas internationally listed in the quarterly journal of Re-evaluation Counseling, 'Present Time'. In 2007 'Present Time' listed that it has a circulation of slight less than 4,000. RC does not have a central membership roll and no overall membership figures are available; the RC organisation has in the past made claims of over a million people having learned RC; others doubt this and believe that somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand people have learned RC since its beginnings and that there are probably around 10 to 15 thousand currently active RC practitioners, spread over about 40 countries. These figures are based on average calculations of class numbers from RC insider's calculations; Harvey Jackins in his own works claimed much larger numbers, but these claims are considered dubious. More analysis of this on the Harvey Jackins page.

Development and liberation theory

During the 1970s, the RC approach shifted emphasis from basic listening partnerships to a more strategic focus on liberation and oppression issues for a wide variety of identity groups (e.g., women, working class). The theory behind this shift was the belief that there are certain distress patterns that were observed to be particular to specific groups of people in society (for example, men have been discouraged from crying, adults have been made to feel they always know better than children) and that these mistaken beliefs actually slow and impede any real connection one can have with another human being. As a result, RC publications, workshops and leadership structure(s) are organized within the context of this liberation theory. The RC organization formulated an active response to the 9/11 events with public listening and support projects.

When attending external events, RC often presents itself as "United to End Racism" (UER), a method that has been (unfavorably) compared by some to the methods of Scientology, presenting itself through "front" organizations that appear unconnected with the parent body.

UER played an active role at the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism. UER has been more recently involved in events of the 2006 World Social Forum, the main event of which was held in Caracas, and the World Peace Forum 2006, held in Vancouver. The RC website clearly states the connection with UER, and UER groups present their ideas as based on Re-evaluation counseling.

RC Policy on sexuality

The RC policy on sexuality was developed through the 1970s. Like most of the policies adopted by RC they are based on views on human nature by its founder Harvey Jackins and his followers which they state are garnered from insights from clients in the many co-counselling sessions they undertake. In keeping with the movement's emphasis on rational choice, Jackins constructed a policy on sexuality that deemed all strong sexual feelings for another (regardless of sex) to be suitable subjects for discharge, and unless consciously invoked, to be "restimulation". This largely theoretical viewpoint in practise means that RC suggests such feelings were not to be acted on immediately, but instead are to be counseled on and discharged repeatedly and that, we should only act on sexual feelings that we have previously chosen to have in a calm and deliberate manner:

Unless you calmly and deliberately decide to feel sexual because it is the optimum rational behaviour in a particular situation, and you decide to do it before you feel sexual, any sexual feelings mean you are the victim of restimulation.|[H,Jackins 1977, A Rational Theory of Sexuality p.12]

Jackins speculated that the majority of the population had been the victims of sexual abuse during early childhood and that this played a part in strong sexual restimulation. He also believed that young women were more likely than men to have been the victims of sexual abuse, as they are more sexually victimised and oppressed in most societies and cultures. More controversially he held that those that do not have any memory of such sexual abuse taking place may have partially or wholly repressed such memories, due to them being too painful to recall.

That almost every woman in our society, has been sexually abused as a small child, and that a very large proportion of all men have been abused sexually as small children.|[H,Jackins 1977, A Rational Theory of Sexuality p.14,]

A specific policy on homosexuality, that views participation in same sex acts as being due to distress was also introduced by Harvey Jackins. The first half of this policy states that Reevaluation Counseling endorses “principled and deep opposition to any oppression of people who practice sex with people of their own gender or of people who identify themselves as Gay men, as Lesbians, or as ‘bisexuals’.” However, the second half of this official policy, sometimes called a ‘draft’ policy, but still in place and unrevised since 1995, goes on “participation in sex with a human of your own gender is based on distress. It arises only out of distress experiences in the past. The distress out of which it arises can become unoccluded, (if it has been occluded) and can be completely discharged.”

In the article, Jackins says:

Officially and in the writings of Re-evaluation Counseling, it has always been stated that:

Re-evaluation Counseling opposes the oppression of Gay people as completely wrong. We in Re-evaluation Counseling have a responsibility to find ways to help the individuals saddled with the patterns that lead to this activity to discharge and remove such patterns, We in Re-evaluation Counseling cannot compromise with any "identification" of the person with a pattern which pushes the individual towards participation in sex with people of his or her own gender. We do not concur with any identification of oneself as Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual as ultimately "rational." (Participation in same-gender sex, and identifying oneself as Gay, are two separate activities that sometimes occur together, but not necessarily.)

It is also clear that identifying as Gay, Lesbian, or bisexual can temporarily be a helpful contradiction to the isolation and oppression. Few wide-world constituencies have developed the degree of support and contradiction to most distresses that some parts of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual community have done in recent years. In many places and activities in these communities both the goodness of the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual person and copious discharge are validated and encouraged.

Is same-gender sex carried out between "consenting" adults that "bad"? It is harmful in its effects upon the people involved, as is any rehearsal of a distress pattern, but it is not, in general, more "bad" or "worse than" the ridiculous patterns which have become attached to much heterosexual sex (the many varieties of which range from fetishes to violence and back). It is not "necessarily" more irrational nor perhaps even as irrational as the condemnation patterns rehearsed by the people who perpetuate the oppression of Gay people by condemning them and attacking them. It is not "more irrational" than the great variety of patterns attached to heterosexual sex which are tolerated and practiced in these oppressive societies and cultures under such slogans as "the privacy of the marriage relationship" or "what happens between two consenting adults.". That much is clear.

The organization asserts that people are only gay because of some past hurt, and if they don’t remember any such trauma they can be encouraged to ‘remember’, in RC sessions. No critical discussion of any of the ‘draft’ policies occurs in any of the organizations publications, although it does in RC leadership-approved private mailing lists of lesbian, gay and bisexual members. LGB members of the organization are not allowed to use their real names in the organizations publications or on their website, although this is considered protective of them by RC in the context of a society where gay people still fall victim to oppressive action when identified. "In all publications or writing forms sponsored or produced by Re-evaluation Counseling, any writers identifying themselves as Lesbian or Gay must do so with pseudonyms rather than their given names."

Origins of RC as an adaptation of Dianetics

Re-evaluation counseling has sometimes been viewed as a cult, or as having cult-like aspects, in part because of Jackins' origins in Dianetics (he was originally the North-West U.S. organiser and a member of L. Ron Hubbard's national governing body for Dianetics), which he abandoned in the mid-50s and adapted - therefore his organisation is also sometimes alternatively seen as a "Free Zone" or "Squirrel" (see Scientology beliefs and practices) offshoot of Scientology/Dianetics. RC "members" (the organisation does not have a uniform formal membership structure - membership varies from country to country and is essentially local in nature) have in the past been unaware of the Dianetics origins of RC, but information sharing on the internet has to some extent changed this.

The current leadership of RC remain silent on the issue, republishing Jackins' official version of the origins of RC which contains no mention of Dianetics; as most current RC leaders were not in RC until many years after those events, they may simply not know about them, or if they have heard of them, prefer Jackins' own version. The link between RC and Dianetcs often draws considerable energy from detractors who insist that Jackins was not as forthright as possible. Those in RC who are aware of the connection with Hubbard sometimes dismiss it as irrelevant not only because Jackins died in 1999 but also because (they believe) practical benefits of RC occur independently of whether this link is true or widely exposed. On the other hand, the official line in RC remains that Harvey Jackins uniquely developed all of the principal aspects of Re-evaluation Counseling from his own personal efforts, a view that would be contradicted if accepted that RC was in fact developed from Dianetics. The impact of any link to L. Ron Hubbard on views of RC is moderated by the date of the split between Jackins and Hubbard; Scientology's founder first published his book Dianetics in 1950 and the first church of Scientology was founded in 1954, the same year Jackins allegedly broke away from Hubbard.

More recently, Operation Clambake documentation shows that Harvey Jackins may however have still have been describing himself as a "Dianetics Auditor" in 1957, if L Ron Hubbard's documented denunciation of Jackins to the FBI, released under the Freedom of Information rules in the US, dating from October 8, 1957, is to be believed. "It is our desire that this gentleman be investigated as to Communist activities; whether or not he stirred up or caused the labor disputes in that area is not for me to say" wrote Hubbard, about Harvey Jackins, who along with many others "within" Dianetics had been identified by Hubbard as "communist". The reaction of the FBI to this and other accusations was to recommend that Hubbard be investigated for psychiatric illness.

Cult allegations

An aspect of the "cult" label being applied to RC is the combination of leadership charisma, non-criticism of leaders and centralized decision making that Jackins believed was needed to ensure success in "anti-pattern" progress of the RC method. To some, these appear similar to other alleged cults. Within RC these features are perceived as being required "to assist the average counselor in facing the difficulties of maintaining aware focus on the discharge process". The centralised authority of the leadership does not appear anecdotally to extend beyond decisions about who is allowed to attend events and to teach the subjects of RC, lead groups, and other internal matters; there does not appear to be a sustained effort anywhere in the organization to control the outside lives of "members". Therefore a key aspect of cult identification, undue control over members, is undermined in its application to RC. RC does not apply heavy financial charges for basic courses (RC "Fundamentals" classes) or further workshops and in general appears to avoid some of the other behaviors commonly attributed to cults, such as punishments, forced love, etc, although quick google searches do reveal a number of sexual abuse and other allegations leveled against Harvey Jackins dating from the early 80s. These are explored more thoroughly on the Harvey Jackins page.

Re-evaluation counseling encourages individuals within RC to play other important roles in their community as government leaders, educators, non-profit organizers, artists etc, ostensibly to use it as a tool to help move forward their personal goals and improve their communities, rather than to become insular adherents to some ideology. However, Jackins himself frequently urged members to join and advocate for RC-style philosophy within mainstream groups, which he termed "wide world change" so this may just be a consequence of this policy. The organization also advocates the formation of groups that promote the principles and style of organization of Reevaluation Counselling groups without disclosing to members their connection with the organization. These groups are called (within RC) 'naturalized' groups. An example is United to End Racism (UER), which does clearly list its affiliation with RC on its website Critics may note that this resembles the strategy of entryism advocated by Hubbard in both his Dianetics and Scientology days and much of the language used to justify the process in both organisations is closely similar.


Further reading

  • Jackins, Harvey (1970); Fundamentals of co-counselling manual; Rational Island, Seattle; ISBN 1-58429-073-0
  • Jackins, Harvey (1973); The human situation; Rational Island, Seattle; ISBN 0-911214-04-6
  • R.D. Rosen, Psychobabble, 1975, chapter on Jackins and Co-counselling; Publisher: Avon Books (Mm) (April 1979); ISBN 0-380422-91-3
  • Caroline New, Katie Kauffman (July 2004); Co-Counselling: The Theory and Practice of Re-Evaluation Counselling; Brunner-Routledge; ISBN 1-58391-210-X

See also

External links

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