Re-evaluation Counselling

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Re-evaluation Counselling (RC) is a counselling/psychotherapy movement founded by the late Harvey Jackins and based on the application of the techniques of Dianetics and Scientology to a Marxist and identity politics-based analysis of societal oppression, racism, and sexism. Jackins was both the 1950s Pacific Northwest organizer for L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics movement and a socialist labor organizer.

The target audience of RC is the left-wing liberation movements that came out of the 1960s and 70s, such as women's liberation, anti-racism, etc. RC generally presents itself to its target audience as a method of using emotional release techniques (derived from Scientology) to free persons from patterns of behavior imposed on them by systemic racism, sexism, and classism in society, but did not openly disclose the origin of its techniques in Dianetics. The claim of RC is that this emotional release can free people of the effects of societal oppression leaving them re-empowered to change the world.

Early life of Founder Harvey Jackins

Jackins was born in Northern Idaho on June 28, 1916.[1]

During the 1930s he was a member of the Communist Party of America. Between 1939 and 1941, he organized a Young Communist League at the University of Washington in Seattle. Never completing his undergraduate degree, he became a labor organizer in the 1940s. He was expelled from local 46 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, from the Building Service Employees' Union, and from Lodge 751 of the Aero Mechanics' Union for alleged Communist activities.[2] In 1954 he was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee as part of its investigation into Communist activities in Pacific Northwest after being named by three witnesses.[3] He took the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and refused to name former associates[3], although he had been expelled from the Communist Party himself.[4]

By the early 1950ies, Jackins had started to work for the Dianetics Institute of Seattle, and by the 1960ies, he had combined politics and psychology into an alleged new left politics of interpersonal relations. At that time, Hubbard saw himself losing control over Dianetics to groups mixing his theories with the occult and with alternative medicine. This "personal counseling" also was an attempt to position the organisation within mainstream psychiatry. Jackins himself referred to his theory as "Dianetic Processing" during that time.[5]

Relation to Scientology

RC is not a part of the Scientology organization, which Jackins officially left in the mid 1950s, and is sometimes characterized, using the Scientology terminology, as part of the "Free Zone" of those using Scientology practices outside of the official sanction of the so-called Church of Scientology. In 1957, the Church of Scientology wrote the FBI requesting they investigate Harvey Jackins, who at the time had left Hubbard's organization but was still calling himself a Dianetics auditor, as a Communist. The FBI, who considered Hubbard a mental case, typically ignored such letters from the CoS.


RC's main practice is "co-counseling", involving two people who take turns being the counselor and counselee. It is somewhat similar to early Dianetics "auditing" (circa early 1950s) in that it does not use more recent Scientology practices such as the E-Meter, except that both persons approach the session as equals (in contrast to Dianetics auditing where one person only does the auditing and the other person is the one audited). Each person is encouraged to share their experiences with the other, in the process supposedly uncovering deep-seated issues from their past which they are then encouraged to bring to the surface and act out in emotional ways - crying, laughing, shaking. This is supposed to "discharge" those past issues and help each person put them behind them.

This practice of re-visiting old traumatic experiences and bringing them out again is found within many therapy and self-help disciplines and is not limited to RC and Scientology (it is also found, for example, in Gestalt and encounter therapy, primal scream therapy, and in some psychotherapy methods intended to treat post-traumatic stress disorder). Its effectiveness is controversial within academic psychology; the concept was popular from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Development of Re-evaluation Counseling

In the early 1950s, Jackins became acquainted with L. Ron Hubbard's theory of Dianetics. In 1952 Jackins formed Personal Counselors Inc. to "engage in, conduct and teach the art and science of Dianetics."[6] While practicing Dianetics, he developed the concepts of "re-evaluation"[6] and "discharge" and came to believe that they could be encouraged by the "exchange of aware attention" in the "co-counseling process".[7] At this time, Jackins used some of the terminology of Dianetics, such as "clearing up patterns", "rationality", "present time" and "passing distress by contagion".[8] Psychiatrist Richard M. Childs claimed that Jackins' book The Human Side of Human Beings (1965) plagiarized Hubbard's Dianetics (1950), saying that Jackins "paraphrased Hubbard's terms by recasting them in his own jargon. Hubbard's "Engrams" became Jackins' "distress patterns", "release" became "discharge", and "to become clear" became RC's "to re-emerge"."[9] In 1957, Hubbard's Scientology organisation claimed that Jackins was describing himself as a "Dianetics Auditor".[10]

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jackins systematized his views and in the 1960s and 1970s took RC from Seattle, where he first practised it, to the rest of the US and to Europe. From 1975 to 1990, he appointed local teachers, area representatives, regional leaders and representatives of groups such as blacks and gays. He wrote RC's Guidelines and decided on all major issues. His policies were ratified by a biennial conference. Tourish and Iriving compared his system of management to the Communist state model of democratic centralism.[11] Jackins allegedly supervised the involvement of RC members in external organisations. Jackins is said to have claimed that several governments were influenced by RC[12] and to have thought that eventually religion will be replaced by Re-evaluation Counseling.[12]

Harvey Jackins' own story of the origins of Re-evaluation Counseling leaves out any mention of Dianetics. As he told it, he began to develop Re-evaluation Co-Counseling after observing a troubled friend make changes in their thinking process through being patiently listened to while he cried.[13][14] Curious about the effect of this crying, he worked with others to develop a method of reciprocal counseling based on the recollection of psychological and physical traumas or "hurts" accompanied by various types of emotional catharsis. He called these effects "discharge" (as in when a battery discharges excess energy), which he came to believe led to clear thinking or "re-evaluation". He held that rational thinking was prevented by the accumulation of past hurts, which could be removed by repeated discharge through co-counseling. The objective of RC became the dissemination of this method of creating rational thinking, a process called "re-emergence". Re-evaluation counseling, it is held, can remove "oppression", which it considers to lie at the root of most of the problems in the world.

Criticism and Response

In the 1980s, RC members began to accuse Jackins of sexual misconduct, which was said to range from favoring attractive young women in the organization to rape. The first allegation of sexual abuse was made in 1981 by RC member Deborah Curren whose claims were reported in the Seattle Sun and on local TV station KIRO-TV|KIRO TV. Following the allegations, Jackins was strongly criticized by the Minneapolis-St Paul RC group. Jackins disbanded the group and forty-five members of RC resigned in protest. Jackins wrote that "The use of these rumors to attack me and through me the Community has been a very nasty problem in the last few months, and there is some indication that some of the spook agencies of the government and their dirty tricks department have been involved in this."[6] Curren took out a lawsuit against Jackins[15] but withdrew it when Jackins filed for costs.[16]

In 1989 a group of RC leaders, led by Daniel le Bon, resigned from RC, stating in their resignation letter that RC had no scientific basis. Daniel le Bon has created his own organisation called "Présence à soi", an ersatz of RC. They criticised that Jackins for making improbable claims, taking a dogmatic stance and ignoring evidence. They said that the process of "discharge" did not work and that Jackins knew it, which he had extended the purpose of RC from discharge to "general liberation from all oppressions".[17]

In the mid-1990s, Jackins was criticised within RC for his views that homosexuality may be a form of "distress" arising from the mistreatment of young children, and that it may be "recovered" or removed.[18] In a 1974 article entitled "Is Homosexuality a Distress Pattern?", Jackins said that homosexuality, "as distinct from the desire to touch or be close, is irrational, is the result of distress patterns (often very early in origin and chronic), and will disappear by the free choice of the individual with sufficient discharge and re-evaluation."[3][19] This caused some critics to leave the movement and to form breakaway co-counseling groups.

Jackins advised people within RC to ignore criticisms of RC leaders, which he characterised as "attacks", but he said that suggestions were welcome. His advice became RC policy. RC defines "attacks" as "attempts to harm a person, usually a leader, or an organization, in the guise of disagreeing and discussing".[3] People making "attacks" "should be asked to apologize and, if unresponsive, should be made to leave the group and their attacks ignored."[20] The 1981 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities resolved unanimously to "reject and condemn, as completely contradictory to the spirit and practice of Re-evaluation Counseling, the vicious gossip and slanderous circulation of written attacks upon Harvey Jackins."[6] RC says that "People playing this role should not be 'counseled' but should be asked to apologize and, if unresponsive, should be made to leave the group and their attacks ignored."[20] "To counter attacks on RC and its leaders, RC members are instructed to interrupt the person, approach the accusation as the personal problem of the accuser, and vigorously come to the defense of the person or people being attacked."[3]

Involvement on the political left

"United to End Racism" is an RC front group which has participated in several conferences of identity politics and anti-racism movements such as the Durban World Conference against Racism, the World Social Forum in Caracas, and the White Privilege Conference 2006. RCers are also encouraged to bring RC principles and techniques into other activist groups they are members of, such as labor, environmental, and feminist organizations, to expose them to RC on the pretext of making them more effective by "discharging" their members of their internalized oppressions. The RC-coined concepts "internalized oppression" and "co-counseling" have passed into the broader parlance of psychotherapy and self-help movements.

See also

  • Erhard Seminars Training, similar in its heavy borrowing from Scientology and claims to break up destructive behavior patterns
  • Social Therapy, similar in its claims to free people of systemic oppression based on a Marxist and identity politics analysis

Further information

Versions of this article in other languages


  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Steve Carr, "Attack Theory: Re-Evaluating RC", Polemicist, Volume 3, No. 5, April 1992
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 A Documentary History of the Career of Harvey Jackins and Re-evaluation Counseling, Study Group on Psychotherapy Cults, Belgium, 1993
  7. Jackins, Harvey, The human side of human beings, Seattle: Rational Island Publishers, 1965 ISBN 0-911214-60-7
  8. Rich's Home Page - Comparison of Re-evaluation Counseling Terms and concepts with Dianetics
  9. Richard M. Childs, A Psychiatrist's Story of His Brief Involvement with Re-Evaluation Counseling
  10. Letter from Richard F. Steves to the FBI dated 8 October 1957
  11. Dennis Tourish and Pauline Irving, "Group influence and the psychology of cultism within re-evaluation counselling: A critique of Co-Counselling",Psychology Quarterly, Volume 8, Issue 1, 1995, pp.35-50
  12. 12.0 12.1 Europe Resigns
  13. New, Caroline and Kauffman, Katie, Co-Counselling: The Theory and Practice of Re-Evaluation Counselling, 2004, Brunner-Routledge ISBN 1-58391-210-X
  14. Medicine Story, "To Be Human Again - Camps for Peace and Love", Talking Stick, Winter/Spring 2003
  15. Curren v. Jackins, First Amended Complaint for Damages (Superior Court of the State of Washington, King County, Jan. 17, 1990)
  16. Cult Awareness and Information Library
  18. Harvey Jackins on Homosexuality
  19. Jackins, Harvey, The Upward Trend, Seattle: Rational Island Publishers, 1981 ISBN 0-911214-81-X
  20. 20.0 20.1 Re-evaluation Counseling website
This text was taken from Wikipedia entirely or in part
This text was taken from RationalWiki entirely or in part