Re-evaluation Counseling (RC) is an organization directed by Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, Inc., that practices "co-counseling", a peer-based counseling procedure that aims to help people and bring about social reform. It was founded in the United States by Harvey Jackins in the 1950s and was led by him until his death in 1999. It is now led by his son Tim Jackins. RC teaches co-counseling and holds workshops throughout the world. It is based in Seattle, Washington, USA.
In the early 1950s, Harvey Jackins, a labor organizer and political activist, became acquainted with L. Ron Hubbard's theory of Dianetics, in 1952 forming Personal Counselors Inc., which stated its objective as to "engage in, conduct and teach the art and science of Dianetics." In 1957, Hubbard's Scientology organisation claimed that Jackins was describing himself as a "Dianetics Auditor". While practicing Dianetics, he developed the concepts of "re-evaluation" and "discharge", and came to believe that they could be encouraged by the "exchange of aware attention" in the "co-counseling process". At this time, Jackins used some of the terminology of Dianetics, such as "clearing up patterns", "rationality", "present time", and "passing distress by contagion". 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".
In his own account of the origins of Re-evaluation Counseling, Jackins relates how he developed Re-evaluation Co-Counseling after observing that a troubled friend made changes in his thinking process as a result of being patiently listened to while he cried, making no mention of Dianetics. Jackins says that, 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", 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, calling the process "re-emergence". Re-evaluation counseling, holds that it can remove "oppression", which it considers to lie at the root of most of problems in the world.
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 thence to Europe. Between 1975 and 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. Dennis Tourish and Pauline Irving in a 1995 article compared his system of management to the Communist state model of democratic centralism.
After Jackins' death in 1999, his son, Tim Jackins, was chosen at a conference, attended by leaders in the RC communities worldwide, to take over the role of International Reference Person, the title given to the leader of RC.
Re-evaluation Counseling describes itself as "a process for freeing humans and society as a whole from distress patterns so that we may resume fully-intelligent functioning." Counseling is practiced in pairs ("co-counseling"), in which the participants listen to one another in turn and help one other to "discharge". No money is exchanged by the co-counselors but they pay a nominal fee to the Re-evaluation Counseling organization when attending classes or a means-based fee when attending workshops.
RC believes that everyone is born good and innocent and that all hurts are acquired. Inappropriate or hurtful behavior is caused by the unconscious "restimulation" of past hurts that have not been properly discharged. If discharge can be completed, the behavior will not be repeated. RC believes that, as a result of these past hurts, the average person "is operating on about ten percent of his or her original resources of intelligence, ability to enjoy life and ability to enjoy other people."
The RC counsellor aims to remember the fundamental goodness of the client. Client and counselor are expected to work co-operatively. The counselor is expected to listen in a non-judgmental way but also to "contradict" errors and other conditions associated with distress so as to facilitate discharge. The counselor also intervenes to "interrupt" the client's patterns. Each co-counselor has to be emotionally healthy and well-versed in co-counseling in order to work effectively together.
RC does not describe itself as psychotherapy and does not ally itself with any other self-help, counseling, or psychotherapy practice. RC opposes the use of psychiatric drugs and denies the existence of mental illness, though it acknowledges that physical cerebral differences cause behaviors that are not the result of learned "hurts". John Heron compared RC to primal therapy, Wilhelm Reich's methods, and Freud's early psychoanalysis when he made use of abreaction. The editor of the Brunner-Routledge series of books on "Advancing Theory in Therapy" says that while Re-evaluation Counseling is not generally regarded as a psychotherapy, "it has made and continues to make an important contribution to our understanding of human beings and human situations."
RC considers that co-counseling does not imply psychopathology on the part of co-counselors or the need for professional treatment and that there is a need for lay counselors because of the shortage of professionals. It says that, for the average person, co-counseling can heal emotional hurts, increase rational thought and increase one's capacity for a joyful and positive life.
RC's has ambitious social and environmental objectives, including, "The transformation of society to a rational, peaceful, non-exploitative, classless form world-wide. The preservation of all existing species of life and the re-creation of extinguished species. The preservation of wilderness areas and the creation of a completely benign environment over most of the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere. The exploration of, and eventually becoming at home in, space."
The organization's official title is "The International Re-evaluation Counseling Communities". It is owned by Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, Inc., with headquarters in Seattle. Its President is Tim Jackins and its Vice President is Sarah Elizabeth Jackins. The corporation owns copyright in the terms "Re-evaluation Counseling", "RC" and "United to End Racism". It also controls the Re-evaluation Foundation, a non-profit 501(c) organization, and Rational Island Publishers.
Within RC, Tim Jackins is called the "International Reference Person". He is a former mathematics teacher from Palo Alto, California, and a graduate of Yale and Stanford. He has been a co-counselor, leader and teacher of RC for most of his life. The International Reference Person appoints senior leaders, who appoint local leaders ("reference persons") in consultation with local groups. Reference persons decide who can attend events, teach RC, lead groups, and, to some extent, who may counsel together. They are not paid. RC considers that leadership of this sort is essential for uniformity and quality of practice.
RC runs classes in co-counseling and local groups are set up by people experienced in the ideas and methods of RC who have been approved by the leaders. New members are invited to join "fundamentals" classes by existing members. They are expected to be well-functioning and emotionally healthy so that they can be effective counselors as well as being able to benefit from counseling. Fees are fixed at a low hourly rate per person, and there are scholarships for people on low incomes. Twenty-five per cent of fees are sent to the central body in Seattle. Participants are asked not to use caffeine or alcohol and must abstain from mind-altering drugs so as to be attentive and to have access to their feelings. People who counsel together are prohibited from socializing with one another.
Classes and local communities are organized into regions and loose, country-wide affiliations, although RC does not organize on national lines.
RC is committed to spreading RC practices and insights "as widely as possible in the general population". RC does not seek publicity and states that it keeps a "low profile". Local publicity has to be approved by the regional leader and national and international publicity by the leader of RC. RC does not list local contact information on its website.
RC does not publish membership figures or comment on estimates. On one occasion, Jackins claimed that more than a million had attended RC "Fundamentals" classes. The April 2007 edition of the RC publication Present Time listed 243 RC groups (each with about 45 members) and 428 teachers in groups of about 10 people, making an active membership of about 15,000.
Re-evaluation counseling encourages its members to play an active role in public life and has set up groups to promote its ideas, which it calls "naturalized" groups. The main groups promoting RC methods are the National Coalition Building Institute, formed in 1984, and United to End Racism" (UER), formed in 2000. UER is part of RC and shares its HQ in Seattle. It participated in the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism, the 2006 Caracas World Social Forum and the 2006 Vancouver World Peace Forum. The National Coalition Building Institute is formally independent of RC but is linked through its Founder-Executive Director, Cherie R. Brown, who is a member of RC and active in UER.
The Re-evaluation Foundation aims "To provide opportunities for people to participate in Re-evaluation counseling who otherwise could not afford to participate." Founded in 1972, it supports projects based on the theory and practice of Re-evaluation Counseling that apply "bold, thoughtful action to freeing human beings from the distresses associated with past hurtful, unjust experiences." Its president is Michael Markovits, a former vice-president of IBM. Its assets at the end of 2006 were . "The Foundation considers grant requests only from members of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities who are seeking financial assistance that will further the dissemination of the theory and practice of RC." In 2007, the foundation made grants totaling about to several organizations controlled by Re-evaluation Counseling, including "People-of-Color Leadership Development, Global Initiatives, Young People Leadership Development/Family Counseling Work, Elimination of Racism, and Mental Health."
Critics have said that what purports to be "Re-evaluation Counseling theory" is merely a description of Harvey Jackins' counseling practice, that RC's ideas are untested and that "there has been no independent attempt to verify or otherwise the key constructs of RC theory." There have been few papers about RC in scholarly journals and RC tends not to co-operate with attempts at independent investigation. RC is said to discourage rational analysis by its participants and to encourage emotional display instead.
The organisation is said to be sensitive to criticism, either external or internal, which it tends to regard as an attack on the organization. Jackins believed that much criticism was inspired by the hostility of the US government to RC's "profoundly progressive nature and its effectiveness". RC instructs members "to quickly interrupt both attacks and gossip", which are "dramatizations of distress" and unacceptable behaviors within the RC Community. It says that "An attack is not an effective way to resolve disagreements or difficulties." The organisation requires that "People who participate in an attack must first stop the attack and apologize for having participated in it", after which they are to be offered counseling. Critics who persist "should be made to leave the group and their attacks ignored." RC has been criticized for this prevention of internal discussion.
In an article analysing RC's so-called "attack theory" Steve Carr says that "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." Richard Childs describes how he was treated in this way and expelled from RC when he tried to discuss allegations of sexual abuse within the organisation.
RC's system of centralised control has been deprecated by ex-members who would have preferred a more accountable leadership. John Heron, once an RC leader and teacher, who left the organization in 1974 to set up his own co-counseling organization, Co-Counselling International, said he parted company with RC because it "systematically conditioned its members to associate a certain kind of beneficial human development with centralized authoritarian control of theory and community policy. It was clear to me that this was pseudo-liberation." He considered that the authoritarianism of RC derived partly from the Leninist doctrines of central control that Jackins had learned in the Communist Party of America and partly from the autocratic example of his former associate L. Ron Hubbard.
Re-evaluation Counseling has been described as a cult or "cult-like". Tourish and Irving considered that RC shared several characteristics with psycho-therapeutic cults, namely, a charismatic leader, idealization of the leader, followers regarding their belief system as superior to others, followers joining the group at times of stress, the therapist becoming central to the follower's life, the group absorbing increasing time, illusions of superiority to other groups and the group becoming suspicious of other groups. They concluded: "Given its hostility to such pluralistic notions of participation and democracy, RC has the potential to become a fully fledged and harmful cult, despite its original humanistic aims."
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