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Principle-focused way of counseling

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

How have the methods in psychology evolved?

The field of mental health has gone through extensive changes. Before the insights of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud became popularized, it was generally presumed that the mind had little to do with mental health. Lobotomy was used for treating mental disorders for more than two decades, despite the general recognition of serious side effects. In other words, the focus was on the brain and the chemical imbalances in it.

Then, Freud founded the field of psychoanalysis - a clinical method for evaluating and treating pathologies in the psyche through a dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Despite many groundbreaking insights since then, modern therapists still adhere to Freudian methods which often involve taking the patient back to the past where the expected source of problems lies.

Since then, hundreds of new methods have emerged such as cognitive behavioral therapy, neurolinguistic programming and hypnotherapy. Many of them seek to facilitate changes in thought patterns that are believed to be the primary causes of behavior. This means that there is some consensus that thoughts are important, but no tangible description of how exactly or to what degree thoughts cause feelings or behaviors.

What is a principle? What is a paradigm shift?

Psychology, unlike other disciplines, lacks a consensus on fundamental principles. Think of principles as axiomatic truths that are always true. In physics, gravity, Newton’s laws or Bernoulli's principle are examples. Principles are truths that don’t care whether you believe in them, they are simply true.

Whenever humanity discovers an understanding of new principles, it is merely a description of what was already at work, but this renewed understanding leads to a different direction of thought and since those thoughts are based on observing the truth, they lead to groundbreaking discoveries (such as airplanes or penicillin). This is called a paradigm shift, a term coined by the American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn.

A paradigm shift in psychology would be a set of fundamental principles that explain how the mind works and how our experience of life is created. This is crucial because without it we only have solutions based on unchecked presumptions. One expert may believe that your partner is causing you to feel what you feel, so they may try to help you establish the right boundaries or communicate your disagreements. Another expert may think it’s 30% the partner and 70% you, so for the 70%, they may give you exercises given their presumptions about how thought works.

Could this be what psychology has been missing?

Turns out there is a field that promises to bridge this gap. It was founded by Sydney Banks, a Scottish-born philosopher, author and lecturer. After a profound insight into the true nature of the mind in 1973, Banks spent the latter part of his life sharing his insights with all who would listen. The result was the development of an understanding that Banks called “The Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought”.

The principles that Banks shared had a profound impact on the practice of psychology and psychiatry within a growing community of professionals in therapy, education, community and individual rehabilitation. Correctional facilities, halfway houses, and even homeless shelters have been introduced to The Three Principles with outstanding success and breakthroughs in mental health. Modern practitioners of The Three Principles are leveraging it for organizational change, boosting productivity, creativity and decision-making.

What makes the Three principles different?

Instead of focusing on techniques or premeditated exercises, three principles practitioners facilitate insights into fundamental issues such as how the mind works, where feelings come from or how thoughts influence what we observe in the external world. An analogy would be comparing physics and engineering. If physics explains “what is”, engineering dives into what can be built and how it can be managed. In this sense, The Three Principles are more like physics than engineering.

Because the insights relate to the core questions of human experience, they can then be leveraged in all areas of life at once. As Sydney Banks described it “the principles are beyond form”. Modern cognitive behavioral therapy explores how to change the form that thoughts have taken. In comparison, the principles inquire into the energy of thought beyond form or what’s always true about thought, whether it’s my thought or yours, whether it’s today or tomorrow. The field encourages us to think of thought as “playdough” before it takes form. Banks used the term “universal thought” to signal that he points beyond the personal.

The field has also been referred to as health realization, which demonstrates the second thing that distinguishes it. Banks taught that everyone has innate mental health. This is different from other paradigms of psychology, which are often focused on treating mental illness more than uncovering mental health. This approach is more about tapping into an already existing mental health and helping it unfold versus treating seemingly solidified pathologies.

Dr. Bill Petit is one of the many clinical psychiatrists who came across the understanding of The Three Principles and has been using it in his practice since 1983. With 35 years of experience, Dr. Petit says that throughout his clinical education he never had a lecture on mental health. He says he has seen people’s innate mental wellbeing reawakened, despite the labels and diagnoses given to them. “I have witnessed countless stories of hope and change, inspired by individuals who found understanding and peace of mind where they (and others) previously thought it impossible”, says Dr. Petit.

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