The Paradoxical Theory of Change


Briefly stated, change occurs when we become what we are, and not when they try to become what we are not or what others project we should be.

It’s an important first step to understand Sociotherapy has no connection to what is understood as psychotherapy, or a thing that happens with a “therapist.”  Sociotherapy is better understood as a “self-help” therapeutic modality that happens in contact with others in a supportive community setting.  These communities are created in local groups, families or at retreats we sponsor.

How It Works

Healing does not happen by coercion or by one person acting to change another. Healthy change happens if we take the time and effort to be what and who we are — to be fully invested in our current positions — while being open to new awareness and possibilities. Sociotherapy completely rejects the idea that others can play the role of “change agent.” Humans can only make meaningful healthy change possible when we feel the support and safety that could allow us to throw off our deep-rooted, entrenched, repetitive unhealthy feelings and beliefs about ourselves and those we are in contact with. This can happen in self meditation, but since we are social beings it is more likely to occur when we are with others who support the safe supportive space for us to tell our truth out loud without shaming, judgment, and discrimination.

Sociotherapy rejects the ideas of therapy, psychotherapy; particularly the notion of therapist or educator as a changer agent or changer.  No one can cure or heal another person emotionally or socially. We encourage through relationship and community that participants be where and what she/he is in the present moment. Sociotherapy believes change does not take place by “trying,” coercion, or persuasion; or by the insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient abandons, at least for the moment, what he would like to become and attempts to be what he is. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.

In the support of healing we simply support the safe space to be what we are at the moment.

Our natural state is social — as individuals always engaged internally and with our environment. We are whole beings — not fragmented into two or more opposing parts. In the natural state there is constant change and dynamic interaction between the self, our physical environment, and others.

Freud and much of psychotherapy changed processes into structures (for example, denying into denial). Sociotherapy views change as a possibility when the reverse occurs, that is, when structures are transformed into processes and awareness. When this occurs, one is open to the interchange with environment and others. We know from our experience that when we identify and take radical responsibility for the alienated part of ourselves and our environment integration does occur

If alienated, fragmentary selves in an individual take on separate, compartmentalized roles, the Gestalt therapist encourages communication between the roles; he may actually ask them to talk to one another. If the patient objects to this or indicates a block, the therapist asks him simply to invest himself fully in the objection or the block. Experience has shown that when the patient identifies with the alienated fragments, integration does occur. Thus, by being what one is–fully–one can become something else.

A therapist or therapy, by its nature, is proposing to seek change for another. It creates top-dog relationship that inevitably creates a conflict. The end point is reached when each can be himself while still maintaining intimate contact with the other. The therapist, too, is moved to change as he seeks to be himself with another person. This kind of mutual interaction leads to the possibility that a therapist may be most effective when he changes most, for when he is open to change, he will likely have his greatest impact on his patient.

Where it Happens

Sociotherapy is a therapeutic modality that happens in contact with others in a supportive community setting.  These communities are created in local groups, families or at retreats.  The process is facilitated with families, and multi-family groups, local support groups that meet weekly or monthly, or at retreats we create for people to come together for a 3-day weekend.  Usually support communities are a diverse population including woman and men from all backgrounds, ages, occupations, religions, and sexual orientations…the combinations are endless, and diversity of support is what allows for the most healing spaces.  There are also non-family-oriented groups for adults and adolescents.  We also have separate groups that include only woman, men or adolescents. For some this special space can be the spark that allows participants to expand their experiences to more diverse community groups.

Why Is It Important

It is crucial for the survival of mankind that healthy creative methods for social change be described and practiced. The change theory proposed here has its roots in psychotherapy. It was developed as a result of dyadic therapeutic relationships. But it is proposed that the same principles are relevant to social change, that the individual change process is but a microcosm of the social change process. Disparate, unintegrated, warring elements present a major threat to society, just as they do to the individual. The compartmentalization of old people, young people, rich people, poor people, black people, white people, academic people, service people, etc., each separated from the others by generational, geographical, or social gaps, is a threat to the survival of mankind. We must find ways of relating these compartmentalized fragments to one another as levels of a participating, integrated system of systems.



Call today and learn more about Sociotherapy, what’s community groups are available near you, or when we offer our drop-in retreats.