degenerate interventions

© 2001 John Heron

cultural bias

traditional education and training

However, some broad cultural observations can be made. Traditional education and training has rather overdone authoritative sorts of intervention, and has often omitted altogether the facilitative sorts. Similarly with many traditional kinds of therapy. This does not make authoritative interventions "per se" bad, it just makes them look bad, because they degenerate when they are used to the exclusion of facilitative ones.

contemporary approaches

Conversely, some innovative contemporary approaches to education and therapy rely too much on facilitative interventions to the exclusion of authoritative ones. They have thrown the positive power of authentic hierarchy away with their rejection of the negative power of oppressive hierarchy. So then their facilitative approach starts to degenerate, because it is used to the exclusion of healthy kinds of authority.


autonomy, hierachy and cooperation

Three basic kinds of political value underlie the everyday use of the six categories: the values of autonomy, of hierarchy, of cooperation. Autonomy is manifest when the practitioner facilitates the client deciding for himself; hierarchy manifests when the practitioner decides for and on behalf of the client; and cooperation when practitioner and client reach a decision by mutual consultation. Some balance between these three usually makes for good practice. What kind of balance depends again upon the total context - what sort of practitioner, what sort of client, and so on.

balancing authoritative and facilitative

Balancing authoritative and facilitative interventions is all about the proper exercise of power: the autonomous power within the client, the practitioner's power over the client, and the power shared by practitioner and client with each other. My own view is that these three forms of power need each other - always in due measure and ever changing ratios - to keep healthy.

the skilled practitioner

The skilled practitioner is, in the ideal case, someone who

(i) is equally proficient in a wide range of interventions in each of the categories;

(ii) can move elegantly, flexibly and cleanly from one intervention to another and from one category to another, as the developing situation and the purposes of the interaction require;

(iii) is aware at any given time of what intervention he is using and why;

(iv) knows when to lead the client and when to follow the client;

(v) has a creative balance between power over the client, power shared with the client, and the facilitation of power within the client.

“valid, degenerate and perverted interventions”

valid interventions

A valid intervention is one that is appropriate to the client's current state and stage of development, and to the developing practitioner-client interaction. To say that it is appropriate, is to say that:

(a) it is in the right category;

(b) it is the right sort of intervention within that category;

(c) its content is fitting;

(d) it is delivered in the right manner; and

(e) it is delivered with good timing.

degenerate interventions

A degenerate intervention is one that fails in one, and usually several, of these respects, because the practitioner lacks personal development, or training, or experience, or awareness, or some combination of these.

perverted interventions

A perverted intervention is one that is deliberately malicious, that intentionally seeks to do harm to another person.

emphasis in valid interventions

The main body of the text deals with valid interventions, so far as their general content is concerned. There is an account of degenerate and perverted interventions toward the end of the manual.

© 2001 John Heron

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