quality in the voice dialogue work

By Robert Stamboliev

First of all, I would like to discuss some of the developments that have taken place in the world of Voice Dialogue, in order to explain why the theme of quality has appeared on the agenda. Next, I will share my thoughts on Quality in the Voice Dialogue Work with you.

Hal and Sidra Stone ‘discovered’ Voice Dialogue in the seventies and have been actively involved in its further development from then on. Not to certify Voice Dialogue was a choice they made very early in  the process. Hal and Sidra were looking for an open system, without any hierarchy or struggles for power. This approach attracted free spirits of all sorts and conditions. Consequently, the method could be applied in combination with other methods and integrated into different disciplines. To name a few: psychiatry (working with people who hear voices), several therapeutical methods, meditation (the Big Mind approach in Zen), coaching, and organization development. Voice Dialogue is now – in different degrees of depth – taught in all kinds of (educational) trainings, from NLP to Colleges for Primary Education, and intuitive development. As a result, the work has spread, and is leaving its mark in a growing number of fields. This is very satisfying.

The work has spread to other countries and continues to develop there, too. There have been training courses in the US, Holland, France, England, Norway, Russia, Finland, Switzerland and Italy for years now. In Italy it is even possible to obtain a Master’s degree in communication at the University of Siena, based largely on Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves. But keep in mind that even there Voice Dialogue itself has not been certified.

However, there are several drawbacks to all this. Because of the lack of certification and quality control, more and more people offer Voice Dialogue sessions and courses, mostly through the internet, after no more than two days of training. This causes problems for someone who has just read a book on Voice Dialogue and is looking for an experienced facilitator. When you google Voice Dialogue, you will get hundreds of hits for facilitators and fifteen to twenty training courses in The Netherlands alone. At the same time it is difficult to determine the level of competence of these facilitators. It is hard on many facilitators who have been involved in the work for years, and have invested a great deal in terms of study and training, travel abroad and supervision, that none of this is visible for the general public.

This process of ‘dilution’, as I would like to call it, is taking place in many countries at the moment, but it does have its upside. A need is felt, by clients as well as prospective students, for the establishment of quality criteria. This summer I was in the United States and talked to Hal and Sidra about this, and later with a J’aime Ona Pangaia, Miriam Dyak and Judith Stone, senior trainers who have their own institutes. The issue was very much alive there as well. By now, Hal and Sidra, too, are fed up with people mentioning in their cv’s that they have been trained by them, while, in fact, they only attended a lecture or followed one workshop, with a snapshot taken during a break as proof… Back in Europe, I discussed the matter with people of different Voice Dialogue centers, like Franca Errani and Giovanni Civita from Italy and Pierre Cauvin and Genevieve Cailloux from France. Here, too, there appeared to be a strong need to clearly state the as yet unnamed criteria and communicate them.

At the same time, we noticed that in different countries people whom we know little or nothing about, are giving out Voice Dialogue certificates. Obviously without the knowledge of the founders of the method. This, too, contributed to a sense of urgency.
So, everybody is agreed the time has come to take action. However, when you start on something like this, you should be aware of the pitfalls of rigidity, certification and hierarchy. We don’t want that. Njet. We need an Aware Ego here, which strikes a balance between criteria and rules on the one side, and freedom on the other.

I have been practicing T’ai Chi for some thirty years now (be it a little less zealously in the past few years), and the experience has inspired me. Contrary to Judo and Aikido, T’ai Chi does not know ‘certification’: there are no yellow, brown or black belts or such like. What the T’ai Chi masters have done all through the ages, is describe the principles – often very poetically – in order to provide the future pupils with a kind of compass, while looking for a suitable teacher. These principles have been written down in the Classical Texts. They have been very useful to me. My first experience with T’ai Chi was a little strange, and my teacher had never heard of these principles. I looked further, and found my Chinese teacher, Mr. Ho. It felt like coming home. In the Classical Texts the principles can be found that make T’ai Chi an effective method, both with regard to health and the martial arts. They have been described not as rigid forms, but as a process.

Inspired by this, I started charting and listing a number of Voice Dialogue skills. You could call them the principles of the Institute for Transformational Psychology. A dialogue has started with the aforementioned teachers to investigate whether they endorse these principles or value other ones. We all feel that the time has come to share more, and work together internationally. At the present moment we are looking for the best way to structure this. Actually, we have already started setting up an international website, on which the criteria for quality will be mentioned. The website will also contain a resource directory of facilitators and trainers all over the world. The Voice Dialogue facilitators will be asked to state by whom they have been trained, and for how long, next to providing general information on their place of residence and their type of work. More about this will follow.

What makes our work effective? What skills should a facilitator have developed (also internally) and what abilities as a facilitator should be the result of that?

The Principles of the Institute for Transformational Psychology

A well-trained facilitator should meet the following requirements.

As a matter of course, the facilitator is well versed in the theory of Voice Dialogue and the Psychology of Selves and knows the different elements, as mentioned in Hal and Sidra Stone’s book Embracing Ourselves: primary selves, vulnerability, power, instinctive and demonic energies, spiritual energies, bonding patterns in relationships.

Furthermore, the facilitator has been in a process extensively, working with the elements above, experiencing them deeply and integrating them. Such a process generally takes at least a year and a half, for an experienced person.

The individual process includes the following elements:

  • awareness and experience of your own Primary Selves;
  • the development of an Aware Ego;
  • awareness and experience of your own Vulnerability. Being able to ‘feed’ it and protect it, and communicate with it through an Aware Ego;
  • acceptance of Disowned Selves;
  • being in contact with your own subconscious, through dreams and daydreams;
  • knowledge and experience of deeper layers, your own spirituality and the archetypal level;
  • contact with your own body, breath and voice, and the centers of the belly, breast and head;
  • knowledge and experience of energy, being centered, alert relaxation, the connection of heaven and earth; the energy between people, the so-called ‘linkage’.

The skills are partly the result of you own process of consciousness, but should be trained and should have a theoretical basis. The characteristics are:

  • authenticity in the work: you have developed your own style, which suits you and is unique;
  • being able to remain in the Here and Now;
  • unconditional acceptance of the client;
  • being able to work with Vulnerability;
  • being able to work with issues of authority and power;
  • being able to work with the subconscious, through dream work, fantasies, visualizations, archetypes;
  • being able to work with relationship issues, being able to apply the theory of bonding patterns;
  • awareness of bonding patterns that may arise between client and facilitator (transfer and counter transfer);
  • having developed enough energetical skills: being able to work from a centered position, connected to ‘heaven and earth’, in alert relaxation, consciously dealing with the energetic ‘linkage’ with the client, being able to ‘stretch’ energies;
  • resonance and induction: these energetic principles must be mentioned separately. As a facilitator you yourself are the instrument and you should make use of as many aspects of yourself as possible;
  • finally, a facilitator should have developed an Aware Ego with regard to a number of polarities, such as: personal-impersonal, special-ordinary, action-being.

To conclude: the idea is to view these principles as a process, not as a stationary condition. They may be polished further, without limit. Consider the story of the renowned T’ai Chi master who meets his old teacher after thirty years. When sparring with him, he feels he has not learned anything in those thirty years. At which point the old master says: “But I have been practicing all this time, too!”

Institute for Transformational Psychology, Bergen, The Netherlands.
September 15, 2008
Translated by Jeroen Koolbergen.