Pat Howley

Around 1978, I attended the La Jolla Program, in what I thought was a “training” program for group facilitators. A year or two later, I went back to the Center for the Studies of the Person to attend a seminar to learn more about person-centered therapy. I still remember vividly having the opportunity to learn from Carl Rogers, Bill Coulson, and Eugene Gendlin. Both events were life-changing for me.

A few years ago, I became a member of the Center for the Studies of the Person. One of the first things I said in a large group meeting was, “I feel like I am back home!” CSP is home to me. I can BE here.

In the past, my work has taken me to schools, businesses, and churches. I worked as a . . . what? A therapist, counselor, facilitator, coach, consultant? All those words were accurate and yet did not seem to say what I actually think I do. The words also sometimes seem to mislead others to understand what I do. I finally, after many years decided that “personal growth facilitator” is the best phrase to describe all my varied work in different settings.

For most of my life I worked mostly in public schools and in addition, always had a number of clients. My first “teachers,” right after Carl Rogers’ books, were my 7th and 8th-grade students! Very early in my career as a school counselor, I recognized the power of meeting in groups. I decided in my counselor course work to sort of major in a group process. I threw myself into “group” meetings with my students. I also immersed myself in group facilitation trainings. For example, one was at National Training Laboratories (NTL) called “Group Theory, Training and Practice.”

Listening to students talk to each other every day in my groups, I learned about myself, adolescence, personal growth, and the subtle “magic” that can take place in an unstructured, trusting group. Two of my teachers (students) from fifty years ago found me recently and joined the weekly “Encounter with self” group that my wife Eileen and I do every weekend on Zoom.

My work with elementary, middle, and high school students led to working as a consultant to other school systems, “consulting/”coaching” with principals, then with leadership teams finally working at Yale University where I consulted with superintendents, central office teams and school leadership teams in large school districts in the U.S.”

For the most part, I have discarded a role as a counselor or therapist. Now I see myself as a ”personal growth person” in whatever setting I find myself. The several clients who work with me hopefully see me as a person, first and foremost. I believe that they meet with me because they trust me and need a good listener to explore their issues in growing themselves personally.

What I most love to do is my own variation of an encounter group that has evolved since its beginning in 1969.  In this personal growth weekend, called “Encounter with self” I integrate the person-centered approach with the “percept orientation” developed by a person-centered couple, Joyce & John Weir. Also integrated into the weekend are the concepts of personal development best articulated by Ken Wilber. Finally, I provide opportunities to meditate using the mediation paths of Mahamudra (Dan Brown) and Mondo Zen (Junpo Kelly Roshi). Other foundations for my work come from my intensive readings of Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharshi. Encounter with self, (small “s”) comes from an understanding I learned from the I-I of Ramana that there is the self of the everyday world that dissolves into the true Self through a meditative inquiry of “Who am I”.

After tweaking it for several years, “Encounter with self” has developed to a point of providing a framework for a relatively unstructured weekend of intensive personal growth and self-discovery. Most recently this personal growth, in-person weekends have been put on hold and a large group of us meet every Saturday morning on Zoom. Anyone is invited to join.

Finally, and most importantly, I love it that my wife Eileen, who is as person-centered as anyone can be, has joined me on this meaningful venture!

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