Socio-Cultural Foundations of Psychological Counseling and Psychotherapy: Russian Approach

16 апреля 2021

Citation: Aleksandr F Bondarenko. “Socio-Cultural Foundations of Psychological Counseling and Psychotherapy: Russian Approach”. EC Psychology and Psychiatry 9.10 (2020): 81-95.

Socio-Cultural Foundations of Psychological Counseling and Psychotherapy: Russian Approach

Aleksandr F Bondarenko*

Department of Psychology, Kyiv National Linguistic University, Ukraine

*Corresponding Author: Aleksandr F Bondarenko, Department of Psychology, Kiev National Linguistic University, Ukraine.

Received: August 27, 2020; Published: September 30, 2020


The present article is devoted to the problem of the influence of socio-cultural norms, values, mentality on the formation of one or another approach to psychological counseling and psychotherapy. It is emphasized that the understanding emerging in modern cross-cultural psychology that, in essence, all known counseling approaches and psychotherapies are indigenous is not without foundation. The movement to create indigenous psychologies is analyzed as a reaction to ideological and theological postulates with a focus exclusively on the contingent of Western clients (WEIRD — White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) — Protestants by religion, individualists by life orientations and more and more inclined to nomadic lifestyle. In this regard, using the methods of psychosemantics, the basic structures of the Russian mentality are reconstructed, arising from the Russian religious and philosophi- cal tradition and classical culture, and the socio-cultural foundations of the indigenous Russian approach to psychological assistance are revealed. Particular attention is paid to the essential understanding of the Russian tradition of psychological assistance as, first of all, work with interpersonal relationships and mental states induced by them, in contrast to the broader context of determinants that condition the pathologization of the psyche. An example sample of the consultative Protocol is provided. The approach is called “ethical personalism”. The position is defended according to which ethical personalism provides an opportunity for a deeper, essen- tial understanding of what is happening in interpersonal relationships, since it is rooted to the oldest known from the Bible conflict between people, described as the “Abel-Cain” relationship. And also it is based on the absolute ban on human sacrifice, including in a figurative, metaphorical, sense, which goes back to the ancient Persian Avesta and is enshrined in the Byzantine version of Christian- ity, which is the basis of Classical Russian culture.

Keywords: Psychological Counseling; Ethical Personalism; Psychosemantics; Indigenous Trends; Mentality; Ethical Dissonance, Culture- Like Method

Statement of the Problem

Our initial thesis is that psychological assistance is provided by a specialist in the context of a certain socio-cultural tradition, voluntarily or involuntarily reproduced and broadcast by a psychologist-psychotherapist. At the heart of almost any of the modern approaches in psychological counseling and psychotherapy is archetypal semantic core explicitly or implicitly based on a very definite philosophical, methodological and, deeper, religious tradition. No wonder K. Jung called religion the most ancient form of psychotherapy in his time. It is not difficult to trace similar origins of the most famous psychotherapeutic paradigms.

The classical psychoanalysis of Z. Freud, as has been repeatedly emphasized in the literature, in its origins goes back to the Judeo- Christian tradition, from which follows the main series of mythologems and ideologemes of this school of psychotherapy (from the influence of the structure of the Holy Family with the condition of inheriting property after the death of the head of the family not by his widow, as in an Orthodox family, but the firstborn of the male sex, from which, in fact, the Oedipus complex grows, to the idea of purgatory, the analogue of which is the psychoanalytic procedure itself). On the methodological level, psychoanalysis corresponds to the philosophy of E. Mach, popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, to this scientistic version of the subjective idealism of D. Hume and J. Berkeley, according to which it is sensual reflection that forms the structure of human experience. Combined with Cartesian dualism and an emphasis not on discovery, but on interpretation, this concept easily turned into a kind of ideology of certain segments of society in the 20th century.

The Adlerian approach with its central concepts of an inferiority complex and mechanisms of compensation and overcompensation is due to the idea of homeostasis, formalized at the end of the 19th — beginning of the 20th centuries into an integral concept of the interaction of body systems with the outside world in order to maintain the stability of the internal environment. K. Jung in his system of depth psychology shattered the idea of the Absolute as the supreme determinant into many formations, which he entitled as gave a generalized name «archetype» and gave them various names, being, as is known, under the strong influence of Hinduism. In this case, the general methodological basis of these branches of psychodynamic therapy was, as already noted, Cartesianism.

The behavioral approach in psychotherapy, starting with its founders J. Watson, E. Thorndike, V. M. Bekhterev, and others, adhering to the strict canons of classical science, has been and is a vivid example of empirical methodology, in which the main method is trial and error and the explanatory principle is the reduction principle. It is logical positivism and empiricism, the essence of which is so vividly embodied in modern Anglo-Saxon science and philosophy, abstracting from the cardinal differences between man and animals, that leads to the animalization of the understanding of man, which manifests itself not only in the interpretation of personality as a set of reactions to the configuration of stimuli, but which even legitimized the formulation that human being is a speaking animal.

The philosophical and methodological genesis of humanistic psychotherapy is also quite transparent. Let us show this with the example of the «client-centered» concept of K. Rogers. The semantic emphasis made precisely on the definition of “centered” (and not “concentrated”, “concentrated”, “focused”) is certainly not accidental. Nor is the term itself accidental. Its author is one of the founders of Gestalt psychology, a representative of the Würzburg school Max Wertheimer, who discovered the so-called psi-phenomenon, who asserted the primacy of integral structures — gestalts — that are not derived from their constituent components, as the fundamental postulate of Gestalt psychology. And, finally, who proposed the very term «centering» along with other Gestalt names for the psychological specifics of perceptual actions such as «reorganization», «grouping», «transposition», etc. Thus, even the name of Rogers’ concept gives an indication of its methodological belonging to Gestalt psychology. It was the gestaltists who, in contrast to the W.Wundt’s introspection, proposed their own version of the introspective method, in which, in the words of M. G. Yaroshevsky, “in search of ways to penetrate into the reality of mental life in all its completeness and immediacy, it was proposed to take the position of a“ naive ”observer, not burdened with preconceived ideas about its structure» [24, p. 233].

So in the psychotherapeutic method itself there is already a certain philosophical and methodological tradition, a system of socio- cultural norms, values and methods of action, relevant for the society in which it arose: “In psychotherapy… it is not so much different types of scientific knowledge that collide (although they also), there are so many different worldviews, cultures, different life truths that base their own specific ethics and “philosophy of life”, and these are questions of faith, mythology rather than science” [22, p. 17].

It is this specific uniqueness of psychotherapeutic paradigms and related areas of psychological counseling that leads researchers to the idea that, in essence, “all psychologies are indigenous” [26]. In addition, the generally accepted postulate of the socio-cultural determination of the psyche is being filled with concrete content that unfolds in a fundamentally new discourse, which the famous thinker G. Gachev in one of his lectures designated the term «existential culturology.» It is G. Gachev who owns the thought-revelation that “under the terminology, strict scientific terms lies a metaphor, an image” [10], that neither Hegel nor Kant is universal thinking. It bears the imprint of the Germanic image of the world, just like Descartes — French, Galileo — Italian, Newton — English. This series can be easily continued by recalling the founding father of psychoanalysis and his followers, representatives of American behaviorism or the German- Russian school of reflexology — from I.M. Sechenov and I.P. Pavlov to V.M. Bekhterev and K.N. Kornilov, the origins of which go back to the names of G. Helmholtz, W. Wundt, R. Heidenheim, E. Dubois-Reymond, P. Fleksig and others. Apparently, an acute awareness of the sociocultural or, in the terminology of G. Gachev, cosmo-psycho-logos i.e. the mental distinctiveness of each civilizational ethnos, which was facilitated both by a number of purely empirical factors (the spread of psychological practice in various regions of the planet, research on cross-cultural psychology), and attempts at theoretical and methodological reflection on the specifics of the psychological impact on both the individual and society, in particular, in the works of Chinese and Russian psychologists and culturologists trying to overcome both K. Levin’s tough conscientious scenarios and the imaginary universalism of psychoanalysis, currently puts on the agenda the issues of creating culturally consistent systems of psychological practice, the general purpose of which is to preserve the uniqueness of each culture and its personality carrier. “Beloved dissimilarity is my principle, this is what should be a principle in mutual relations between civilizations” [ibid.].

In this regard, a number of fundamental questions arise about the degree of universality and indigenousness of this or that psychotherapeutic paradigm, about its civilizational focus and significance.

If, according to S. Freud, the goal of psychotherapy is to provide a person with the opportunity «lieben und arbeiten», according to K. Rogers — to turn him into a «fully functioning person», according to T. Parsons and A. Maslow — to give the opportunity to fully self- actualize, then to understand the goals of Russian psychotherapy, one should, obviously, find out the Russian traditions of ideas about a person, taking into account what has been said about indigenization, i.e. the search for culturally appropriate approaches to psychological counseling and psychotherapy [8 -13,24,26-30].

Indeed, it is difficult to assume that, say, the custom of circumcision, prevailing in Jewish and Arab cultures, did not influence the assertion of the very idea of the castration complex. Just as the fact that, according to Roman law, property after the death of the father is inherited by the male firstborn and the mother is forced from childhood to make special efforts to bind the future heir to herself, would not cause a feeling of rivalry with the father for the mother, induced by a specific the behavior of the mother herself. Americans, who are under the pronounced influence of Protestantism, appeal to the principle of ethical relativism, that is, the rejection of the concepts of «good» and «evil», most prominently minted in the 119th and 118th Psalms of David, and the replacement of these absolute ethical maxims approximately with the following reasoning: “I don’t know what good and evil are, but I feel that you feel that I am a good person” led to what E. Fromm called “a person for himself”.

In this regard, several fundamental questions arise, namely: what are the anthropological ideas (a model, if you will) about a person arising from the Russian religious-philosophical and scientific-methodological tradition? What is the actual state of a person and society should strive (and in the long term lead), in contrast to the above, the Russian concept of psychological assistance?

We proceed from the premise that the Russian resource of survival in extreme situations is just as important for humanity, including in psychotherapy, just as Russian culture is important. After all, it is as world-historical as other cultures of mankind. And it contains maxims that are a revelation for other cultures, for example: not to increase the suffering of the world; not allow the Other to be sacrificed; to proceed not from the opposition of ancient Greek characters from the drama of Sophocles — Oedipus and Jocasta, but much more ancient, biblical figures — Abel and Cain 1.

At one time, a thousand years ago, when in Kievan Rus, as in our days, indifference (tolerance) and skepticism (disbelief, in particular, disbelief in oneself), the spirit of civil strife, and the Russian people, according to the chronicler, “crumbled rosily», the Kiev metropolitan Illarion addressed the Russians with a stunning address «A Word about Law and Grace». And this word, in which the Law, which has a particular meaning, was opposed to grace as a universal principle of all-human existence, became the cultural dominant of subsequent generations of Russian people. The dominant feature that made it possible to survive and overcome the Mongol invasion, the great Troubles of the XVII century, to create a mighty state…

It is difficult to say what has brought great benefit to humanity — an inspired sermon or a filigree experiment. One thing remains indisputable: “pure science”, like “pure art”, is nothing more than entertainment, a game of beads. There is genuine science, which fights for the establishment of the truth as well as true art — for the comprehension of the mystery of beauty.

So, given the pronounced tendency in modern psychology towards the processes of indigenization, let us turn to the current state of this mainstream in the world of counseling psychology and psychotherapy..

1 An analysis of the origins of the absolute prohibition on sacrifice deserves a separate consideration. Here we simply note: there is every reason to assume that in the Eastern version of Christianity this principle was borrowed from Mithraism (a late version of Zoroastrian- ism), in which for the first time in the history of mankind the sacrifice of animals and humans was prohibited, which allowed Hegel to conclude in his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, that in Persia the light first shone, “which shines and illuminates another, since the light first proclaimed by Zoroaster belongs to the world of knowledge, the spirit”… [ G.Hegel.Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte. — SPb.: Nauka 1993. — P.480,pp.214-215].Perhaps this happened for the reason that in Persia in the era of King Darius (522 — 486 BC AD)slavery had already been abolished , while it flourished in democratic Athens and Republican Rome.

Initial presuppositions: indigenization as the mainstream of modern counseling psychology

Indigenization is a term from the sphere of anthropology, denoting the tendency to strengthen one’s own civilizational identity through the development of culturally appropriate methods of psychotherapy and psychological counseling. The word «indigenous» comes from the Latin compound «in + de + gena» (within + c + to occur) and means «to be produced or grown in a particular environment». It is used in relation to phenomena inherent in a certain area, as opposed to foreign, alien ones.

According to the American sociologist and political scientist, author of the concept of entocultural division of civilizations, S. Huntington, in the last quarter of the 20th century, indigenization manifested itself most noticeably in the cultural establishment of Asia and Islam — in the wide-scale cultural, social and political revival of the Muslim world and the accompanying rejection of Western values. Focusing on the cultural differences between East and West, and the former’s unwillingness to accept the imposed Western foundations, the author cites the reasoning of an official from Saudi Arabia: “Islam is not only a religion, it is also a lifestyle. We, the Saudis, want to modernize, but not necessarily westernize” ([21], p. 163).

Returning directly to the object of this research — psychological counseling — we note that indigenous psychology is an approach in which content (i.e. meanings, values and beliefs) and context (e.g. social, cultural and environmental) are interdependent and inalienable attributes… A characteristic feature of indigenous psychological knowledge is its local origin — it is not introduced or borrowed from other cultures and territories.

A form of psychological assistance that grows from a specific cultural tradition and focuses on the cultural factors of its provision is called indigenous counseling and psychotherapy. The starting point here is the idea that, just as some cultural factors determine the problematic of appeals to a psychologist, cultural factors should also mediate the choice of a method for solving these problems.

The initiator of the movement of indigenization of psychology in the Philippines, V. Enriquez (Virgilio G. Enriquez), defined two of its forms: indigenization from without and indigenization from within. The first involves the acceptance of already existing psychological theories, concepts and methods, subject to their modification in accordance with the local cultural context. The second only accepts concepts and methods developed within a particular culture, and “indigenous information” is the primary source of knowledge. For example, scholars from East Asia have repeatedly criticized the values of individualism, which in no way can be brought to the East, since in East Asia it is the interrrelation of a person with others that mediates his human essence. As pointed out by U. Kim, K. Young (K-Sh. Yang) and K. Hwang (KK.Hwang), in East Asia, the hieroglyph denoting the English «human being» (Russian — man, human being), literally is translated as “human between” [30].

Let us now turn to the description of the main processes of indigenization. First of all, it should be noted that the indigenous approach is an integrated knowledge, which in its best form represents a combination of elements of awareness from the sphere of not only psychology and psychotherapy, but also anthropology, history, philosophy, religious studies, literature and other areas that, directly or indirectly indicate the identity of a given culture.

In essence, this idea goes back to W. Wundt, who, in resonance with the ideas of his contemporary M. Weber about the existence of two areas of scientific knowledge — natural and humanitarian — recognized two traditions in psychology: natural science and cultural. W. Wundt noted the limitations of the natural scientific approach and the experimental method in psychology. Instead, he emphatically pointed out that human behavior is largely determined by language and customs, which he considered in his famous work The Psychology of Nations.

Further, there is a lack of consensus regarding the possibility of producing indigenous psychological knowledge without being a representative of the culture under study. However, if we turn to the figures of researchers actively promoting the ideas of indigenization in their countries, we can see that the overwhelming majority of them are representatives of the culture under study.

This provision is also supported by the fact that the creation of indigenous psychological knowledge is accompanied by the use of the local language not only as a tool for identifying concepts, but also as an intermediary in the study of the psychology of the people. As we can see, in this case, representatives of the studied culture, and, consequently, bearers of mentality and language, are in a more favorable position, since language is available to them not only as a means of communication, transmission and expression of thought, but also as a form of social consciousness. Difficulties here may arise due to the existence of some linguistic inconsistencies. Without resorting to detailed descriptions, we note, however, that, for example, the Japanese use one word — «isin» to encompass a range of concepts: shame, guilt, shyness, confusion, and embarrassment. Some languages have words that have no equivalents in others. So, in Arabic there is no analogue of the English word «frustration», and in Polish — «disgust» [7].

In addition, it is necessary to take into account the possibility of different semantic content of concepts corresponding, at first glance, to each other. It is not unknown, for example, that the Russian word “success” and the English word “success”, despite the apparent semantic similarity, are in fact two fundamentally different concepts in terms of semantic content. The same can be said about Russian “fate” and English “fate” [11].

The next feature of the trend we are discussing is that the most powerful source of indigenous psychological knowledge are such objectified forms of mentality as philosophical and religious texts, which are the cultural heritage of each ethnic group and, having been created several centuries ago, contain the main religious and ethical provisions from which the norms of behavior and the system of moral values accepted in a given society proceed. As a result of studying and interpreting religious texts, theorists of indigenous approaches have made a significant contribution to enriching psychological science with knowledge about the psychological characteristics of their own populations.

Developing the concept of indigenization in psychological counseling, it is appropriate to pay attention to the ways of its implementation in the modern world. So, in Japan, attempts to indigenize their psychotherapy have resulted in the creation of a number of specific psychotherapeutic techniques, of which the most famous are «morita therapy» and «naikan therapy». Returning to the indigenization movement in the Philippines: the majority of the inhabitants of the Philippines are Catholic, which makes them stand out from other countries of Southeast Asia. But it was precisely the belonging to this region that became the determining factor in the formation of such fundamental features of the Filipinos’ mentality as “bahala na”, which has no literal analogue, for example, in the English language, but in terms of meaning, it acts as something akin to fatalism; value «utang na loob», which is expressed in mutual gratitude for the good done.

In the context of Filipino culture, it is a sincere desire to repay with kindness and the belief that someone who does not feel gratitude to his benefactors will never achieve his own goal.

This tradition in the strongest way connects a person with his family or society as a whole and is expressed in the popular Filipino proverb: «Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan» [8]. Which literally means: “He who does not look back to where he came from will never get to his destination,” and loosely translated it can be formulated as follows: it is the commitment to our roots that gives us the strength to realize our aspirations and objectify plans. This also includes such a feature of the Filipinos as collectivism.

In exactly the same way, the Japanese, who consider themselves the sons of the goddess Amaterasu, have strived and are striving to develop their own systems of psychotherapy. Or the Chinese are trying to combine Tao-religion with cognitive-behavorial techniques. Thus, belonging to a certain civilization imposes a number of specific features on the population, manifested in the features of higher mental functioning, which actually determine the possibility or impossibility of using one or another approach in working with this category of people.

A fundamentally new solution to this problem is provided by the development of a system for providing psychological assistance according to the vector of indigenization, which implies the development of effective culturally appropriate methods that combine the indigenous and the universal.

Indigenic psychology is thus viewed as a system of psychological thought and practice based on a specific socio-cultural tradition. The movement to create indigenous psychologies arose mainly in non-Western countries and acted as a reaction to the groundless dominance of Westernist (A.A. Western clients (WEIRD — White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) — Protestants by religion, individualists by life orientations and more and more inclined towards a nomadic lifestyle.

The tendencies of indigenization are expressed in the desire of an increasing number of researchers-psychologists to build a system of scientific psychological knowledge and, consequently, a system of providing psychological assistance, proceeding from indigenous realities — values, beliefs and beliefs, which, in turn, are based on philosophical and religious tradition. a certain ethnic group. It is assumed that each civilizational and cultural community should ideally develop its own indigenous approach. But its foundation cannot but be based on a reliable idea, conceptual knowledge about the human model, which is carried by a specific civilization matrix.

Conceptual model of a person in classical Russian culture: Psychosemantic research

In an attempt to gain such knowledge, we undertook a psychosemantic study of a vast array of texts reflecting the Orthodox theological tradition (5-volume works of the Holy Fathers, known as «Φιλοκαλια»», in particular, the works of Anthony the Great, Macarius the Great, Avva Zosima, John Climacus, Gregory Sinait, Gregory Palamas, Callistus and Ignatius Ksanfopulov, Nil Sinaisky and Avva Isaiah), as well as the works of outstanding representatives of Russian classical philosophy (G.S. Skovoroda, P.D. Yurkevich, K.N. Leontyev, P.A. Kropotkin, N.Ya. Danilevsky, P.A. Florensky, N.O. Lossky, N.F. Fedorov, V.V. Rozanov, F.A. Stepun, etc.) — the sample size was about a million words (942236).

In order to identify the basic concepts that reflect and embody the fundamental difference between a person in accordance with the spirit of his Russian understanding, we have resorted to a combination of the method of content analysis (Russian religious and philosophical texts) with the simultaneous isolation of certain basic semantic categories, which allows us to formalize the content and thus, to carry out a comparison of different discourses (texts).

The above texts were analyzed according to the following parameters of content analysis: the number of tokens in the text, lexical diversity (the ratio of the number of tokens to the total number of words), the average word length, the average sentence length, the grammatical complexity of the text (the ratio of the number of punctuation marks within a sentence and the number of sentences), the most frequent words, keywords and phrases, emotional and lexical assessments of texts; groups of lexical categories “needs”, “motives”, “values”, “valence”, “accentuations”, “representational systems”, “types of activities”, “forms of presentation of information”, “logic of presentation of events”, “focus”; as well as lexical categories allocated on the basis of the semantic content of the studied texts (such as “soul”, “God”, “life”, “love”, etc.).

Strictly speaking, the allocation of deep semantic structures on the basis of their frequency relationships within the text constitutes the thesaurus of the basic semantic categories of mentality. The selection of basic categories in the texts of Byzantine theologians who determined the axiological content of Russian religious culture made it possible to constitute the predominance of the following value categories: God, Lord, soul, heart, spirit, mind, body, life, humility, passion, sin, holiness, prayer, kindness, truth, love, knowledge, light, spirituality, man, truth, joy.

In the works of representatives of classical Russian philosophy, along with the indicated categories, the most frequent are: being, personality, people, Russia, Russia, society, idea, freedom, activity, state, Slavism, religion, Christianity, peace, culture, science.

The categories common to these two types of texts are as follows: mind, morality, life, love, soul and spirit, synthesized in basic phrases:

«smart soul», «ethical (moral) value», which in unity and lead a person to salvation, and humanity — to development. Attention is drawn to the fact that the semantics of philosophical texts continues the given semantics of religious ones, simply extending it to society.

At the same time, the basic concepts of «life», «spirit», «soul», «joy» act as ethical values, conjugated with the concepts of «love», «light», and «God». As for the category «spirituality», it is undoubtedly the central ethical value. A value in which a person experiences a true inner need and which is an essential feature of a person.

At the same time, emotional and lexical parallels in the assessment of the texts of Byzantine theologians and Russian philosophers are striking. So, at the basic lexical level, i.e. At the level of axiomatic concepts, the analyzed texts are characterized by the following properties: benevolence, intellectuality, truthfulness, self-control, independence, extraversion, sophistication and unusualness.

Factorization by the method of the main components of the array of analyzed philosophical texts showed that the totality of factors covering 67.5% of the variance reflects the following determinants of Russian theological discourse: «consistency and consistency» (the main factor), «immorality and morality of personal being» (the second particular factor), «The power of love as independence from ill- will» (the third particular factor) and «cognition as the highest value of activity» (the fourth particular factor).

The factorization of the array of theological texts made it possible to single out the following four main factors: «benevolent intelligence and truthfulness» (the main factor), «the power of prayer as an ethical value» (the second main factor), «the sinfulness of the human soul» (the third particular factor), «holiness as difficulty for presentation ”(the fourth particular factor) (factors cover 74.5% of the variance).

The cumulative factorization of the entire array of texts embodying the Russian mentality made it possible to single out four independent factors that describe 66.5% of the total variance: «logical sequence» (the main factor), «the value of cognition as activity, power and independence» (the second particular factor), “The unconditional moral value of love” (the third particular factor) and “duty as the divine essence of man” (the fourth particular factor).

So, firstly, the Russian person is not at all as irrational as it is commonly believed in artificially supported myths. The undoubted danger for the Russian consciousness is represented by the values of personal benefit and success imposed on us, adopted in the commercialized logic of atonement for sins alien to us by buying indulgences or achieving God-pleasing thanks to our own material well-being.

Secondly, the archetypal feature of the Russian mentality is, most likely, contemplation, not practicality, since the categories of activity, power and independence are combined into a single construct with the value of knowledge.

Thirdly, for us it is love, and not, say, freedom that represents the absolute and highest moral value. And by the way, according to A.A. Ukhtomsky, “Substantial and real freedom is given only where there are gifts of the Holy Spirit” [17]. At the same time, the essence of man in the Russian understanding is divine, i.e. the highest thinkable entity is duty to God.

Speaking in the language of modern fundamental science, the Russian philosophical tradition in the interpretation of man gives preference not to «gnosis», but to «noesis», that is, according to V.I. Vernadsky, processes that correspond not to empirical, but to the universal principles of knowledge and existence of the Universe.

In other words, the fundamental idea of the essence of man and humanity is postulated not on the basis of only ascertaining cognition, but on the basis of building a noetic comprehension of life, in which cognition leads to the creation of new forms of being.

The data obtained, in our opinion, allow us to make some adjustments to the theory and practice of the consulting work of a practicing psychologist working with representatives of the Byzantine Orthodox area of East Slavic culture. In our opinion, the focus of counseling and psychotherapeutic work, determined by Russian anthropology, is the restoration and strengthening of a person’s personal dignity. It is quite obvious that this cannot be done directly due to the emotional state changed by psychogenia. Consequently, the primary task is the task of restoring mental balance. Then — the restoration of personal dignity. And, as the crown of counseling and psychotherapeutic work — the processes of ensuring self-improvement of the ethical core of the individual. For brevity, this triune task can be called the task of three «Rs»: revitalization, revaluation, reconstruction of the personal «I».

The psychotherapeutic approach, which owes its origin to Russian philosophical anthropology, is most logical to call ethical personalism, since Russian culture is characterized by the striving for moral improvement, while, say, the Jewish culture is characterized by the striving for intellectual perfection. At least, this is exactly what Moses Maimonides (Rambam), revered by the Jews as the second Moses, wrote back in the XII century ([23], p. 499). The Russian person is not the bearer of the Protestant norm of permissiveness, not the Jewish norm of prohibition, not the Islamic norm of obedience, but the Eastern Christian norm of blessed action, action sanctioned from the position of absolute good, absolute good.

It is thanks to the absolute significance of the ethical principle in Russian psychology that the disclosure of the value-semantic conflict, which, as a rule, is based on experiences associated either with voluntary self-sacrifice, or with the understanding of sacrifice by others in relation to yourself, which, in fact, causes ethical dissonance is the core of Russian psychology and Russian ethical personalism. I would especially like to emphasize the following consideration. Ethical personalism is not a specific method or approach for counseling Russians, just as positive psychotherapy is not intended only for Iranians or Baha’is, psychoanalysis is not a specific means of working only with Jews or Catholics, holotropic breathing with Hindus, and Jungian therapy with Germans. Moreover, the very term «ethical personalism» belongs to the German philosopher Max Scheler. But the highlight is that Max Scheler was heavily influenced by the Eastern Christian Fathers. The famous philosopher B.V. Markov even expressed the opinion that some of Scheler’s propositions were inspired by the philosophical works of V.S. Solov’ev, with which he was undoubtedly familiar [15].

So in this case the usual story happened: we recognize ourselves through the Other. It’s just that those phenomena and noems that are most worked out in Russian culture are also in demand by people of other cultures 2.

In psychological counseling, a specialist always faces a problem: what she/he works with first of all — with the brain, the system of ideas, personality or type of culture that a given person carries in himself. And the Russian psychotherapeutic code is a universal tool here.

2 Strikingly coincidentally, the statement of the outstanding British philosopher E. Scruton: “And if faith justifies murder, faith is not an option” ([31], p. 1).

Results: The principal algorithm of consultative work with the sufferer from the standpoint of ethical personalism

We will proceed from the actual reality of a person’s request for psychological help. As our research shows, people turn to psychological counseling in a very specific type of situation: in a situation of victimization of the personal «I». In other words, the ontological prerequisite for the manifestation of a traumatic (victimized) state is a set of circumstances leading to trauma.

If the situation is a real event given in the circumstances, then the experience is a mental event that, under the influence of trauma, manifests itself in ethical dissonance and entails a change in the personal position, which.

In turn, it manifests itself in the loss of subjectivity (sliding into the position of «victim»). Actually, of these three components (event

— experience — victimization), an urgent need for psychological help arises — starting with the restoration of mental balance, continuing with the restoration of personal dignity (overcoming the personal position of the «victim») and up to the development and improvement of the ethical core of the personal «I «. These three processes in ethical personalism cover the entire process of restoring the subjectivity of the “Self” [9].

Suffering manifests itself in complaints, which are an external, outward-facing form of suffering. In turn, complaints can have two fundamentally directed vectors: complaints about condition and complaints about relationships.

The first and main task of a psychologist when a sufferer turns to him is an indicative task: to suggest, at least in the first approximation, the possible causes of suffering, taking into account the fact that their etiology can be both psychogenic proper, and organic, biochemical or combined.

In all cases, except for purely psychogenic reasons, the psychologist cannot act as the main actor in psychotherapy, limiting himself first to consulting (referral to the appropriate specialist), and then, if the need arises, to counseling the suffering person (in the terminology of ethical personalism, the suffering person).

Taking into account the above, we will now describe the concept of consultative work in the proposed modality.

First of all, as it goes without saying, it is necessary to establish contact with the sufferer. Establishing contact is an indispensable condition for solving the main professionally significant task of the first stage of work: primary orientation in complaints and the general psychosocial situation of the sufferer. Here, after the very general questions related to clarifying the psychological and social status of the sufferer (age, education, marital status, life history, etc) are intended.

To gain primary orientation in complaints and the general psychosocial situation of the sufferer, to establish an appropriate level of trust, to prepare the patient for a situation of personal and relational diagnosis.

The second stage of work is diagnostic. The general purpose of personal and relational diagnostics is to objectify states, personality traits and strategies of interpersonal relationships in a specific traumatic situation. Express (short-term) diagnostics is meant here.

The diagnostic methods used here include the tools widely known in rapid diagnostics: projective tests (the method of color vibors by M. Lusher, psychographic test by A. V. Libin), as well as individual scales from the personality questionnaire of R. Ketell, in particular, the scale, reflecting the factor «B», MMPI’s reduced version in the edition of F.B. Berezin or L.N.Sobchik, or an abbreviated version of the latter, known as the «Mini-Mult» method. We attach particular importance to the questionnaire developed in our Counseling Center for assessing and predicting the psychological development of situations of interpersonal interaction, which is designed to identify the figure of the “victim” and the presence of the act of “sacrifice” itself, albeit understood symbolically, but by no means less traumatic in its essence (see).

The proposed toolkit allows you to orient yourself in the emotional state, intellectual status and personal characteristics of the sufferer, which allows you to build a strategy of counseling work that is adequate for a given situation and personality.

The possibility for the diagnostic stage to be carried out by a colleague-assistant, co-therapist, i.e. another psychologist will help to remove a possible transference, excessive attachment to the figure of the consultant and provide detached feedback in psychological diagnostics — the situation, state and personality of the patient.

Typical outcomes of the second stage of work. Based on the results of diagnostics, the consulting psychologist completes the indicative and diagnostic stage of work with a clinically oriented conversation, in which the obtained data are discussed, the attitude of the sufferer to them is clarified and the actual subject of psychological work or other directions and tasks in the current situation is determined.

The most likely options for deploying events after the stage of express diagnostics are as follows:

  1. Complaints and the reason for seeking psychological help are adequate to the given traumatic situation, the psycho-emotional state of the combatant (general stress, anxiety, low mood, frustration, ahedonia, etc.) and personal accentuation do not exceed the limits that require urgent or indispensable medical intervention, the main traumatic experience refers to psychogenia, trauma-induced interpersonal relationship.
  1. Complaints and the reason for seeking psychological help are not coherent. For example, the complaint made sounds like a spouse’s accusation of treason, but the degree of personality accentuation, the scale on the Ketell factor B factor, the overall personality profile on the Mini-Mult test, and the inability to perform the psychographic test, as well as the clinically oriented conversation, force assume that this is a delusional relationship.
  1. Complaints and the reason for seeking psychological help are adequate to the situation. However, in the process of diagnostics and clinically oriented conversation, it turns out that it is not so much about the person who asked for help, but about the one about whom they asked for help, since it was the other person who created a specific traumatic situation, and it is obvious that neither the psychoemotional state of the person who asked for help, nor his intellectual level, nor the degree of personal accentuation distort the picture presented.

So, we should talk primarily about working with that other person, about whom they turned to a psychologist.

As it is clear from the above, the immediate situation of applying the efforts of the psychologist-consultant is the first of the possible outcomes. In the second case, it becomes necessary to refer the sufferer to a psychiatrist (or, if necessary, to doctors of other specialties), which also requires the necessary qualifications and competencies in such cases, otherwise it is possible to injure a person or, even worse, contribute to his disability. In the third of the typical outcomes, efforts are required to build the situation of psychological assistance, since it is only indicated, but not manifested.

So, only the first type of situations can be considered as ready for advisory work from the very first meeting. It is for this, for its intended purpose, type of consultative situations that we have developed a protocol of consultative work in the modality of ethical personalism.

The third stage of work is the actual consulting phase.

The following is an example of a protocol of consultative work in the modality of «ethical personalism»: Translate complaints into a specific question-wish that requires a «yes-no» answer.

  • Translate complaints into a specific question-wish that requires a «yes-no» answer.
  • Clarify who can really help to achieve the desired and the main value meanings of the suffering person (for whom).
  • Find the initial mistake in the previous behavior that led to the psychological trap «Abel — Cain».
  • Clarify whose wrong blessing for wrong action (or whose lack of true blessing led to a tragic outcome in the relationship.
  • Discuss what specific wrong actions caused this (specific) adverse situation.
  • Analyze all possible alternatives for the development of the situation, using the scale of absolute ethical values (from absolute Good to absolute Evil).
  • Identify the reference figure for the suffering person — the carrier of the absolute value of Good — in relation to this situation.
  • Seek blessings for a responsible act (for a change in personal position, strategy of behavior) from the image of the reference figure.
  • Correlate the treatment (psychotherapeutic) measures of the behavior strategy with the image of the reference Figure (transcending stage)
  • Be blessed with decisions and actions.
  • Discuss the most acceptable strategy and tactics of psychotherapy, including the feasibility of combined psychopharmacotherapy with the involvement of a doctor (neurologist, psychiatrist most often, or clinician of another specialty — most often, an endocrinologist or gastroenterologist).
  • As the experience of our work shows, this algorithm makes it possible to largely streamline, structure and make the work of a consulting psychologist very effective, especially with our compatriots, who are not used to long and regular visits to psychologists, for whom psychotherapy is not intended to replace life.
  • Thus, it is precisely cultural-related psychological counseling and psychotherapy, conditioned by the system of spiritual and, above all, ethical coordinates and determinants inherent in high Russian culture, mercilessly destroyed in the 20th century as a result of events known to all, but in an extreme situation, reborn again and again in a Russian person, appear to us main path of development of domestic traditions of psychological assistance.


The data obtained, in our opinion, allow us to make some adjustments to the theory and practice of the consulting work of a practicing psychologist working with representatives of the Byzantine Orthodox area of East Slavic culture. We affirm that the irreducible socio- cultural properties of the Russian person are the true content and subject of domestic traditions and perspectives in non-medical psychotherapy. The focus of counseling and psychotherapeutic work, therefore, is the main goal arising from Russian anthropology — the restoration and strengthening of a person’s personal dignity. It is quite obvious that this cannot be done directly due to the emotional state changed by psychogenia. Consequently, the primary task is the task of restoring mental balance. Then — the restoration of personal dignity. And, as the crown of counseling and psychotherapeutic work — the processes of improving the ethical core of the individual. For brevity, this triune task is called task the task of the three Rs: revitalization, revaluation, reconstruction of the personal “Self”. And the psychotherapeutic tradition, which owes its origin to Russian philosophical anthropology, is nothing more than ethical personalism, since it is precisely the striving for moral improvement that is characteristic of Russian culture. The Russian person is not the bearer of the Protestant norm of permissiveness, not the Jewish norm of prohibition, not the Islamic norm of obedience, but the Eastern Christian norm of blessed action, action sanctioned from the position of absolute good.

The disclosure of a value-semantic conflict, which, as a rule, is based on experiences associated either with voluntary self-sacrifice, or with the understanding of sacrifice by others in relation to yourself, which, in fact, causes ethical dissonance, and is the core of Russian psychology and Russian ethical personalism.

So, firstly, the Russian person is not at all as irrational as it is commonly believed in artificially supported myths. An undoubted danger for the Russian consciousness is represented by the values of personal benefit and success imposed on us, adopted in the commercialized logic of atonement for sins alien to us by buying indulgences or achieving God-pleasing thanks to our own material well-being.

Secondly, the archetypal feature of the Russian mentality is, most likely, contemplation, not practicality, since the categories of activity, power and independence are combined into a single construct with the value of knowledge.

Thirdly, for us it is love, and not, say, freedom, that represents an absolute and highest moral value precisely because Russian people have always been internally free. That is why Russian clients need not empathy but compassion and expect an advice from a professional. At the same time, the essence of a person in the Russian understanding is divine, i.e. the highest conceivable entity is duty. It is these non- reducible sociocultural properties of the Russian person that are the true content and subject of indigenous traditions and perspectives in non-medical psychotherapy. At the same time our practical experience shows that clients belonging to the German and Roman culture respond well to the Russin style in counseling. Suffice it to note that the most inhuman century in history, namely the twentieth century, became such, not least because of the aggressive encroachment of certain states and groups of people on the values and traditions of precisely Eastern, Byzantine Christianity with its ideals of mercy and love, service and selflessness, free forgiveness and repentance. The very specificity of semantics, which gives meaning to the content of the work of a Russian psychologist, shows the difference in counseling approach, consistent with high Russian culture.


  • Spirituality: Spirituality is a quality (level) of human consciousness, manifested in its properties to comprehend, experience and affirm some principles of life as absolute values of being, which are attributed to the dignity of higher meanings.
  • Blessed action: A blessed action is an action, the sanction for which is received from a reference figure or from a transcendental instance that embodies the idea or image of the absolute Good.
  • Diagnosis: Diagnosis is, first of all, a basic ascertaining orientation in the causes of psychological suffering in a person, and later — a presumptive conclusion based on the results of relevant examinations, describing the state of the body and its individual systems and allowing to clarify the place of the psychologist in the general strategy of treatment and recovery work with the sufferer.
  • Complaint: Complaint is making one’s moan about troubles, pain, conflicts, severe psycho-emotional states, unsatisfactory interpersonal relations with which a suffering person turns to a psychologist in the hope that he will be heard, understood and provided with assistance adequate to the situation.
  • Indigenization: Indigenization is the process of strengthening one’s own civilizational identity through the development of culturally appropriate methods of psychotherapy and psychological counseling.
  • Culture-like method: A culture-like method is a method that openly recognizes its derivation from a particular mentality and the culture generated by it, and precisely because of this, it is justified, and not arbitrarily claiming to be covered by the range of psychological problems of therapeutic psychological influence.
  • Noema: Noema is a thought that contains a comprehended unity, manifested in external diversity, as well as the objective content of consciousness associated with an appeal to the transcendent.
  • Noesis: Noesis is a term that goes back to Plato and denotes the mental discernment of an entity based on the contemplative nature of mind, in this context, the highest theoretical knowledge leading to the creation of new forms of being.
  • Sufferer: Sufferer is a person experiencing torments of consciousness, conscience, or psycho-emotional discomfort, which prompted him to seek psychological counseling.
  • Transcendent: The transcendent is fundamentally inaccessible and not based on experience, but given in faith.
  • Transcending: Transcending is going beyond the subjective into the pure spaces of the spirit by turning to absolute and perfect images — carriers of absolute truths. In Russian culture, it is achieved through heartfelt prayer.
  • Sacrifice: Sacrifice — in ethical personalism, voluntary or involuntary victimization of another person for the sake of one’s own interests, as a rule, accompanied by a manipulative representation of one’s behavior as one that is aimed at the benefit of the victim.
  • Principle of ontology: The principle of ontology — follows from the general principle of reflection, according to which the psyche is determined by many extrapsychological factors; search and exclusion or consideration of extrapsychological determinants of psychoemotional states in this particular situation
  • Position of «Abel»: The position of «Abel» (victim) is the personal position of the suffering person, unwittingly suffering due to certain personal characteristics, in interpersonal relationships that turned out to be traumatic.
  • Position of «Cain»: The position of «Cain» (beneficiary, beneficiary) is the personal position of one of the participants in interpersonal relations, who, willingly or unwittingly, injured the other side in them.
  • Ethical dissonance: Ethical dissonance is an exposed value-semantic conflict, which, as a rule, is based on experiences associated either with inadequate voluntary self-sacrifice, or with the understanding of sacrifice by others in relation to yourself.
  • Ethical personalism: Ethical personalism is a concept and method of psychological counseling dating back to Eastern Christianity, consistent with the Russian mentality high Russian culture, which is based on the analysis of the trauma of interpersonal relationships, interpreting the victimization of one of the parties as a symbolic sacrifice of the other to please one’s interests.


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