Sebastian Heid

Country: UK
Organization: The Person-Centred Association

Short CV

Seb Heid works as person-centred therapist in London. He came into the counselling after a previous life in academia (PhD in Phonetics and Speech Communication) and then in industry as a software engineer. He has a passion for philosophy and is in particular interested in researching and developing the philosophical foundation of person-centred theory. In this context he was working on the experience of power (or powerlessness) in mental health concerns. He is also interested in the supporting the person-centred community in the UK and served as a trustee for the Person-Centred Association tPCA (2017-2022) and works as the technical editor of the Person-Centred Quarterly.

Short presentation

Title: “Polyphonic harmony – how to balance diversity and universality by using the actualising tendency as master key”

The ability of working with clients from a huge variety of cultural, economical, professional, philosophical backgrounds requires to tune into widely different voices and establish a connection or resonance with each of these voices.
The most direct way to deal with diversity might be to look for universal common ground regardless of the intricacies of specific socio-cultural backgrounds. Of course, any belief in universality needs to be handled with caution because we know that the concept of universality and assumption about universal human characteristics have been misused in the context of theories of, for example western supremacy, colonialism, and globalisation. Given that tainted history we need to check carefully to keep any idea for a common ground as abstract and free of specific notions (with unavoidable cultural baggage) as possible. I want to argue that Rogers concept of the actualising tendency (Rogers 1963), which should not be confused with self-actualising or other grand ideas of striving for whatever people think as their full potential, but which was stipulated as the a general replacement for any kind of psychological drive, i.e. the ground of all motivation that by virtue of being alive human beings are motivated to do something and do this always with the intention to improve rather than worsen their situation, gives us a suitable universal principle that can be used as a key to make sense of diverse human behaviour. It does so via the heuristic to enter a person’s frame of reference by asking how their behaviour fits their tendency to actualise (Bozarth & Brodley 1991). This does not only work for individuals but also as an elegant approach to wider socio-cultural differences and as such works as a master key to create polyphonic harmony with any kind of voice.