Barry Stevens (therapist)

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Barry Stevens (1902–1985) was a writer and Gestalt therapist. She developed her own form of Gestalt therapy body work, based on the awareness of body processes. For the Human Potential Movement of the 1970s, she became a kind of "star", but she always refused to accept that role.

Gestalt therapy is an existential/experiential form of psychotherapy that emphasizes personal responsibility, and that focuses upon the individual's experience in the present moment, the therapist–client relationship, the environmental and social contexts of a person's life, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of their overall situation.

Awareness is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be cognizant of events. More broadly, it is the state of being conscious of something. Another definition describes it as a state wherein a subject is aware of some information when that information is directly available to bring to bear in the direction of a wide range of behavioral processes. The concept is often synonymous to consciousness and is also understood as being consciousness itself.

The Human Potential Movement (HPM) arose out of the counterculture milieu of the 1960s and formed around the concept of cultivating extraordinary potential that its advocates believe to lie largely untapped in all people. The movement took as its premise the belief that through the development of "human potential", humans can experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity, and fulfillment. As a corollary, those who begin to unleash this assumed potential often find themselves directing their actions within society towards assisting others to release their potential. Adherents believe that the net effect of individuals cultivating their potential will bring about positive social change at large.


She worked with, among others, the psychotherapists Fritz Perls and Carl Rogers. Bertrand Russell and Aldous Huxley were among her friends. Fritz Perls described Barry Stevens as "a natural born therapist." [1]

Fritz Perls German philosopher and psychiatrist

Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls, better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist. Perls coined the term 'Gestalt therapy' to identify the form of psychotherapy that he developed with his wife, Laura Perls, in the 1940s and 1950s. Perls became associated with the Esalen Institute in 1964, and he lived there until 1969. His approach to psychotherapy is related to, but not identical to, Gestalt psychology, and it is different from Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy.

Carl Rogers American psychologist

Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research and was honored for his pioneering research with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1956.

Bertrand Russell British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist and a pacifist, although he also confessed that his skeptical nature had led him to feel that he had "never been any of these things, in any profound sense." Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom.


Stevens was born Mildred Fox. She later changed her name from "Mildred" to "Barry." She was married to the pediatrician Albert Mason Stevens, [2] who co-discovered Stevens–Johnson syndrome.

Stevens–Johnson syndrome Disease

Stevens–Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a type of severe skin reaction. Together with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and Stevens-Johnson/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN), it forms a spectrum of disease, with SJS being less severe. Early symptoms of SJS include fever and flu-like symptoms. A few days later the skin begins to blister and peel forming painful raw areas. Mucous membranes, such as the mouth, are also typically involved. Complications include dehydration, sepsis, pneumonia, and multiple organ failure.

Barry Stevens was a self-described "High School drop-out, 1918, because what she wanted to know, she couldn't learn in school." [3] She and her husband moved to Hawai'i in 1934. Before Albert Mason Stevens's death in 1945, Barry moved to the mainland. She worked at Orme Ranch School near Prescott, AZ, and from 1948 to 1951 she was an administrative aide at Deep Springs College, near Big Pine, California. She later worked as an editor in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then relocated to California.

Deep Springs College private, alternative college in Deep Springs, California, United States

Deep Springs College is a small liberal arts two-year college in Deep Springs, California, United States. With fewer than 30 students at any given time, the college is the smallest institution of higher education in the United States. After completing two years at Deep Springs, students may elect to receive an associate degree, though this seldom happens in practice. Most continue their studies at other universities, out of which two-thirds go on to earn a graduate degree, and over half eventually earn a doctorate.

Barry Stevens is the mother of Judith Sande Stevens (1925-2011) and John O. Stevens (1937-) who is also a writer, Gestalt therapist and NLP-trainer, now known as Steve Andreas.

Steve Andreas was an American psychotherapist and author specializing in Neuro-linguistic programming.


Her publications include Don't Push the River (It Flows by Itself), a first-person account of Stevens' investigations of Gestalt therapy. It shows the author during a period of several months in association with Fritz Perls at Perls' Gestalt Institute of Canada at Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island, in 1969. Barry Stevens describes both Gestalt therapy theory and practice and her relationship with Fritz Perls in a sensitive way, thus creating a vivid image of Perls in the last months of his life.

Lake Cowichan Town in British Columbia, Canada

Lake Cowichan, , is a town located on the east end of Cowichan Lake and, by highway, is 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Duncan, British Columbia. The town of Lake Cowichan was incorporated in 1944. The Cowichan River flows through the middle of the town. Cowichan Lake is British Columbia's second-most pristine lake and Cowichan River is designated as a Heritage River.

Vancouver Island Island on the western coast of Canada

Vancouver Island is in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. It is part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The island is 460 kilometres (290 mi) in length, 100 kilometres (62 mi) in width at its widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 sq mi) in area. It is the largest island on the West Coast of North America.

In addition she explored Zen Buddhism, the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Indian American religious practices in an effort "to deepen and expand personal experience and work through difficulties." Alternating with episodes from her earlier days, it became a "best-seller" in the circles of humanistic psychology. [1] "We have to turn ourselves upside down and reverse our approach to life." [4]

Her earliest published work was "Hide-away Island" (1934) a loosely autobiographical novel about a woman on the far end of Long Island.

She met Nakata Yoshimatsu, a former valet of Jack London, in Hawai'i in the 1930s, and helped him to write down his recollections. [5] She also wrote an article about Nakata that was published posthumously in 2000. [6]


Further reading

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Gestalt psychology or gestaltism is a philosophy of mind of the Berlin School of experimental psychology. Gestalt psychology is an attempt to understand the laws behind the ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world. The central principle of gestalt psychology is that the mind forms a global whole with self-organizing tendencies.

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Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy is a method of psychotherapy based strictly on Gestalt psychology. Its origins go back to the 1920s when Gestalt psychology founder Max Wertheimer, Kurt Lewin and their colleagues and students started to apply the holistic and systems theoretical Gestalt psychology concepts in the field of psychopathology and clinical psychology Many developments in psychotherapy in the following decades drew from these early beginnings, like e.g. group psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy, or Katathym-imaginative Psychotherapy. In Europe Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy in its own right has been initiated and formulated on this basis by the German Gestalt psychologist and psychotherapist Hans-Jürgen P. Walter and his colleagues in Germany and Austria. Walter, a student of Gestalt psychologist Friedrich Hoeth, was influenced to form the core of his theoretical concept on the basis of the work of Gestalt theorists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, Kurt Koffka, Kurt Lewin, and Wolfgang Metzger. Walter’s first publication on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy came out in 1977 Gestalttheorie und Psychotherapie, which is now on its third edition (1994). The majority of the extensive literature on Gestalt theoretical psychotherapy which has been published in the decades since then is in the German language. However, Walter's articles Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Gestalt-Theoretical Psychotherapy and What do Gestalt therapy and Gestalt theory have to do with each other? have been published also in English, as well as Gerhard Stemberger's more recent introductory article Diagnostics in Gestalt Theoretical Psychotherapy.

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The actualizing tendency is a fundamental element of Carl Rogers' theory of person-centered therapy (PCT). Rogers' theory is predicated on an individual's innate capacity to decide his/her own best directions in life, provided his/her circumstances are conducive to this, based on the organism's "universal need to drive or self-maintain, flourish, self-enhance and self-protect". Counsellors Keith Tudor and Mike Worrall proposed that analogues of the actualizing tendency can be found in texts by various writers from antiquity onward, such as Aristotle, Lucretius, Spinoza, Sándor Ferenczi, Jessie Taft, and Eric Berne.


  1. 1 2
  2. Kranz, D. (2011): Barry Stevens: Leben Gestalten. In: Gestaltkritik, 2/2011, p. 4-11.
  3. Source: About the Authors, Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human, by Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens, with contributions from Eugene Gendlin, John M. Shlien, and Wilson Van Dusen, Real People Press, 1967, ISBN   0-911226-01-X (paper) and ISBN   0-911226-00-1 (cloth).
  4. Person to Person: The Problem of Being Human, by Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens, 1967.
  5. Nakata and Stevens Papers. North Bay Regional & Special Collections, University Library, Sonoma State University;
  6. "Nakata - Son of Jack London", in: Jack London Journal, No 7, 2000, p. 9 - 25