Dick Olney did not have any "school" where he taught counseling, but many counselors came to his professional workshops where the emphasis was on explaining what he was doing and the procedures and methods that he used in helping a client to make significant changes. . His "school" may never have an accepted ideology. I offer my best understanding of what he said and use his words as much as possible. I have done my best to make it accurately reflect his ideas, but he was always open to new approaches and different levels of understanding the same thing
Dick often said that the goal of self acceptance is to feel alive and real. The path to that is to help a client start where they are. This moment of stopping and accepting their own experience allows movement, allowing the client's unconscious to give direction.
It is useful to have an intention in the work. This is looked at as a direction for the movement, not as a goal to be reached. Therefore one step in the right direction is progress. And if the client stubs a toe, experience it and say ouch, and then move on. This can be looked at as a hero's journey where the client is going to confront something threatening, to establish a relationship with it, and hopefully to return with a treasure for themselves.
There are several ways that a counselor helps this process. The main one is to keep the client in the HERE and NOW. He/she facilitates what is already present and happening. He/she starts with what is happening and doesn't avoid the negative. The focus of questions like, "How are you feeling" is to put the client in touch with their own experience instead of giving the counselor information. The counselor follows the client most of the time. This non-directive approach is, in another way, very directive: "You do it." Modalities such as Gestalt or Bioenergetics are seen as a jumping off place. You start there but shift in new directions anytime the energy shifts. If your original hunch was not right, GREAT, then it is that much faster to correct and move with the client. This is part of the letting go by the counselor of ego involvement. It is the client who does the work, the counselor is involved in the art of facilitation. He/she doesn't focus on "why" but on what and how the client is behaving and bringing this to awareness.
Part of the art is to detect the self image that lies behind the behavior. I will discuss self image separately but it is the false self image and the client's identification with it that causes most of his problems. A graphic demonstration is that in a trauma, it is not what happened (trauma, abuse, event, etc.), it is the significance that we attach to it and the resulting self image that is important. As part of the self image, the client has a way of relating to the therapist. This is an aspect of transference and the therapist needs to frustrate this attempt to fit him/her into old patterns so that a new relationship can develop. It is through learning not to identify with the self image that growth happens.
Two aspects of the counselor's art is to allow, and to give permission. Allowing can contain the expectation of moving beyond the personal level without demanding it. Work needs to start at the personal level and stay there until the time is right to move to a natural, transpersonal, mythic, or cosmic level. If it never does, then that is acceptable also. Clients often need permission to feel their own experience, this can take the simple form of, "Let yourself feel that anger."
Another important part of this approach is that it relies on an autonomous healing process within the client to effect the change desired. The counselor does not do it, but goes hand in hand with the client under the water of the unknown. This is the state of hyponoia (under knowing) in Eidetic Imagery The counselor has been under that river before but does not know what they will find this time. He is at best an older brother or sister, not an authority figure.
The use of open probing questions are often used early in a session. Examples are: "What is missing for you?" "Like the time when you.......", "Tell me what you know about hate.", "What would you like to remember?", or "What was it like for you as a child?" There is a softness in the tone of voice when these question are asked that convey acceptance and permission by the therapist.
Asking a client to repeat a phrase without intellectual inspection often is used to put a client in touch with their own experience in their body. A few examples of phrases are: "I'm excited," "I'm unlovable," "I give up," "I doubt my right to exist," and "I am so angry I could kill you." A glossary of these phrases is included in the index, but the ideal is for the therapist to verbalize those feelings in situ for the client and allow the client to own them and experience them, or just as freely to say that nothing happens. The therapist should use their intuition and be open to admitting being wrong and changing direction.