The proliferation of groups devoted to sensitivity training is bringing the movement increasingly into the public eye. Some of the procedures involved are of such a nature as to call the entire bioenergetic method into question on ethical grounds, and we may expect an increasing amount of criticism of it. The Christian ought to familiarize himself with the issues involved, if only to understand the objections being raised.
The term sensitivity training covers a wide range of laboratory approaches to group therapy, some of them very far-out. The objective is to make people over on the basis of what is loosely called personal encounter. Involved are group dynamics, relations training, and various forms of experimental communication. Practitioners of sensitivity training accept many of the insights and procedures of more conventional group therapy, and add techniques of their own.
Much has been written in the sensational press concerning the way-out activities of such groups as the Esalen Institute at Big Sur, California, which not only has traveled across the land but is now operating abroad. The publicity has centered about the erotic forms that the sessions assume. This element may sometimes have been exaggerated, though such excesses are to be expected, given the background of some of those involved.
There is a place for evangelicals to take a look at sensitivity training and try to evaluate its fundamental techniques in terms of the Christian understanding of things. Something of the history of the movement may be helpful.
Twenty-three years ago Leland Bradford, Ronald Lippitt, and Kenneth Benne established the National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science in Bethel, Maine. This institution, known ...1
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