Our mission is to create a world where healing, growth, and liberation are a part of people’s daily lives and everyday relationships.

A Note from our Founder, Steve Bearman, PhD

I founded Interchange, and taught the first Year-Long Training, back in 2002. I’ve been leading the course ever since. Teaching Interchange continues to be the richest, most fulfilling, and most growth-producing part of my life.

I didn’t set out to create a comprehensive counseling training. For 10 years, I had been leading personal growth workshops and teaching counseling skills classes. People would come to the personal growth workshops to work on themselves. Others would attend the counseling classes to learn to be of service to others. In the counseling classes, however, something consistently surprising happened. My counseling students were doing much deeper work on themselves, and changing in far more profound ways, than the participants in my personal growth workshops. Initially, this didn’t seem to make sense. Why would people coming to learn to be of service to others, do more powerful work on themselves than the people who came specifically to work on themselves?

Our Vision

We believe that the world is in need of an army of counselors. For cultures to evolve and societies to find better ways of organizing human relationships, we need a lot of us out there doing the work of supporting people in processes of change.

Some of us may become professionals, while others may just use these skills in our communities and families. Whatever your path, the world needs you to learn how to help people facilitate change, heal the ways they’ve been hurt, and develop the capacities they need to have deeply fulfilling lives. And in order to do that, you’ll need to be supported yourself, in your own process of change, healing and growth.

Interchange is here to help you develop yourself as a counselor and transform as a human being, so that you can bring your distinct perspective to a world that badly needs it.

Our Principles

We live lives in which we are bombarded with information, required to absorb it at an accelerating rate.

The stream of input is so constant that we barely have time to integrate one change before the next is upon us. Even when we grasp for meaning, we grasp because there is so much meaning around us that we can’t find our way amongst it. Even when we feel an emptiness, a void, something missing, still we are full and overfull, weighed down, overwhelmed.

Now more than ever we need a kind of counsel that creates space, that gives us the room we need to unpack, unfold, sort out our own contents, clear out our clutter, reorganize ourselves.

We do not need to have the space filled with something new. We do not need more, rather we need room. If we can slow down enough, clear the foreground enough, we can find our way back to the simple truths of ourselves. We can reorient, find out what the journey has in store for us.

The first step for any counselor then, is to learn how to slow down and simply be with their client.

But being is not easy. We are insecure, feel we don’t have enough to offer. We are always wanting to prove ourselves, to earn our pay. For us to stop, to cultivate a quality of presence, is our fundamental task. We must be able to observe without interpreting, to respond to what is happening right now, here in the room, rather than to just our ideas about how things are.

Throughout the training we will develop this capacity of deep, interpersonal presence through practices, processes, and meditations which exercise our ability to be.
What your client needs, more than anything else, is you.

Not some blank slate to project their unresolved feelings about authority figures onto, not some partitioned-out, professionally-distant expert who can apply impersonal techniques to their presenting problems. They need the real you: a human being who struggles just like they do, who can empathize with their flaws and their limitations, a human being who lets themselves be moved and hurt and influenced by the very real relationship between counselor and client. The reason they’ve come to you for help is because there are some changes they just can’t make on their own. They need a collaborator, a co-conspirator, a fellow adventurer to accompany them on the strange voyage they’re embarking on. That person is you. The more you bring your whole, real self to the relationship, the further they can go.

At Interchange you will abandon whatever you learned about the “role” of counselor.

The main reason most people choose to pose in “the counselor role” is because they think they’re not enough as they are.

We’ll explore the beliefs you hold about not being enough in order to allow you to move beyond those ideas into authentic relating. It is you, just as you already are, beneath all the roles, that makes the journey of counseling possible.

You will learn that bringing your whole, authentic self to your counseling relationships (and to your life), will create dramatically better results.

We are conditioned to focus on, and respond to, content. When someone comes to us seeking support, our tendency will be to want their story, to become absorbed in the details of how they already understand themselves. We are distracted by content.

Your client is simultaneously the best expert on themselves you’ll ever find, and the least qualified person to tell you what they actually need to get unstuck and keep growing.

The words they use, the kinds of stories they tell, the content they choose to talk about: all offer insight into their way of making sense of the world, precisely the way of making sense of the world that has produced all their most entrenched and persistent problems. If you get too caught up in the content, you might as well be trying to solve their problems, and problem solving is a superficial, ineffective approach to counseling.

You don’t want to fall into the same trance your client is in, coming to believe that the content of what they’re saying is actually what matters.

Instead, you will learn to pay attention to everything else that’s going on in every moment of the session. What are they conspicuously not saying? What are they conveying non-verbally? How are they relating to you (or failing to make a connection to you) as they speak? What’s happening inside you in response to them? All these additional sources of information form the context around the content they’re caught up in. Getting caught up in the content means you join them in their trance. Attending to the context gives you clues about how to break them out of the trance.

The purpose of Interchange is to empower you to create contexts for change. We will use this unusual context for learning counseling to keep us conscious of the contexts we create and inhabit when doing counseling.
In the world of ordinary conversations, when one person has a problem, the other person will want to solve it for them.

In the world of counseling, however, we know that “the problem” is rarely the problem. The reason your client has the problem they have is because they have come to understand the world in a particular, peculiar way. If you try to solve their problem, you are just joining them in their problematic way of making sense of things. Instead of solving the problem, you want to help deepen the person’s relationship with the problem.

You will learn how to find creative ways to expose and explore how your client has come to understand the world.

If you go deep enough, you’ll find that the problem itself will almost always morph into something unexpected. The whole idea that they even had a problem, or at least that specific problem, will be called into question once you learn to hack into the code that generated the problem in the first place. When nothing better is available, soliciting and dispersing advice seems pretty good.

We have something that blows the lid off of reassurance and problem solving. We call it counseling.
Unconditional, positive regard was a great start, but we’re taking it one step further.

We’re going for full-on love. That’s another human being sitting there in front of you, and unless you can see them as the precious, exquisite, irreplaceable person that they are, you’ll be of limited use to them.

When you fail to love, it’s too easy to see your client as a bundle of problems to be processed, as an outcome to be achieved. When instead you strive to see your client as they truly are, beneath surface appearances and surface behaviors, you care about the real person: whether or not they like you, whether or not they’re suffering, whether or not they change.

When you love your clients, they feel safe enough to face down their shame, stop pretending, and get real with you.

When you love your clients, you can attend to them with the kind of care you give to a beloved partner or parent or child.

The art of falling in love is essential for counselors to master,

so we will spend some time looking at what interferes with our ability to boldly, widely, and unconditionally, in order to remove those obstacles. Loving is a prerequisite for getting down to business in counseling, for caring enough to form a true partnership with your client.

Interchange is a community-based training. At the heart of our work together are the mutually supportive and loving relationships we will create that allow us to do this deep work with one another.
The past does not exist.

Every problem anyone is ever trying to get your help with is a problem they experience here and now in the present. Our stories, our habits, and our memories are all present time experiences. The only way you’ll ever change a story, break a habit, or resolve a memory is to bring it to life in the session in the here and now. How does the client experience the effects of the past in this moment, right now?

Instead of merely talking about something that happened somewhere and somewhen else, we will help you find ways to bring immediacy to that something. To bring them into their felt sense experience in the moment. You’ll learn to embody, role play, or act out the experience. Or shift your focus to feelings, or impulses, or the real relationship happening between you right there in the room.

You’ll be encouraged to get out of the room and take your client into the world to have real interactions.

Who ever told you that counseling has to happen in a room with no one else around?

You’ll learn to help your client to take risks in the real world, and facilitate experiences for them they wouldn’t know how to create on their own.

Real change requires more than talk, it needs creativity, improvisation and new experiences generated in the present moment!
Counseling is not a subset of psychology. It is the other way around. The psychological is only one of many dimensions of human experience, and to be effective, counseling requires them all.

It needs spirituality, the source of life’s meaning. It needs an understanding of the world of violence and oppression in which we have been raised, and in which our fear and dread reside. It needs the healing power of nature, the insight of philosophy, the ability of storytelling to shape our worlds, the endless potential provided by learning and education. Our psyches and our bodies are integrated into a larger system, all of which needs to be explored if we are to come to a deeper knowledge of ourselves.

We must admit to ourselves how little we know about ourselves, how little it is possible to know. It is preposterous to suggest that the project of becoming everything we hold the potential to become as humans could be limited to the scope of any one academic or scholarly field. We must provide counsel that is as inclusive as we can make it of the full range of human experience.

You can’t build a house with just a hammer. A full set of tools is required.

You can’t help a person to become free of suffering, or to become who they most want to be, with just psychoanalysis, or just trauma counseling, or just cognitive behavioral therapy, or any particular approach. While all these tools are valuable, each one does only what it is designed to do.

And even a full set of tools is not enough. Building requires an understanding of what to build and why to build it, good design principles, hard work, cooperation between workers, knowing how all the pieces fit together over time.

So it is crucial to learn several approaches to counseling, and ideally, several that seem to be at odds with each other.

Integrating these approaches will help you to be a good counselor. Synthesizing your own approach, based on your passion for the work, your reason for doing it, and the unique abilities you already possess, will make you an excellent one.

Interchange is not a distinct theory of human psychology. While the training draws from a wide range of theoretical systems and techniques, the real focus is on learning how to counsel well with (or without) any particular theoretical system.

Each person is different, and so each journey of healing, of self-discovery, of reclaiming power and purpose, is different. Yet what every journey has in common, is that each is a journey. Knowing about any one journey in great detail will teach you something about the nature of journeys in general.

Until you have embarked on your own journey, it is difficult, if possible at all, to guide another on theirs.

You need not have completed the journey, since once started, it never ends. But to take people into the dark, into the places that scare them, you have to have been there yourself. To take people beyond what they knew was possible for themselves, you must have gone beyond what you knew was possible for yourself. To know how to counsel, you have to know how to be counseled.

For this reason, counseling is learned by doing your own work, wherever in your process you happen to be, as you work with others.

There is always more to learn. It is useful to hold standards for yourself, goals you expect and desire to achieve in your personal work. Striving to realize these goals not only leads you in the direction of self-actualization, but clears up any obstacles to your being with and being able to powerfully help others.

A partial list of worthwhile goals for working on yourself
  • Examination of all personal traumas, habits, limitations, fears
  • Familiarity and facility with strong emotion and discomfort
  • Identification and elimination of addictions and substance abuse
  • Close, supportive, inspiring, committed relationships
  • Responsible handling of interpersonal conflict
  • Basic freedom from shame and insecurity
  • Uninhibited capacities to feel pleasure, to yield, and to be soft
  • Complementary capacities to focus, to concentrate, and to be assertive
  • Unconditional happiness, not dependent on circumstances
  • Completion of the past – no loose ends or accumulated resentments
  • Feeling free – living a life of your choosing: choosing the life you’re living
  • Life’s work that improves and mends the world
Whatever your list, it is clear that the further you go, the further you can lead. We will be working on ourselves with each other during, and between, weekend classes.