Registered Psychotherapist, College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, #001618;
Diploma, Centre for Training in Psychotherapy; Clinical Member, Canadian Association of Psychodynamic Therapists

Diana Powell

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Integral Psychotherapy is based on integral theory. Ken Wilber formulated the concept, "AQAL," which stands for all quadrants, all levels, and these include lines of development, states of consciousness, and types (please see chart below). These elements represent facets of the self and the self is always in touch with the AQAL matrix. For optimal living, a healthy self is in touch with all four quadrants and holds them in a healthy balance.The four quadrants are the upper left, representing the interior of the individual (consciousness and its states, sensation, feelings, etc); the lower left representing the interior of the collective (culture); the upper right, representing the exterior of the individual (behaviour, brain and states); and the lower right, representing the exterior of the collective (society, infrastructure).

The theory of change in therapy has been described as "making what is unconscious conscious." In integral theory, change is described somewhat differently: we convert unhealthy translation to healthy translation, e.g., a false self becomes a true self. Another way of describing change is that we "transcend and include"; that is, we transcend the level we currently occupy, and we include all the capacities of that previous level. This transcendence and inclusion can be described as follows: the subject of one level becomes the object of the subject of the next higher level; or, the "I" of one level becomes the "me" of the I of the next level. Interestingly, Ken related a fact about Freud's theory of transformation that is related to this definition: Freud never used the words "ego" and "id"; he wrote, "Where 'it' was, there 'I' shall be."

Lines of development: Rather than seeing the self as a single structure that develops over time, psychologists now describe the self as composed of many lines of development, e.g., cognitive, emotional, moral, kinesthetic, spiritual, interpersonal, musical, etc.

Levels or stages of development refer to how developed we are in each of these lines. Development in these various lines is rarely even. Thus, a person may be very smart, i.e., have a high level of development in the cognitive line as measured by an IQ test, but may be suffering from arrested interpersonal or emotional development. This may show up as an intellectual gifted individual who has trouble relating to others, or perhaps suffers depression or anxiety. If a teacher who may be highly advanced in the spiritual line of development engages in sexual activity with students, the teacher probably suffers from either low moral development or low emotional development such that they may be guilty of an abuse of power.

The following list details an example of the ethical developmental line, for example:

  • Egocentric (similar to Carol Gilligan's 'Selfish' stage)
  • Ethnocentric or Sociocentric (Gilligan's 'Care' stage)
  • Worldcentric (Gilligan's 'Universal Care' stage)
  • Being-centric (Gilligan's 'Integrated' stage)

Types or styles: This refers to the ways in which we show up in the world, e.g., masculine, feminine, the nine categories of the Enneagram, the Myers-Briggs test (especially introversion and extroversion). Genetics also influence our style; e.g., the so-called "Big Five" factors of personality are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (the degree of emotional stability, impulse control, and anxiety). Please see for more information.

Perspectives: Another capacity of the self involves the perspectives we are able to take: first person refers to the one who is speaking (I) and reflects a first-person perspective; second-person refers to the one who is spoken to (you) and reflects a second-person perspective; and third-person refers to the one who is spoken about (him, her, it) and reflects a third-person perspective. This ability enables the mind to take the perspectives of others, as well as enabling us to look at an aspect of ourselves and put some distance between it and ourselves. For example, we can "talk" to various "voices" inside, such as the critic, the angry voice, the sad voice, the humiliated voice, etc.

States of consciousness: Refers to states such as waking, dreaming, deep sleep and altered or non-ordinary, as well as emotional states such as depression, anxiety, mania, etc.

Please see for more information.

These are just some of the aspects of yourself that we explore in psychotherapy.

This graphic may be a helpful chart of the fundamentals of AQAL. To download a larger, free copy of this chart, please go to

all quadrants, all levels of development