Richard Olney (1915-1994)

Richard Olney

Richard Olney was a 20th century mental health practitioner who developed self-acceptance training (SAT). 

Professional Life

Richard Olney was born in 1915, in Wisconsin. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1936 and subsequently taught high school literature courses. Later, he returned to graduate school to obtain his master’s in English literature.

After serving as a naval officer during WWII, Olney opened an advertising agency. During this time, he also began training as a hypnotist, and he studied with the philosopher Alan Watts and the psychologist, Fritz Perls, who developed gestalt therapy. After 16 years in advertising, Olney elected to go back to teaching at the University of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee.

Over the years, Olney was introduced to somatic psychotherapeutic techniques and Native American shamanism, and these, combined with his varied background and multiple psychological and philosophical approaches inspired his development of self-acceptance training. Although there is little record of his teachings, the book Walking in Beauty, published by Rosyln Moore, presents a comprehensive collection of his theories and psychological beliefs.

Contribution to Psychology

Self-acceptance training is a technique that allows an individual to come to a place of total acceptance. SAT integrates a variety of theories and practices, from gestalt therapy to hypnotherapy, and is based on a person’s ability to maintain awareness in the present state, with no regard to negative emotions that involve the past or future, such as anxiety, fear, or regret. Mindfulness training is commonly a part of SAT, and practitioners focus on self-awareness and the abandonment of automatic negative thinking patterns.

The technique focuses on teaching clients to accept themselves without any judgment or negativity. The goal is to help clients attain a place of peace that enables them to become completely comfortable with themselves. Practitioners of SAT argue that self-criticism can play a significant role in mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. SAT does not preclude traditional psychotherapy and can be taught in conjunction with other methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis.

SAT can be taught and applied in nearly any situation that presents itself. Using this form of self-therapy is an effective way for people to cope with stressful circumstances or to prevent relapse into the overwhelming emotions of depression or anxiety.

References:    

  1. Background of Richard Olney. (n.d.). Alive and Real. Retrieved from http://aliveandreal.com/Dick_Olney/Background.html
  2. Zatzick, D. F., & Johnson, F. A. (1997). ALTERNATIVE PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC PRACTICE AMONG MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS: II: SOME CONCEPTUAL AND PRACTICAL COMPARISONS. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 21(2), 213-46. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1005340325483

Last Update: 07-20-2015

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