History of Soulwork © Jan Sikorski 1996

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Training

Martyn Carruthers developed Soulwork systemic coaching as a
synthesis of success coaching, emotional changework,
strategic planning and relationship counseling.
Soulwork history began in the late 1980’s …

The origins of Soulwork are a little chaotic and it is tempting to deduce that Martyn Carruthers himself is a little chaotic. Perhaps that was needed. As Martyn said, “if I had known what I was doing, it wouldn’t have been research, and if I had known where I was going – I wouldn’t have gone there“.

Martyn was born and grew up in Wales, UK. Following high school he trained at Haslar Naval Hospital as a paramedic, and was educated at the Royal Naval Medical School in Health Physics. He served on nuclear submarines in the British navy and later provided emergency and environmental support for nuclear power stations. He then worked for the Canadian government as a Radiation Protection Officer.

Later he focused on people instead of equipment and became an adult trainer. Amongst his interests was Polynesian anthropology, which became a useful, albeit unusual, source of material. He lived and studied with native Hawaiian healers, gaining insights and models different to those used in Western medicine and psychology.

He studied accelerated learning and the effects of beliefs, emotions and relationships on the ability to learn. Martyn worked with Annegret Hallanzy, a family therapist in Germany, for six months – together they explored ways to recognize and manage the etiology of self-sabotage and its unpleasant consequences (see Interview with Martyn.)

Martyn and Annegret found that most motivated, responsible adults can use stable resourceful experiences as a basis for making life decisions. As some people called these experiences Soul, Martyn called this phase Soul-Work and named the methodology Soulwork Systemic Coaching. Annegret called these states Visions and developed VoVa (short for Visionorientiert Veränderungarbeit).

Annegret and Martyn taught together in Europe, where they further developed these models. Martyn later adapted these models for online counseling, to help people resolve couple, family and team relationship challenges. Here is his first presentation of his work – at a University Forum on Human Consciousness in England

The basic format or sequence seems simple:

Clarity >  Integrity >  Freedom >  Motivation >  Inspiration > Success

Some of the theories that Martyn incorporated into Soulwork were derived from:

  1. Goal definition (George Miller)
  2. Evolution of values (Clare Graves)
  3. Cybernetic theory of mind (Gregory Bateson)
  4. Social-cognitive theory of learning (Albert Bandura)
  5. Systemic family constellations (Bert Hellinger et al)
  6. Traditional Hawaiian healing (native Hawaiian teachers)
  7. Independent ego-states (parts) (Virginia Satir & Milton Erickson)
  8. Sensory representations of subjective experience (William James)

Martyn’s Soulwork represents a desire for cooperation, and does
not represent any new age, old age, religious or political group!

History of Soulwork – Sources of Inspiration

Papa Henry Auwae

Papa Henry Auwae was kahuna nui la’au lapa’au (most expert healer) on Hawaii. Martyn often quotes him, e.g. “What’s the point of healing a disease if a person doesn’t learn from the disease?” and “Your health reflects your relationships!

Papa Henry dedicated most of his life to healing – Martyn calls him the Godfather of Soulwork. Papa Henry’s philosophy is reflected throughout our coaching, particularly in ho’oponopono (healing relationships, see Systems 1), ho’omoe (dream-work) and ele’ele eke (changing relationship bonds – Systems 5). See Hawaiian Shamanism.

We were blessed with the guidance of many Hawaiian elders. Some are:

Aunty Margaret Machado taught Martyn la’au lapa’au and lomilomi. Here they are in Kealakekua.

Huna, Healing & Ohana

Papa Henry was one of Hawaii’s most respected Kahuna healers. Martyn was fortunate to study with him.

La’au Lapa’au

Uncle George Naope was a well known  teacher of hula and ancient chants.

Modeling Huna

Uncle John Kaimikaua was a treasury of chants, hula & mystic traditions.

“Talking Story” with John Kaimikaua

Aunty Mona Kahele was expert in la’au lapa’au & ho’oponopono



Aunty Maile taught lomilomi massage and la’au lapa’au in Kohala and Waimea

Auntie Maile also arranges Hawaiian weddings

Miriam Baker was an expert in awaiku. She was known in Ka’u as the Angel Lady.


Dr Gregory Bateson

Dr Gregory Bateson was an anthropologist who studied schizophrenia. He applied cybernetic and systems theory to his work (see Steps to an Ecology of Mind). Bateson’s description of logical types provided a useful hierarchy of abstraction that includes beliefs, values and identity.

As relationships have a higher level of abstraction than individual identity in Bateson’s hierarchy, and hence more influence, we coach people to ground and stabilize their changes in their relationships. We often follow individual coaching with relationship counseling, particularly for couples, families and teams. (This helps prevent partners, families and teams un-installing people’s desired changes.)

Dr. Milton Erickson

Dr. Milton Erickson was an American psychiatrist who redefined medical hypnosis (which had been ridiculed by Dr Sigmund Freud). Although crippled by poliomyelitis, Milton Erickson became expert in non-verbal communication, constructive provocation and creating healing metaphors. (See Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley.) Martyn uses and teaches these skills throughout his work, particularly in his interactive isomorphic metaphors or Dreamwork (Systems 3) and in provocative coaching and therapy (Systems 5).

Dr. Viktor Frankl

Dr. Victor Frankl was a German psychiatrist known for developing Logotherapy – an existential psychotherapy – inspired during his imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Much of his philosophy is reflected in our coaching and training, particularly in assisting people to search for meaning as a basis for change. Martyn met him in Hanover – Dr Frankl’s philosophy is reflected in Martyn’s provocative coaching (Systems 5) and in ways to stabilize the experience of integrity (Systems 3).

Dr. Clare Graves

Dr Clare Graves was a post-doctoral student of Abraham Maslow. Dr Graves described “values” as a basis of human evolution and created a useful model of societal evolution that predicts the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations. Dr Graves work is integrated into Soulwork, particularly into goal coaching, mentorship (Systems 7) and team coaching. For more on Graves’ work, click HERE.

Annegret Hallanzy

Annegret Hallanzy (nee Annegret Meyer) lives in Bavaria, where she created a synthesis of NLP with therapy – Vision Oriented Changework or VoVa. Annegret’s work inspired our goalwork coaching (Systems 2) and couple coaching (Systems 8 – see also Relationship Bonds). Annegret wrote about her synthesis in Ekologie NLP Redefiniert (NLP Ecology Redefined) in which she evaluates the ecology and consequences of many NLP strategies and techniques. Here is an English excerpt from her book NLP Ecology Redefined.

Bert Hellinger

Another German therapist, Bert Hellinger examined spatial positions of relatives in people’s subjective awareness. Hellinger’s books on family constellations describe the effects of family actions on a family members. Martyn accepted Hellinger’s concepts about relationship responsibilities and enmeshments (included in Systems 1) but not his techniques. Martyn’s relationship models from Hawaii have a different systemic structure.

Aunty Mona Kahele

Aunty Mona Kahele was a native Hawaiian kupuna (elder) skilled in ho’oponopono (Hawaiian family therapy) and la’au lapa’au (Hawaiian herbal medicine) which she was taught by her kahuna grandfather. She lived near Kealakekua, where, she helped many people manage relationship and emotional problems. Aunty Mona gave Martyn over 50 years of her handwritten notes on healing body, mind and spirit and inspired him to translate the healing rituals of ho’omoe and ho’oponopono into more usable formats for the West. For more on old Hawaiian mystical traditions, click HERE.

Uncle John Kaimikaua

John Kaimikaua was a native Hawaiian expert on Hawaiian traditions. Uncle John lived on Molokai – traditionally known as the Island of Sorcerers – where he was taught by a mysterious kahuna lady. Martyn’s studies with Uncle John prompted his research into the clarification of enmeshed relationships with dependent, aggressive or deceased family members (see Systems 6) and taboo relationship bonds generally (see Systems 5). For more about Uncle John, click HERE.

Dr Ronald D Laing

Ronald D Laing (MD) described mental diseases as social imbalances, rather than biochemical imbalances, and argued that mental disease symptoms make sense in their family contexts. (See his book: The Divided Self). He wrote about communication in dysfunctional families and described the effects of family behavior on the member’s perceptions of reality.

Martyn incorporated some of Dr Laing’s philosophy about family politics and disease (Systems 1); family meta-rules (Systems 5) and Dr Laing’s perception that insanity is a sane reaction to insane situations. Dr Laing wrote “Family patterns are not laid out in front of us like the stars in the sky” (Massey Lectures II, 1969) – although Martyn’s systemic diagnosis does exactly this!

Aunty Margaret Machado

Aunty Margaret Machado, a native Hawaiian healer, famous for her expert knowledge of lomilomi (massage) and la’au lapa’au (herbal medicine) lived in Kealakekua on Hawaii’s Big Island where she was trained by her kahuna (expert) grandfather. Her teaching inspired the “Soul to Soul” relationships which are central to our coaching. Martyn lived for a time with Aunty Margaret and her family while studying lomilomi with her in Hawaii. (Margaret’s daughter Nerita Machado continues her mother’s tradition).

Dr. Murray Bowen

Dr. Murray Bowen developed a theory of human functioning based upon studies of the natural sciences and his research. Called a family systems theory, Bowen theory is a natural systems theory distinct from general systems theory, psychiatry, medicine, psychology or group theories in sociology and sociobiology. Bowen Theory helps predict interactions of systemic variables in human families that affect individual maturity and family health. See Systemic Change

Professional Conversations: Coaching, Counseling & Therapy

The term coach arose at Oxford University as slang for tutors who carried students. Coaching was influenced by and used in sport, personal development, adult education and leadership skills. Since the 1990’s, a number of coaching associations seem to be striving for dominance. See Philosophy of Coaching.

Although the conversations called coaching, consulting, counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatry overlap considerably, the word coaching better describes our work than counseling, etc. We are probably more eclectic than most psychologists or psychiatrists, who may be limited by the models of consciousness taught at universities and by the literature. The following table compares these helping styles.

Time Focus Goals Objections Transferences Resources
Psychiatry Decades Biochemical homeostasis Provide mental homeostasis Overcome with authority Use to increase authority Medications
Therapy Years Family of origin Reorganize personality Research causes Utilize Analysis
Counseling Months Reality of life demands Cope with life problems Avoid & minimize Minimize Life Skills
Consulting Weeks Complex problems Solve business problems Logical arguments Ignore Training & Business Experience
Life Coaching Weeks Life management Success in personal goals Dissociate & ignore Ignore Coach Training
Soulwork Days Integrity Emotional maturity Accept & integrate Dissolve Systems Training & Expert Modeling


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

NLP is known for hypnotic communication, influence skills and modeling. Martyn was independently certified as a NLP trainer by four NLP training institutes, and he taught NLP until he investigated the long-term consequences of NLP. He adapted from NLP some concepts of non-verbal communication (taught in Systems 2), notions about timelines and re-imprinting (taught in Systems 6) and modeling subjective behavior. He most often honors the contributions of Steve and Connirae Andreas, Robert Dilts and Dr Wyatt Woodsmall. (See Comparison of Huna, Soulwork and NLP & Meta Model)

Systems Theories, Complexity & Chaos Theory

Systems theory was first proposed in the 1940’s by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, who noted that the only systems can evolve are those that interact with their environments. This focuses on relationships between parts or members of complex systems and subsystems – and how these relationships shape a system’s behavior and survival.

Human systems appear to develop a conscience which demands balance and justice. Martyn’s systemic work can reveal how disease, conflicts and mental health problems originate in relationship problems and can be solved with relationship coaching … even enmeshments with missing or dead people.

Systems can stabilize or destabilize themselves by exchanges with other systems or with their environment, as the systems develop or transition to more complex configurations. Hence self-organizing systems can increase or decrease their survival potential. Models from systems theory are integrated throughout our systemic coaching and training. See Systems Theory and Chaos Theory.

Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Phineas Quimby was the most well-known American mental healer in the late 1800’s, and was credited with healing 15000 people. Quimby’s manuscripts about his science of healing were the basis for the New Thought movement, which was later promoted as Positive Thinking. Quimby’s science of healing opposed religion, education and medicine, which Quimby perceived as sources of toxic beliefs. Martyn integrated Quimby’s work on beliefs into Systems 5 (see Model of a Healer).

(In 1863, Quimby’s patient, Mary Patterson, whom Quimby had healed of spinal cancer, borrowed Quimby’s manuscripts and taught his material as her own. She later remarried twice to become Mary Baker Eddy, who founded her Church of Christian Science based on Quimby’s work).

Virginia Satir

Virginia Satir provided models of family constellations, in which she emphasized the use of humor and paradox. Her assumptions about functional, fragmented identity parts encompassed both conscious and unconscious processes. You will find reflections of her love of humor and paradox  throughout our coaching and training. Martyn teaches applications of her work with families in Systems 4.

Czech it Out

Czech Republic was once Bohemia and later the west side of Czechoslovakia. Martyn often taught in Prague where he worked with Daniel Franc (internet “wizard”), Daniel Martin (medical doctor) and Pavla Francová – a blind artist who thinks in colors. Ana Pejcinova, a lovely lady from Macedonia, also offered her wit and wisdom. (If you visit Czech Republic, ensure that you visit Český Krumlov).

Polish It

Martyn visited Poland to teach NLP with Annegret Hallanzy, a family therapist, and later to share his research into Hawaiian shamanic healing. He cooperated with some wonderful people during this synthesis period especially Maryla Biernacik (organizer), Ewa Foley (trainer), Monika Zubrzycka-Nowak (psychologist), Katarzyna Jaskiewicz (artist), Edward Rodziewicz (engineer) and Krzysztof Banasik (businessman).

Croatian Friends

Croatia is famous for its beautiful islands, national parks and friendly people. Martyn’s Croatian friends helped him integrate the pieces of Soulwork during the early years, especially Kosjenka Muk (trainer / therapist), Zrinka Buljan (medical doctor), Nenad Maljkovic (business coach), Mara Doljak (therapist / trainer), Tomislav Budak (trainer / musician), Radojka Ligotić (child psychologist), and Krešo Homan (psychotherapist)). Their integrity, insights and encouragement continue to provide support.

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