The Shaman, the Therapist, and the Coach

26 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2014

See all articles by Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: September 30, 2014


In this article I discuss various similarities and differences between the healing practices of shamans and the work of therapists and executive coaches. I also explore the extent to which the shamanic perspective can contribute to contemporary psychotherapy and executive coaching. I conjecture that it is important to recapture humankind’s phylogenetic patterns in our present-day "rational" world, if we are to tackle the increasing alienation of humankind. I suggest that the shamanic worldview does not differ greatly from that of the founders of depth psychology, Freud and Jung. While shamans are involved in "soul retrieval," contemporary psychoanalysts, dynamic psychotherapists and many executive coaches are engaged in "self-retrieval." In addition, reviewing Jung’s writing, I make a number of observations about the collective unconscious, mystical experiences, spiritual healing practices, active imagination, and visualizing. I raise the question whether contemporary psychotherapists and executive coaches realize the extent to which they are following in the footsteps of their shamanic predecessors. Furthermore, in this paper I also address the question whether the shamanic, more holistic perspective will help humankind to reduce their sense of rootlessness.

Keywords: Shamanism, Psychotherapy, Coaching, Depth Psychology, Collective Unconscious, Archetypes, Mystical Experiences, the Sacred, Active Imagination, Visualizing, Journey

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., The Shaman, the Therapist, and the Coach (September 30, 2014). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2014/54/EFE, Available at SSRN: or

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305

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