Monday, June 4, 2012

Robert's reflection

Reflection on the Focused Psychological Strategies Workshop

I enjoyed very much the workshop presented by Ray and Rosalie, it introduced principles of Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT) based on the work of Neal Jacobson and integrated it with the strategic work of Michelle Weiner-Davis. In this way we learned about the importance of making small positive behavioural changes and how powerful the symbolism of little acts can be to the progress of a relationship, communicating a willingness to take responsibility for change and a positive intention to begin now – a sort of “it takes one person to Tango” (who would have known?). The article By Christensen, Sevier, Simpson and Gattis which extends the work of Jacobson, expands this process introducing ideas of acceptance and mindfulness. It is interesting to note that in the process of moving from traditional Behaviour Couple Therapy to this more integrated form (IBCT) they emphasise the importance of past relationships and patterns learnt. Perhaps the possibility of further integrating this approach with more attachment based approaches is not too far into the future.
We discussed the concept of breaking the chain of negative communication cycles by focussing on the underlying emotions driving the communication. Dialogues in therapy can often appear as criticisms and blame directed to the other, however the underlying feelings are generally more profound fears and hurts associated with the relationship as well as a sense of failure/loss of self confidence directed to the self. In my practice this is certainly a powerful way of breaking the negative cycle during sessions and it was helpful to be reminded during the workshop of its effectiveness.
In the workshop we also revisited the interesting research of John Gottman. His pragmatic, research base approach normalises many of our experiences in therapeutic work with couples and our experiences in our own personal relationships. The finding that most differences between couples and most areas of conflict do not necessarily get resolve (about 65% remain unresolved!) and it is the manner in which we manage the differences and relate to our partners through the process that determines much of the quality of the relationship. I found helpful the idea of emphasising Friendship as a dominant aspect of the relationship (although I found Ray’s comment on the longevity of passion – 2 years max – rather depressing and hope that he was only projecting!!). I have always found Gottman’s ideas relating to the dangers of stonewalling, contempt and lack of respect as worthwhile components of an assessment as well as part of a psycho-educational process with couples.
Thanks for an interesting day

Robert Takac

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