By Jeffrey Title, Ed.D -- Special Guest Blogger
Dr. Jeffrey Title has been a licensed, practicing therapist since 1973. He is also the author of LOVING SMART: Putting Your Cards on the Table, (Warner Books). He has been married for 43 years to novelist Elise Title with whom he has two grown children.
These are my thoughts on why, as a very experienced couples therapist, I have loved learning and using Terry Real's Relational Empowerment Therapy(tm) approach with all my intensive treatment couples.
In Fall, 2006, when I attended a day-long continuing education workshop presented by Terry Real at the University of Connecticut, I discovered great simpatico with my ideas about the nature of intimacy and couples therapy and was tremendously excited by Terry’s approach to treatment which appeared to solve many technical problems for me. Often, working with very challenged couples has been an altogether painful, though a very important and meaningful experience.
This is what the big deal is for me: Following along with the Relational method I now remain grounded at all times in my therapist spot. In the early stages of meeting with a couple I can let go of my desperation to find some way to fix them and turn my attention to a logical process of data gathering with the goal of finding out very specific information to answer very specific questions. When I am not sure about the quality or clarity of the data I am eliciting I can breathe, relax, focus my attention back to my goal at that part of the interview, and go back to my task. I am no longer tempted to jump in too soon with half-formed therapy strategies (with the thought that the couple is in so much pain that I have to do something for them right away).
My counseling couples have loved this approach. I am demonstrating to them one of the basic notions of Relational Couples work—replacing contention with curiosity. As I satisfy my curiosity for true understanding of their problem, they are experiencing how exhilarating that process is. Also, as Terry’s method involves serial individual dialogs the problem of couples breaking out into unbridled fights has been greatly minimized. I spend my counseling time managing my interaction with the members of the couple, not struggling to manage their out of control interaction with each other. When I am ready, the process moves to a very specific method of motivating the members of the couple for change, pointing out what change is needed, and providing rationale and methods for making the change happen.
Terrance Real’s Relational Empowerment Therapy method is all about how to create humane, thoughtful, relationally effective change in the present through motivation, learning new ideas and applying new skills. History is important to grease the gears for current change, but not as a preoccupation in itself.
Best of all is the philosophic/spiritual advantage I have gained in my Relational Therapy role with couples: At the core I am teaching, and demonstrating by example, what Terry calls “full respect living.” The members of the couple and the therapist must maintain at their hearts a deeply respectful demeanor, learning how maintain a level playing field, moving down from grandiosity and/or up from self-destructive shame, accepting responsibility for maintaining healthy boundaries, as well as the responsibility and skill to bolster one's own self-esteem, learning how to ask for what they want without recourse to any kinds of control tactics.
Relational Couples Therapy is based on a deeply held and taught humane value system which above all the other positive factors in the method, I take the greatest pride in representing and teaching.