Goulding’s redecision therapy: how does it work and what methods does it use?

Goulding's redecision therapy: how does it work and what methods does it use?

Goulding’s Redemption Therapy is one of the main schools (or currents) of Transactional Analysis . It is an application of it, and is based above all on the decisions of the individual to achieve therapeutic change.

In this article we tell you how this therapy was born, who are its authors, what are its fundamental characteristics and how it works.

Goulding’s Redemption Therapy

Goulding’s Redemption Therapy (1979) was created by Robert (Bob) L. Goulding MD and Mary McClure Goulding , two renowned American psychotherapists. When it was created, between the 60s and 70s, these psychotherapists were working at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy in Watsonville (California, USA) as co-directors of the center.

This therapy integrates techniques from Gestalt Therapy and Transactional Analysis. Technically, it is an application of Transactional Analysis (a system of psychotherapy with a humanistic philosophy), and also includes Existential Psychotherapy and Behavior Modification techniques.

It is ideal for use in group therapy. However, it can also take on other formats or modalities, such as brief therapy, or be part of a more in-depth, long-term therapy.

Thus, Goulding’s Redemption Therapy is based on two basic pillars (assumptions or ideals): that the power of change is within oneself, and that a sense of humour is fundamental to any process of therapeutic change .

This therapy focuses on becoming aware of certain explicit decisions made, especially those made in childhood, in order to become aware of and understand how these decisions have affected one’s life years later.

Transactional Analysis: fundamentals

Before explaining in more detail what Goulding’s redecision therapy is, let’s look at the three central principles of Transactional Analysis (TA), as such therapy is an application of TA. In a very synthesized way, Transactional Analysis is based on three main principles :

  • We are all born “good”, but depending on our relationships we can change.
  • We all have human potential to be discovered and exploited.
  • We can all change to become more autonomous, and we have the resources to do so.

Characteristics of this type of therapy

Now that we know the basic premises of Transactional Analysis, let’s talk about Goulding’s Redemption Therapy. In relation to its characteristics, Goulding’s Redemption Therapy focuses on the vision of the life script that we adopt as people , influenced by external factors (of the environment), above all the family environment.

One of the great goals of Goulding’s redecision therapy is to enable the patient to make life-changing decisions. As in all psychotherapy, the therapist guides the patient on this “path of change and decision”.

The authors of this therapy highlight the importance of the decisions we make when we are children ; these decisions respond to the different orders and “commands” we receive from parents and other important people, and can be verbal or non-verbal responses (i.e. behaviours, actions, feelings, words, etc.).

Through these decisions (which are in fact adaptive responses), we survive our environment in a subjective way, always according to the Gouldings, and we do so with the resources we have, which at those stages of life are rather limited and scarce. Resources can be of different types: affective, behavioural and cognitive .

These decisions (which the authors of Goulding’s Redemption Therapy call “early decision”) influence and mark, to a great extent, our future life, and define how we relate to others. This is what redecision therapy is all about.

Operation

In terms of how it works, Goulding’s Redemption Therapy starts with the question: “What do you want to change now?” . In other words, this therapy is based on change and decision making, on the part of the patient, so that he can turn his life into what he really wants.

In the first session the problem situation is defined; the therapist listens and looks for certain connections between topics , trying to answer the following two questions:

  1. “What’s the main complaint?”
  2. “What was this patient doing to himself when he decided to seek assistance?”

As Goulding’s redecision therapy progresses, the therapist aims to answer the following questions about the patient, addressing the issues as he sees fit (through different psychological techniques).

Some of these questions are: “What are your feelings,” “What behaviors do you dislike about yourself,” “Are you obsessed instead of thinking,” “Are you depressed,” “Are you angry, or bored, or phobic most of the time,” “Are you unhappy in your marriage,” “Are you unhappy in your work,” etc.

It is clear that if the patient has come to therapy it is because something wants to change, something that makes him unhappy , either about himself or about his situation. In order to do this, the therapist must find out one of the most important questions in Goulding’s Redemption Therapy, in order to agree on the therapy contract together with the patient; this question is: “What do you want to change? Like this,
we already have a specific goal (desire), and we can start working on it.

Methodology and role of the therapist

According to the authors themselves (in their book: Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1979), the methodology they use in redecision therapy is simple, clear and concise. The role of the therapist is to listen “carefully” (active listening), observe “carefully” and also confront “carefully”.

The method used by the therapist within Goulding’s Redemption Therapy is based on not blaming the patient for the failures , and on looking within the patient for the answers he needs to move forward. These answers will also help the patient to create an environment that facilitates their therapeutic change.

On the other hand, redecision therapy is based on a “here and now” approach (i.e., in the present moment). How does this therapy work in the present moment?

We see it through a series of actions that the therapist must execute, and that will allow the patient to connect his memories with his affects, and to address his internal struggles and tensions in a more direct way (the objective is for the patient to place himself in the scene of what he is explaining, and not so much to limit himself to talking about it).

Actions of the therapist

We have summarized a series of actions that the therapist must take in order to make the therapy successful, always based on the original ideas of the Gouldings to develop their therapy. These actions respond to a series of previous situations, such as…

When the therapist hears the patient…

The therapist should ask the patient to focus on the present moment and on explaining what they want to communicate.

2. When the patient offers information from the past…

In the case of the patient telling data about his past, the therapist will ask him to imagine that he is in that scene at that precise moment, and to try to explain it as if he were living it right now .

3. When the patient wants to talk about someone…

In these cases, the therapist will ask the patient to imagine that this person (or these people) is (are) in the office right now; thus, he or she must imagine that he or she is talking to this person (or these people) at this very moment .

Applications

What can Goulding’s Redemption Therapy be used for? In terms of its applications, it can be used to treat a wide range of psychological and emotional problems, including depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, grief , after-effects of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, problems in social and/or affective relationships, etc.

However, the therapist who works through this therapy must have been properly trained in it, with professionals with experience and demonstrable consolidated training.

Bibliographic references:

  • Criswell, G. E. and Erskine, R. G. (2015) The psychotherapy of contact-in-relationship. Dialogues with Richard Erskine. Journal of Psychotherapy, 26(100): 115-127.
  • Cuadra, J. (2008). Redcision Therapy. Cabinet of Transactional Analysis.
  • Goulding, M.M. & Goulding, R.L. (1979), Changing lives through redecision therapy, New York: Brunner/Mazel.

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