Conflict resolution therapy is a type of couples therapy developed by Dr. Susan Heitler.
Psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD first explained her theory of treatment, now called conflict resolution therapy, in her 1990 book From Conflict to Resolution. This book brought conflict resolution techniques from the world of business and legal mediation into the arena of psychotherapy. A subsequent audio, Working with Couples in Conflict (1994), recorded Dr. Heitler demonstrating this treatment method at a live training seminar for therapists.
In 1996 when the editors of a Newbridge Communications master therapist video series decided to include a video on couple treatment, they chose conflict resolution treatment as exemplifiying the best of couple therapy treatment strategies. They chose this treatment strategy because studies have shown that most couples seek therapy “for help resolving our conflicts.” The resultant Master Therapist video (now on DVD), The Angry Couple: Conflict Focused Treatment (1997), is currently utilized in graduate school couple therapy training programs across the U.S. and internationally.
Conflict resolution therapy is formed on the belief that conflict causes one to form negative emotions out of a natural response system. By redirecting the conflict with the proper skills, one can achieve sense of well-being and resolution. Without the necessary skills, negative emotional states are sustained and can develop into situations with larger consequences.
The belief is based on an inner conflict, such as the struggle between one’s wishes and desires as opposed to what they believe their actions should be. Additionally, this premise is applicable to conflicts between people, including spouses, parents and children, or colleagues. This broad concept also encompasses conflicts facing people and challenging situations such as financial struggles or health circumstances. Therefore, this form of therapy is beneficial to various sectors including couples, individuals, corporations, or families.
Conflict resolution therapy incorporates imagery and communication as the primary tools for exploration and conflict resolution. By identifying dysfunctional behaviors and origins of discord, resolutions can be found. Skills are developed that allow participants to unite when facing difficult situations. Rather than combatting one another, members are encouraged to work together to overcome issues that if left untreated, can create feelings of anxiety, depression, or contempt.
In order to eliminate these feelings, a therapist works as a facilitator to help clients discover win-win scenarios. The therapist uses conflict resolution therapy to help participants identify the conflicting feelings and create new behavior patterns that will prevent them from engaging in disturbing and negative actions and reactions. Clients who engage in this type of therapy are also armed with the skills to be able to adequately address any future circumstances that would otherwise result in conflict.
A conflict resolution therapist wears three hats:
1) Guide- Leading clients through to win-win resolution of their confilcts.
2) Coach - Teaching the techniques of conflict resolution that enable people to sustain personal well-being and smooth-flowing relationships: communication skills, emotional self-regulation, expression of positive feelings, and collaborative problem-solving.
3) Healer - Mending troubled relationships, and also relieving individuals’ anxiety, depression, anger, and generalized upset.
~ Page content provided by Susan Heitler
Last updated: 05-14-2013