Redecision therapy is grounded in the assumption that adults make decisions based on messages absorbed in childhood from parents and caretakers. These messages, along with past decisions, inform current decision-making processes, and at times they can have negative effects.
In redecision therapy, individuals can examine these messages and any past negative decisions in order to identify what is not working. With the help of a therapist, people in therapy may be able to adopt new meanings and extinguish self-defeating decision-making patterns through the use of reflective exploration and experiential techniques.
This type of therapy was developed in 1965 by social worker Mary Goulding and her husband, psychiatrist Bob Goulding. It combines the theoretical framework of Transactional Analysis with the intervention techniques of Gestalt therapy. Dissatisfied with the therapeutic frameworks of the day, the Gouldings sought to create a modality that was brief and effective and thus developed a fusion of both models, recognizing the way each model complemented the objective of the other.
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The ultimate goal of redicision therapy is a review of all choices and decisions made that might have influence on a current problematic situation. This type of therapy is often able to help individuals isolate negative implications attached to a situation and learn how to release the emotions and messages attached to them. This process can allow a person to take a retrospective approach to the healing process. Past experiences are not overly examined, but they are considered to be a vital component in the facilitation of changes toward behavior that can result in a more positive sense of well-being.
A typical first step of redecision therapy is for the person in therapy to work with the therapist to outline a contractual agreement of the changes the person wishes to make. The therapist will conduct a series of assessments to better understand what messages the person carries from childhood and work with the person in therapy to determine which messages are false, no longer required, or harmful. The therapist will then work to help that person create new messages and beliefs, encouraging the person in therapy to recognize and develop aspects of the "true self."
Throughout treatment, first-person narratives are explored, and in these, an individual may use language and emotion to describe situations that are currently occurring and, with the help of the therapist, identify and explore ways that past experiences are being replayed in current relationships. Through therapy, one may be able to decipher the meanings and implications of the messages or injunctions and determine which to release and which to keep in order to improve the way one interacts with the world.
Redecision therapy integrates Transactional Analysis (TA) and Gestalt therapy. The structured style of TA has been shown to work well during the assessment and contracting phases of treatment, where the person in therapy works with the therapist to develop a specific set of goals and outline treatment contract. The therapist uses assessment questions to identify current problem areas, emotional experiences in the present, and unconscious defense mechanisms. (In Transactional Analysis, these types of dynamics might be referred to as injunctions, life scripts, and games.)
Once these issues are established, the person in therapy may then explore whether these experiences feel familiar or point to childhood memories. When childhood experiences are discovered, the therapist might guide an individual through a retelling of the events as if they were happening in the present day. This assessment process facilitates the intervention phase of treatment and the use of Gestalt experiential techniques. These techniques help rework decisions and messages from the past by helping the person in therapy view new and effective ways to get needs met. Redecisions are made and then generalized to present day life and relationships. Some examples of redecision therapy techniques include the following:
- The Empty Chair: The person in therapy chooses a scene to reenact, usually an early scene involving a parent, and then conducts a dialogue with the parent. The therapist acts as a director, supporting the individual in adapting the scene to include new conversations and choices that contribute to current goals.
- Early Scene Work: Here, a person in therapy replays a scene from childhood, reliving the memory. The therapist asks the child persona questions related to thoughts, feelings, and choices made. One goal of this exercise is to determine whether these scenes resulted in beliefs and decisions that are currently keeping the person "stuck."
- The Parent Interview: The therapist asks the person in therapy to impersonate a parent. The therapist then interviews the "parent," asking about life experiences, feelings, and decisions. One goal of this exercise is to provide gain insight into the parent's point of view.
- Dream Work: If the person in therapy has had a dream that ended badly or was interrupted, the therapist can help the individual rework the ending in a positive way.
Research studies have shown that redecision therapy can effectively treat mental health issues. According to a study published in the Transactional Analysis Journal (2003),participants who underwent redecision therapy experienced positive changes in their “ego-states." Additionally, a study published in the Annals of Biological Research (2012) reported that redecision therapy was helpful for participants going through divorce proceedings: After therapy, 25% of participants decided to discontinue the divorce process.
Although the research is promising, there are some limitations associated with this form of therapy. First, redecision therapy is based on the assumption that those pursuing it have an accurate perception of what they would like to change. Some people may need therapeutic intervention before they are able to even get to this point. Second, the amount of trust that is required to delve into childhood material and participate in “scene work” can be a barrier for some people. Experienced redecision therapists may be able to quickly develop trusting rapport with those in therapy, but that level of trust might be more challenging for those who do not have as much experience in the field. Finally, people who have ingrained meaning surrounding how they are perceived by others may experience difficulties displaying genuine or vulnerable emotions in treatment. The experiential nature of redecision therapy may prove difficult for individuals who attempt to maintain their composure in all situations.
In general, redecision therapy appears to work well for those who know the areas in which they wish to achieve change and who are ready to work toward change. However, a redecision therapist may still be able to help people who are not as certain arrive at this realization and may also be able to assist them in working through their defenses.
- Boholst, F. A. (2003, October). Effects of Transactional Analysis Group Therapy on Ego States and Ego State Perception.Transactional Analysis Journal, 33(3), 254-261.
- Lennox, C. E. (1997). Redecision Therapy: A Brief, Action-Oriented Approach. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.
- Mathe, C. (2005). Redecision Approach to Transformative Change. In Authentic Leadership Center.
- Raisi, S. J., Aryan, S., & Farrokhi, N. (2012). Investigating the efficacy of redecision therapy training on adjustment and divorce cancellation. Annals of Biological Research, 3(7), 3513-3517. Retrieved from Scholars Research Library.
- Redecision Therapy. (n.d.). In Psychotherapy and Neuroscience. Retrieved from http://www.nature-nurture.org/index.php/chronic-stress/current-psychotherapies/redecision-therapy
- Redecision Therapy. (n.d.). In SOUTHEAST INSTITUTE For Group and Family Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.seinstitute.com/redecision-therapy
- Thompson, R. (2003). Counseling Techniques (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- What is Redecision Therapy?. (n.d.). In Heart Healer Treatment Center. Retrieved from http://www.hearthealer.net/what-is-redecision-therapy
Last updated: 07-23-2015
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