Redecision Therapy

redecision therapy

Redecision therapy is a lesser-known but effective approach to helping people move past various kinds of trauma in their lives.

When spouses contemplating divorce are willing to let their guard down and become active participants in their emotional well-being, redecision therapy can be an effective means of helping them move forward in their lives.

Here’s what you should know about this type of therapy.

Development and Practice

Redecision therapy was developed in 1965 by social worker Mary Goulding and her psychiatrist husband Bob Goulding. The Gouldings were dissatisfied with therapeutic frameworks and wanted to create a brief and effective therapy that fused two popular and influential existing models at the time.

They combined Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis (TA) theoretical framework and the experiential techniques and methods used to effectuate change in Fritz Perl’s Gestalt therapy.

Redecision therapy is based mainly on Transactional Analysis. It utilizes and expands on the three ego states of TA:

  • The parent ego state is the part of our personality based on lessons learned from our parents and other authority figures. The focus here is on the values, rules, and morals we have and how they influence our behavior.
  • The adult ego state is the rational and objective part of our psychological make-up. It operates in the present and is not influenced by childhood messages.
  • The child ego state is the most natural part of our personality and is controlled by impulses and emotional responses. Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors we learned in our childhood strongly influence this part of our being.

Transactional Analysis explains behavioral patterns, including those that are problematic and can hold us back. It is a theory that our development is based on messages learned as children that play a role throughout our lives.

In other words, an individual’s current conflicts are metaphors from conflicts from the past. This can lead to conclusions that a troubling, painful relationship with another can be more upsetting to an individual than the actual abuse inflicted on the patient by that person.

Part of the reason for TA’s popularity is that it’s easy to understand. The average person can identify with the concepts and apply them to their own lives.

TA combined with redecision therapy helps resolve self-defeating interpersonal conflicts with your spouse by creating a more realistic way of seeing and understanding your relationship’s nature.

Gestalt therapy is based on the premise that each of us has an innate desire to solve our problems and grow continuously throughout our lifetime. That lets people achieve greater self-awareness on how thoughts, perceptions, and feelings impact your life.

Part of Gestalt therapy is reliving a troubling event or relationship in the present to help process a prior experience. This lets it morph into a part of the patient’s history.

Objectives and Process

The Gouldings further refined treatment techniques based on their own experiences as seasoned psychotherapists.

Redecision therapy is an effective short-term therapy centered on the premise that the decisions we make as adults are strongly influenced by the messages we internalized as children. Some of these messages may be positive, but many of the problems we experience as adults are due to the impact of negative messages and past decisions.

Based on combining these therapies, redecision therapy seeks to:

  • Bring about profound and lasting change in a short timeframe.
  • Isolate negative implications attached to a situation (such as divorce) and learn how to release emotions attached to that situation.
  • Past experiences are incorporated to help an individual understand current motivations, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Keep the approach simple so that people can easily understand the process.
  • Create patient empowerment that helps patients see they are in charge of making significant changes in their lives.
  • Using experiential techniques to help patients gain greater self-awareness and insights as the first step to creating change in their lives.

The first step of redecision therapy involves creating a contract between the therapist and the patient about what changes they want to make.

The therapist will conduct assessments on what messages the patient carries from their childhood to determine which ones are no longer valid, false, or harmful. These are replaced with new messages that help the patient model new aspects of the true self. The therapist will then help that person create new messages and beliefs, encouraging them to recognize and develop parts of the “true self.”

Essentially, the redecision is a shift from a negative to a positive assessment of a person’s self in an interaction.

Techniques and Exercises

Redecision therapy can help solve a wide range of psychological problems and emotional challenges. This includes depression, anxiety, relationship problems, substance abuse, low self-esteem, panic attacks, OCD, family conflict, anger issues, work-related problems, communication issues, and many others.

Specific techniques and exercises are based on what problems need to be addressed after assessments are completed. In general, a healing framework would look something like this:

Examples of childhood decisions and assessments that cause problems later in life:

  • I am unlovable
  • I am useless
  • I have no control over anything
  • I’m not okay

Introducing redecisions with new, positive assessments may include:

  • I am lovable
  • I am powerful
  • I have control over many things
  • I am okay

Often, redecision therapy will center on these steps:

  • Creating contracts for change
  • Decontamination
  • Clarification
  • Restructuring
  • Determining impasses
  • Finding effective redecision strategies
  • Implementing those strategies
  • Continued reinforcement of those new strategies

Each therapist will approach solutions a bit differently. They will react according to the patient’s unique needs and their own life experiences and intuition.

One of the more popular and widely known Gestalt techniques is called the Empty Chair.

A patient sits across from an empty chair and vividly imagines it’s occupied by a person, problem, situation, or event causing distress. The patient then has an in-depth conversation with whomever or whatever is sitting in the chair. After spending time talking to the imagined person or object in the empty chair, the therapist has the patient reverse roles.

Other common Gestalt techniques are Dream Work, The Parent Interview, and Early Scene work.

Read More: 7 Ways to Deal with (and Overcome) Divorce Guilt

Concerns, Limitations, and Contraindications

Although redecision therapy is effective in treating mental health issues, there are some limitations to note.

Redecision therapy assumes that those entering into it have an accurate perception of their problems and what they would like to change. In many cases, people need to do some preliminary work before they fully understand the challenges they face. Redecision therapy can still be a useful tool, but only when goals are identified first.

Also, some of the techniques used in redicision therapy require a high degree of trust to work. For example, “scene work” can be challenging without a high degree of comfort between a therapist and patient.

This is why therapists place a high value on developing trust as early as possible in redecision therapy. More experienced therapists are better equipped to get past this barrier. Still, therapists new to redecision therapy may be hamstrung and require more time to reach the necessary trust level.

Redecision therapy is also most effective when patients can tap into vulnerable and genuine emotions during sessions. When a patient attempts to control their emotions, it works against the baseline premise that makes redecision therapy effective.

Role-playing is part of redecision therapy exercises, and this can be difficult when patients overthink or fear looking foolish. Also, redecsion therapy often elicits intense emotional reactions, and patients who are not comfortable with this part of the process will also resist.

In some instances, therapists may also have their preconceived ideas or past histories to deal with. They must be aware of these critical or controlling issues and keep them from inserting their agendas into a patient’s processes and outcomes.

Conversely, some patients expect that the therapist will do all the work for them. Redecision therapy requires active patient participation to see tangible results.

Find a Therapist

To become a certified Redecision Therapist, practitioners must go through 20 months of training, pass a written exam, and demonstrate proficiency in the approach.

The USATAA (United States of America Transactional Analysis Association) and The Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy offer training and certification.  You can contact either of these organizations or the Redecision Therapy Association to find a qualified therapist.

If you have health insurance and counseling is a covered benefit, you should also consider talking to your provider. Your primary care doctor may also be another source you can contact to help you find a redecision therapist near you.

Learn More:

How to Overcome Divorce Depression

50 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help You Recover from a Divorce

How to Cope with Divorce as a Man

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