Redecision Therapy is the primary therapeutic approach taught at the Southeast Institute. It is a highly effective short-term therapy approach that combines behavioral, cognitive, and affective work. It was developed by Robert Goulding, M.D. and Mary Goulding, M.S.W., as a result of their work with Fritz Perls, M.D. and Eric Berne, M.D. in the early ‘60’s. The Gouldings recognized what a powerful combination Berne’s Transactional Analysis and Perls’s Gestalt Therapy would make when integrated since Transactional Analysis is such a clear conceptual framework and Gestalt is such a powerful set of experiential tools. They added a number of their own unique discoveries and Redecision Therapy was born.
The Redecision approach consists of first negotiating a very clear, behaviorally specific contract concerning the changes the client is wanting to make as a result of therapy. Ways in which the client may be giving away his or her power and responsibility, and the client’s unconscious defenses are carefully tracked and made explicit. The therapist always positions him or herself on the side of the client’s authentic self and invites the client to support that part of him or herself as well. The client is invited to give a current example of the problem he is experiencing and to use first person, active, present tense in order to experience in the here and now what he is describing. The client is also asked to describe what she is feeling and what she is telling herself about herself, the other people involved, and her destiny. (The assumption is that in conflictual situations in the present, we re-experience a familiar existential position resulting from early decisions we made in childhood regarding ourselves, others, and our destiny. These decisions represent the very best option we perceived at the time for taking care of ourselves. The difficulty in the present is that we keep limiting ourselves to this one option when other options would work better for solving the current problem. The Redecision process allows us to free ourselves from those past decisions and pursue new options in the present.)
The client is next asked if this existential position is a familiar way of feeling and who she was in this position with as a child. Then the client is asked to be in the early scene, again using first person, active, present tense to describe what is happening. The therapist also asks the client what she is deciding to do, as a child, in order to take care of herself, given what is taking place. The therapist then works with the client using Gestalt dialogues to talk out with the early figures the emotional issues that did not get resolved, in order to resolve them now and come to a new decision about how the client will take care of himself in the present. The therapist looks for evidence of the client’s change in the session by observing the client’s body, emotional states, and energy shifts. The goal is for the client to experience the change in the present moment. The client is then asked for specifics about how he will implement that new decision outside the session as well. Because of the rapid and dramatic changes that are often made, the process can appear somewhat magical, but the approach itself is very teachable and learnable. It is extremely effective for treating anxiety, panic, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, early trauma, depression, suicidal issues, and loss. (For additional readings on Redecision Therapy see Goulding, R. and Goulding, M. (1979). “Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy”, New York: Brunner/Mazel, Publishers, and Lennox, C. (1997). “Redecision Therapy: A Brief, Action-oriented Approach”, Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.)