|Mindfulness Narcissistic Clients Great Attachment Debate Couples Therapy Clinical Mastery Symposium 2012 CE Comments Diets Mind/Body Attachment David Schnarch Brain Science Community of Excellence Future of Psychotherapy The Future of Psychotherapy Anxiety Clinical Excellence Gender Issues Etienne Wenger Trauma Alan Sroufe William Doherty Wendy Behary Men in Therapy Ethics Couples Mary Jo Barrett Attachment Theory Challenging Cases Linda Bacon|
|Foreign Affairs - Page 4|
Despite the perspective offered by authors like Reibstein, Richards, and Kassoff, the clinical guidelines for dealing with affairs have continued to focus almost exclusively on the emotional impact of affairs and the trauma of betrayal. Influenced by Pittman and other authors, the therapeutic norm has been that when faced with secret affairs, couples therapists must encourage and even insist on their disclosure. Therapists must also demand that the affair be terminated right away as a precondition for the couples therapy to continue. If the unfaithful individual is unwilling to comply with these strictures, therapists are supposed to discontinue the couples therapy and refer the partners to individual therapists. What's oddest about this prescription is that, when encountering an obstacle to therapy, rather than requiring that couples therapists find another route to help the marriage that's potentially derailing, we're supposed to abandon the couple right when they need us the most!
This clinical approach, consonant with premises deeply ingrained in the fabric of the larger culture, repeats the basic script of all the great American stories of infidelity, from the fictional character of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, to Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, and Tiger Woods. The sequence is clear: first there's discovery, accompanied by the pressure to confess and reveal the details of the transgression. Confession leads to moral condemnation, penance, and contrition—and then, presumably, redemption. This sequence informs the ways in which many couples therapists in the United States continue to feel most comfortable dealing with infidelity.
From Trauma to Yearning
Since I was born in a different culture and practiced couples therapy in Chicago for 15 years before this clinical framework based on the trauma of betrayal took root, my own approach evolved from different premises. I've always recognized that the impact of affairs can be extremely painful and damaging, but I didn't assume that affairs are invariably traumatic. I didn't consider them to be primarily about betrayal and deception, nor did I view them as referenda on a person's character. I didn't think all affairs necessarily involved a perpetrator and a victim, or that they were always caused by problems in the marriage. Instead, as I've listened to stories involving affairs—inside and outside the therapy room—I've started from the premise that affairs are first and foremost about our human yearnings.