Joining Through The Truth

Joining Through The Truth

Coaching and Our Assumptions

By Terry Real

November/December 2012

Most of us were trained to believe that we needed to be extremely careful when helping clients face the really difficult truths in their lives--especially their own obnoxious, selfish, or self-defeating actions. Better to err on the side of going slow, creating safety, and remaining neutral than to come across as pushy or disrespectful. Nevertheless, my own experience as a couples therapist has taught me that we aren't doing clients a favor by soft-pedaling difficult issues, despite what my early supervisors tried to instill in me. The approach I've developed, Relationship Life Therapy (RLT), is based on the premise that it's disrespectful to clients not to let them in on the truth about what we witness regularly in our offices as they play out their relationships in front of us: the ways they deal with their partners are often self-centered, unfeeling, and counterproductive.

In some ways, the guiding principle of RLT is to be able to say to clients what we might otherwise say only to our colleagues in our supervision group or around the water cooler after a tough session. Instead of confiding, when they're out of earshot, something like, "I can't believe what a witch she is to him. He's such a Caspar Milquetoast," I believe that's what you need to say--skillfully and respectfully--in the session with the couple.

Some would call this approach confrontational, but I think that term is misleadingly adversarial and addresses only half the process. I think the…

Already have an account linked to your magazine subscription? Log in now to continue reading this article.

(Need help? Click here or contact us to ask a question.)

Not currently a subscriber? Subscribe Today to read the rest of this article!

Read 83568 times
Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Wednesday, December 12, 2012 7:17:18 PM | posted by Jonathan Sibley
Most of us our clients (and us) want to be effective. If it appears that there is a way to be more effective (in David's case, perhaps being more effective at being lovable and loved by his wife) that doesn't come at too high a price, it's usually fairly easy to get the clients to become interested.

It seems to me that, although you were more direct and confrontational than many therapists, you also had enough of an alliance with him to trust that your intervention could be effective.

It seems like you also paved the way by asking permission before you jumped in and by making clear what he had to gain from taking in your feedback - he was able to see that you believed you could help him. And, fortunately, you had a reasonable model about how we impact one another relationally to support your intervention.

This seems like an effective use of self that is in the best interest of the client. It would be a shame if anyone took this as permission to use any counter-transference based reaction as an excuse to share the therapist's feelings without having established a secure-base and without having a client-centered reason for doing so.

In the end, for a variety of reasons, partners engage in many relational behaviors that are counter-productive. In many couples therapies it seems as though we are coaching couples to understand themselves and their partners better and to communicate more effectively - even if we call it therapy and are informed by one or more therapeutic lenses.

Monday, November 19, 2012 6:24:21 AM | posted by Anjana Chabria Jaisingh
A very interesting read. Thank you.
As a therapist, i do use a lot of the methods talked about in the article.
Marital Counsellor & Therapist