This is a first installment of my blog. I’m excited about it and nervous. Will it be useful and meaningful? Will I be able to keep up with it? My interests are so broad that I’m afraid my posts won’t have a consistent thread. Well, maybe that’s not me. I’m, at times, disparate, inattentive and self-centered. I often am motivated to instruct rather than take the time to listen first. Mostly my motivation is to be collaborative. To me, this means to have confidence in my own beliefs, recognize the validity of the beliefs of others and engage in conversation that fosters the mutuality that is essential for life.
I came late to my career as a psychologist, first being a pharmacist in the East Bronx, school teacher in New York City in the 60’s, and married and the father of three boys when I began my doctoral studies at Penn State in 1969. Though I was already influenced by my life experiences, I had an epiphany recognizing that what I was learning from Louise and Bernard G. Guerney, Jr., my professors, was consistent with my world view. In fact, it remains my world view.
My first post comes from the spotlight section of my old website. I think that it is a good place to start:
Bernard Guerney asserted that Relationship Enhancement is a value-laden approach based on honesty and compassion. When a relationship is honest and compassionate, it is likely to be equivalent, meaning that parties respect that they are equal in the relationship.. Guerney proposed that the development of an “empathic relationship” as the primary objective in Relationship Enhancement.
Let’s hear him describe this in his own words: “The empathic relationship has been defined as one wherein the participants more frequently exercise compassionate understanding of their own and the other’s thoughts, needs, wishes, and feelings. In an empathic relationship, each person can view and express the issues and emotions in their relationship more openly; with relatively little defensiveness, guilt and blame. Each of them is more in touch with his own values, needs, and feelings regarding the relationship so that he engages in fewer self-deceptions and employs fewer psychological defense mechanisms. Each of them relates to the other his values, needs, and feelings regarding the relationship with greater clarity and directness. Each of them does this in such a manner as to reduce as much as possible the other’s psychological pain and the other’s tendency to respond to such communication with defensiveness and counterattack. (Guerney, B.G.,Jr., 1977, pp 14-15)”
Relationship Enhancement practitioners believe that an empathic relationship promotes:
Dr. Guerney and his wife, Louise Fisher Guerney began to formulate what eventually became Relationship Enhancement at a time when therapists were not supposed to convey their values to their clients. They thought that alternate, “value-laden”, approach would be more up front, informing clients of the assumptions, values, that inform the therapy. Once clients are informed about these values, they are in a better position to decide if they can accept these values and choose to participate in the therapy. Once clients, so informed, agree to work with the therapist, they form a collaboration with the therapist.
Collaboration then becomes a value shared between clients and therapist that is more likely to assure a more satisfying outcome. Collaboration is an essential value in all relationships and one of the guiding principles of RE.
This emphasis on collaboration leads to an associated value, the notion of equivalence. A successful collaboration is based on an assumption that all participants in the relationship are respected as equivalent, on the same plane. Even though it may be necessary for one participant to act in a hierarchical or one up position, each is respected, e.g. as a parent, the child is still respected as an equivalent human being. Even though I have the power to discipline my child, it’s important that I discipline in a way that maintains respect for the child. This is one of the outcomes we look for in Filial Relationship Enhancement.
Relationship Enhancement asserts this value for all relationships including a therapeutic one. Collaboration and equivalence are part of the agreement to learn skills in RE. An equivalent relationship is built on applying the skills of acceptance and learning to be nonjudgmental. Only then, can the collaboration be successful.
The values of collaboration and equivalence are important for all relationships to be successful and satisfying. Helping people, who are important to each other, learn the skills of collaboration and equivalence and maintain them in their relationship are important goals of Relationship Enhancement.
Guerney, B. G., Jr. (1977) Relationship Enhancement: Skill-training programs for therapy, problem prevention, and enrichment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.