Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

A Relational Approach to Training and Supervision in Cognitive Psychotherapy

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

A Relational Approach to Training and Supervision in Cognitive Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

In this article we outline a number of principles and strategies relevant to training and supervision in cognitive psychotherapy from a relational perspective. Although a number of principles are discussed, two emerge as most fundamental. First, it must be remembered that in supervision, as in therapy, everything takes place within a relational context and can only be understood within that context. The supervisor must thus always be monitoring the nature and quality of the relationship with the therapist. Second, supervision should be experiential in nature. This is true both because of the dangers incurred by reifying the therapeutic process, as well as the difficulties incurred when the learning process takes place primarily at a conceptual level.

Elsewhere we have described a relational approach to understanding the person and the change process in cognitive psychotherapy (Safran, 1998; Safran & Muran, 2000; Safran & Segal, 1996). A central tenet of our perspective is the recognition that an individual's interpersonal or relational schemas shape his or her perceptions of the world, leading to cognitive processes and interpersonal behaviors that in turn shape the environment in a way which confirms the representational content of the schemas. Relational schemas are generalized representations of self-other interactions that contain procedural information regarding expectancies and strategies for negotiating relatedness, which are learned but stored in memory as a result of an innate propensity to seek relatedness to others for adaptive significance. They are hierarchically organized by different orders of abstraction and generality, with specific interpersonal experiences at the lowest order. These schemas should further be understood as emotional templates in that they are coded in expressive-motor form and elaborated over time into subtle and idiosyncratic variations.

We also believe that there is an ongoing reciprocal relationship between the self-states of one person and those of the other in a dyadic interaction (Muran, 2001). Self-states are the crystallizations in subjective experience of underlying relational schemas. Each individual experiences multiple self-states, each marking the activation of a different relational schema, and the extent to which transitions among these different states are experienced as continuous or discontinuous depends on the degree of dissociation. As individuals cycle through various self-states in an interpersonal encounter, they both influence and are influenced by the various self-states of the other. We have adopted the term relational matrix to refer to the individual's self-perpetuating, cognitiveinterpersonal cycle of self-other representations, actions, and characteristic actions of others. We have also adopted the term relational configuration to refer to the interaction between the respective relational matrices of patient and therapist. To the extent that one has rigid expectations of how others will be, as well as how one has to be in order to maintain relatedness, one's interpersonal repertoire will be rigid and stereotyped. Since behaviors pull for complementary behaviors from others, people with rigid interpersonal repertoires experience less diversity in their interpersonal experiences and, subsequently, have less opportunity to encounter new interpersonal experiences that will help modify their relational schemas than those with more flexible repertoires (e.g., Kiesler, 1983).

Therapists, like other people, are likely to be pressured into responding in a complementary fashion to the patient's interpersonal pull. If they cannot unhook themselves from this pull, their actions will provide yet another confirmation of the patient's maladaptive relational schema. It is thus important for them to work toward unhooking or disembedding by becoming aware of their own feelings and action tendencies, and exploring or metacommunicating about what is being enacted unconsciously in the therapeutic relationship, rather than responding like other people. …

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