Respect-Focused Therapy with Individuals, Couples and Families

I was fortunate this year to be invited to speak at the American Mental Health Counselor Association’s annual conference in Orlando.

Florida is a beautiful place, and I made my FIRST journey to a Disney park, Epcot! I had such a great time with family and with colleagues at the conference while I was visiting the Sunshine State.

My presentation topic this year was Using Respect-Focused Therapy with Individuals, Couples and Families. I’m offering the resources from my presentation in this post.

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For those who are having family struggles (or want to avoid them) or are curious about Respect-Focused Therapy, I hope you find the presentation materials helpful and insightful.

As always, be well, and as the late, great, Queen of Soul would say, respect each other.

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RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Resilient? on GoodTherapy.org

Girl walking up the hill on a long meadow surrounded by trees.

Please check out my latest article on GoodTherapy.com.

“What Does It Mean to Be Resilient and Can Anyone Do It?” discusses maintaining resiliency during times of loss and despair when finding and maintaining a sense of meaning and purpose is crucial.

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

 

Depathologizing Mental Illness

During this Mental Illness Awareness Month, we will focus on the stigma surrounding mental illness.

The term mental illness historically to refers to any abnormality that deviates a person’s behavior from social norms. Over the last few centuries, mental illness has slowly moved to a more scientific, medical framework (conditions were initially associated with spiritual demonology). This has eliminated much of the cruelty imposed on people with mental illnesses, but newer forms of branding and misunderstandings around such human challenges persist.

Anyone who has ever experienced symptoms commonly associated with the concept of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or more complex disorders, knows all too well the added burden of being labeled “bipolar,” “borderline” or “schizophrenic,” as do their families. These labels and stereotypes carry lead-weighted misconceptions in the public eye that often follow people for entire lifetimes, affecting possibilities for meaningful employment, education, relationships and social engagement. The shortage of adequate funding for treating those who have little or no income sadly means that individuals with mental illness may end up homeless or in the penal system, which further demonizes their existence.

Susanne Slay - Respect Focused Therapy

Many of us who work in the mental health field have found it imperative to work toward “depathologizing” the concept of mental illness because it is so laden in the model of “sickness” or “disease” that it is isolating and oppressive. The preferred and more healing approach is to look at the wide range of emotions, beliefs and behaviors  encompassed by such labeling as human responses to life stressors by people who are coping as best they are able. We want to give respect and dignity to who they are completely, and appreciate their humanity in such a way that they can also learn to honor themselves in this world as whole beings—perhaps only needing support along the way.

 

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

 

Christian Counseling and the LGBTQ Community

I recently attended a workshop sponsored by the Human Empathy Project, in which the specific topic was on the therapeutic complexities regarding faith issues and the LGBTQ community.  Within this multidimensional discussion several different perspectives were considered.

Much of the focus of that discussion was about how a Christian therapist with traditional values and teachings comes to terms with working with an LGBTQ client. A significant challenge for many therapists of faith is to recognize the spiritual or theological value in affirming persons of alternative sexual orientations, due to Biblical passages that are perceived by some to condemn such behaviors. Passages from scripture such as, “Love one another as I have loved you,” and “Judge not, as you are not judged,” are offered as suggested guidance toward greater grace in this regard.

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It was pointed out that until recently, best practices indicated that therapists who felt uncomfortable or ill-equipped not work with clients who presented outside of the scope of the therapists’ expertise. However, while it may apply to working with specific mental health issues like eating disorders or gambling addiction, there have been several significant changes in the code of ethics across governing boards in this profession. The emerging best practice is to become more culturally proficient, thereby less biased toward any specific culture or sub-group be it about gender identity, race, disability or religious values and so on, in order to provide fair and just mental health services to everyone.

The complicated history of the relationship between the disciplines of psychology and religion on the issue of homosexuality in particular has led to pathologizing and demonizing of this portion of humanity over decades, if not centuries. This has resulted in harmful practices in our field, such as “conversion therapy,” based on incorrect information. It is imperative to understand that this is not a psychological disorder, but is biologically based, making gender identification not a choice that can or should be reversed, but something to be gracefully accepted and affirmed.

This position of being life affirming to all people, regardless of individual differences, is very much in keeping with Respect-Focused Therapy.  From within this framework, therapists are able to move forward the deeper conceptualization of respect as a function of keen understanding and a healing force. It is a process of due diligence to stay open and curious to new possibilities and greater understanding of the larger human experience.

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

 

A Flashlight in the Darkness: Honoring Pain and Loss on GoodTherapy.org

man holding lantern stands in dark forest with fog
Navigating through loss is not an easy process with a clear-cut path. For those suffering a loss or treating a client currently struggling with grief, please see my newest article on GoodTherapy.org.
When we’re in a dark place, how can a “flashlight” be used to soothe and heal emotional pain? How can we can begin to reconcile and come to terms with a painful loss?

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

 

We’re All a Little Crazy

The other day I came across a blog post about a national mental health awareness movement called “We’re All a Little Crazy.” Numerous celebrities in sports and the performing arts lead this movement. Many stories are shared about personal experiences with mental illness, from bipolar disorder to PTSD through #SameHere and a sign language gesture which points one’s thumb towards oneself and the pinky toward another.

The concept behind this movement is to disarm the stigma of mental illness as being something foreign, weird, or outside of a “normal” existence. In fact, many, if not most of us, have at one time or another experienced some level of depression, anxiety, trauma, or loss that would put us, at least temporarily, somewhere on the continuum between mental health and mental illness. The emotional distress within that continuum obviously varies in intensity and manifestation, but to be not mentally well at some point within one’s lifetime is arguably a part of the human condition.

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As mental health professionals, it should be especially incumbent upon us to be acutely aware of the additional burdens and pain caused by the stigmas placed on people with mental illness, particularly those that invite bullying or estrangement. Most importantly, we need to be in continuous check on ourselves as we may also fall into the elusive cracks of stigmatization (even if unintentional) of a person diagnosed as borderline, Schizoid-affective, or with Bipolar disorder who come with great vulnerability into our space for assistance and healing. By honoring their stories of struggles and accomplishments as significant and as ordinary as our own, we are welcoming them down a path to healing and recovery. After all, we’re all “a little crazy!”

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.

Suzanne Slay - Respect Focused Therapy-2.png

When Is Love Healthy? Attachment, Vulnerability, and Respect on GoodTherapy.org

Thinking about their promising futures

I am excited to announce I have become a topic expert for GoodTherapy.com.
My first article, “When Is Love Healthy? Attachment, Vulnerability, and Respect”, discusses a topic that has long been a source of marvel and mystery for human beings. What is the meaning of love? And what, exactly, does healthy love look like?

RFT Book Cover

Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.