Monday, August 29, 2011

Couples Communication Therapy

Communication theory developed from the ideas of radios. It was recognised that communication break down could occur because of many factors which involved the distortion of a message. To this end the language of radio communication is applied to communication theory.  For example when I speak the message may be misunderstood because what I mean by my use of the language based on my experience personally, family and culturally may be different from what you understand the 'words' or 'body behaviour' to mean.  Further language goes through a filter and then may be interrupted by a variety of environmental factors termed as static. Now we understand static to mean the 'emotional tone' of the discussion as just one factor. When a communication is received it must be processed by the receiver and pass through their 'filter'.
Considering all the factors involved in communication in terms of meaning, language, sending, receiving and distortion it is quite the surprise that anything real is actually transmitted and received. To undertand the limits of communication in general it's just a matter of reading the news and seeing how 'out of context' things are taken and how 'misconstrued' reporting is. This is often the 'facts'. Watching a court trial and listening to the 'spin' put on any information by a defense lawyer or prosecution is also a way to appreciate that couples commonly 'miscommunicate' and must develop ways to clarify communication and resist knee jerk reactions and threats of war based on miscommunication and misundertanding.\
"I" statements are one of the means.
"Toning down" the communication to remove all the 'drama' queen elements to 'clarify' what is being said.
12 step programs to help get at the motive under the communication.
Emotions anonymous is a good place to begin to learn about what I'm saying so I can hear what you are saying.
Sometimes a couples therapist working on communication therapy will simply repeatedly say "what I hear you saying is" in much the way two radio operators will repeat call signs to be sure they're actually talking to each other.
Further it's a product of couple's therapy to look at the 'tone' of communication much as radio operators will describe a transmission as having tonal distortion. The 'tone' of communication is found in the 'how things are said' not 'what is said'.  For instance, I can being showing you the bird, giving you the one finger salute, and saying "I agree with you."  Adolescents are masters of "mixed message' with their "yea, whatever" communications which say they agree but they don't.  So a therapist often helps a couple sort out what their body language is saying compared to the verbal communication. "In congruence' is a term commonly used in communication therapy.  For example "I don't want to have sex" says the woman while dressed in negligee spreading her legs. Or the man says, "I"m not angry" while beating his fist. These are extreme examples but the more subtle variations are readily apparent to trained experienced therapists.  Often communication can be 'grating' or 'insincere' and sometimes the person really means what they say but their 'limp' speach doesn't convey that.  To this end a therapist would ask a person 'how would you like him or her' to communicate this message to you.  Eg.  I'd like him to kiss me when he says he loves me not turn away after he says it.  Many times I've had to tell individuals I 'read' them the way their partner does and suggest that they some how picked up a glych in their communication apparatus or maybe in their 'local' family communication punching meant love , in the greater society, punching doesn't mean love.  Communication theory and therapy is often extremely helpful in cross cultural settings where the body language often doesn't mean the same thing.  So when this is clarified it's understood.
There are many examples of improvements in 'communication' which have come out of the social sciences and political sciences. There are in fact 'war' mongering statemnt and 'sabre rattling' phrases and 'bullying' remarks recognised in diplomatic circles and 'toxic' workplaces.  Much of the aim of civility training is to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding and initiating conflict.  All of these disciplines have increased the potential for couples to learn better communications. Often if a couple is actually getting along and wants to improve their communication this can be done in a group therapy approach or attending a workshop rather than undergoing the more costly alternative of 1 on 1 therapy.
Virginia Satir's writing is the best place to begin in terms of reading in this field.

No comments: