I am reading "Doing Contextual Therapy" by Peter Goldenthal in which he reviews a model for therapy pioneered by Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy called Contextual Therapy.
One of the things that has always attracted me to Contexual Therapy is its ethical framework. This ethical framework is also integrative in that it applies to individuals, couples, families, commnities, nations and globally. Perhaps it is in this ethical perspective that we tie together the clinical and the political. The overrriding question always that a Contextual Therapist would ask is "Is it fair?" This is a facilitative questions for the parties involved in the consultation to answer, not the therapist. Here is what Goldenthal says on pg. 6 of this book,
"...In contextual therapy the superordinate framework is not theoretical, but ethical. The fundamental defining goal is to help people be more considerate in their relationships with those closest to them, give more spontaneously and freely of themselves to those in their families, and state their own needs and wishes in a spirit of open dialogue."
The two main goals of Contextual therapy is to help people acknowledge the positive things other people do and have done by "giving credit" and by acknowledging current and past injustice. This leads to a repair of harm and an acknowledgement of strength and resource that is validating and enhancing.
At a political level it reminds me of the bumper sticker which reads "If you would have peace, first seek justice."
Justice or fairness is brought about in the contextual therapy model by accountability not by revenge and retribution. Accountability, in my mind, is the middle way, not violence and domination fueled by revenge, nor laissez-faire permissiveness, letting things go, but calling a spade a spade and taking things by the the horns.
"Fairness" is always multilaterally defined and requires systemic awareness and a level of consciousness not always available to decision makers or participants. Therapists attempt to facilitate the creation of that higher awareness and consciousness. This, of course, is a collaborative process, not the enlightened master or expert shedding light.
Contextual therapy is also very sensitive to power relations and recognizes that power corrupts in the hands of the unaware and immature. There are plenty of examples of that. Hubris, arrogance, "steadfastness" meaning rigidity or stubborness in the face of new information is always cause for alarm. One of the definitions of addiction is continuing to do the same old thing, hoping for a different result.
Setting boundaries often is a sign of wanting things to be more fair especially in the face of what the contextual model calls "destructive entitlement" and "invisible loyalties". Goldenthal says on p. 16, "...there is always the risk that such individuals will justify hurting others or be unmoved by the suffering of others based on their own past injuries." When this form of injustice occurs and attempts at accountability fail, the setting and enforcement of boundaries often becomes necessary for the health of both parties.
I will continue to post some thoughts on Contextual therapy as I continue to read and reflect on Goldenthal's book.