Goulding redecision therapy: how does it work and what methods do you use?

Goulding Redecision Therapy is one of the main (or current) schools of Transactional Analysis . It is an application of the same, and is based primarily on the individual’s decisions to achieve therapeutic change.

In this article we tell you how this therapy was born, who are its authors, what are its fundamental characteristics and how it works.

  • Related article: ” Types of psychological therapies

Goulding Redecision Therapy

Goulding Redecision Therapy (1979) was created by Robert (Bob) L. Goulding MD and Mary McClure Goulding , two renowned American psychotherapists. When it was created, between the 60s and 70s, these psychotherapists worked at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy in Watsonville (California, USA) as co-directors of the center.

This therapy integrates techniques of Gestalt Therapy and Transactional Analysis. Technically, it is an application of Transactional Analysis (a psychotherapy system of humanistic philosophy), and also includes existential psychotherapy and behavior modification techniques.

Its use is ideal for group therapies. However, it can also adopt other formats or modalities, such as brief therapy, or be part of a deeper and longer-term therapy.

Thus, Goulding Redecision Therapy is based on two basic pillars (assumptions or ideals): that the power of change is in one / the same, and that the sense of humor is fundamental to any process of therapeutic change .

This therapy focuses on becoming aware of certain explicit decisions made, especially those made in childhood, in order to become aware and understand how those decisions have affected one’s life years later.

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Transactional Analysis: Fundamentals

Before explaining in more detail what Goulding Redecision Therapy consists of, let’s look at the three core principles of Transactional Analysis (AT), since such therapy is an application of it. In a very synthesized way, Transactional Analysis is based on three fundamental principles :

  • We are all born “good”, but depending on our relationships we can change.
  • We all have a human potential to discover and exploit.
  • We can all change to be more autonomous, and we have the resources to achieve it.

Characteristics of this type of therapy

Now that we know the basic premises of Transactional Analysis, let’s talk about Goulding Redecision Therapy. In relation to its characteristics, Goulding Redecision Therapy focuses on the vision of the life script that people adopt , influenced by external (environmental) factors, especially the family environment.

One of the great goals of Goulding Redecision Therapy is that the patient can make change decisions in his life. As in all psychotherapy, the therapist guides the patient in this “path of changes and decisions”.

The authors of this therapy highlight the importance of the decisions we make when we are children ; These decisions respond to the different orders and “mandates” we receive from fathers, mothers and other important people, and can be verbal or nonverbal responses (ie, behaviors, actions, feelings, words, etc.).

Through these decisions (which are really adaptive responses), we survive our environment subjectively, always according to the Goulding, and we do so with the resources we have, which in these stages of life are rather limited and scarce. Resources can be of different types: affective, behavioral and cognitive .

These decisions (which the authors of Goulding Redecision Therapy call “early decision”) influence and mark, to a large extent, our future life, and define how we interact with others. In redecision therapy all this works.


As for its operation, Goulding Redecision Therapy begins with the following question: “What do you want to change now?” . That is, this therapy is based on change and decision-making, by the patient, so that he turns his life into what he really wants.

In the first session the problem situation is defined; The therapist listens and looks for certain connections between topics , trying to answer the following two questions:

  1. “What is the main complaint?”
  2. “What was this patient doing to himself when he decided to seek assistance?”

As Goulding redecision therapy progresses, the therapist intends to answer the following questions about the patient, addressing the issues as he considers (through different psychological techniques).

Some of these questions are: “What are your feelings?”, “What behaviors do you dislike about yourself?”, “Are you obsessed instead of thinking?”, “Are you depressed?”, “Are you angry? , or boring, or phobic most of the time? ”,“ Are you unhappy in your marriage? ”,“ Are you unhappy in your work? ”, etc.

It is evident that if the patient has gone to therapy it is because something wants to change, something that makes him unhappy , either of himself or his situation. For this, the therapist must find out one of the most important issues in Goulding Redecision Therapy, in order to agree on the therapy contract with the patient; This question is: “What do you want to change?” Thus, we already have a specific objective (desire), and we can start working on it.

Methodology and role of the therapist

According to the authors themselves (in their book: Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy. New York: Brunner / Mazel, 1979), the methodology they use in redecision therapy is simple, clear and concise. The therapist’s role is to listen “carefully” (active listening), observe “carefully” and also confront “carefully”.

The method used by the therapist within Goulding Redecision Therapy is based on not blaming the patient for failures , and seeking within him the answers he needs to move forward. These responses will also help the patient to create an environment that facilitates their therapeutic change.

On the other hand, redecision therapy is based on an approach based on the “here and now” (that is, in the present moment). How do you get to work in the present moment from this therapy?

We see it through a series of actions that the therapist must perform, and that will allow the patient to connect their memories with their affections, and that they can address their internal struggles and tensions more directly (the goal is for the patient to put on the scene what he explains, and not so much that he just talks about it).

Therapist Actions

We have summed up a series of actions that the therapist must perform in order for the therapy to be successful, always based on the original ideas of the Goulding to develop their therapy. These actions respond to a series of previous situations, such as …

1. When the therapist listens to the patient …

The therapist should ask the patient to focus on the present moment when explaining what they want to communicate.

2. When the patient offers information about the past …

In the event that the patient tells data about his or her past, the therapist will ask you to imagine that you are in that scene at that precise moment, and try to explain it as if you were living right now .

3. When the patient wants to talk about someone …

In these cases, the therapist will ask the patient to imagine that said person (or persons) is now in the office; So, you should imagine that you talk to her (or them) at that precise moment .


What can Goulding Redecision Therapy be used for? As for its applications, it can be used to treat a wide variety of psychological and emotional problems, including: depressive disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, duels , sequelae of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, problems in social and / or emotional relationships, etc.

Of course, the therapist who works through this therapy must have been properly trained in it, with experienced professionals and demonstrable consolidated training.

by Abdullah Sam
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