Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy

Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy

Bridging Emotion, Societal Context, and Couple Interaction

Carmen Knudson-Martin, Editor | More books by this author

Melissa A. Wells, Co-Editor

Sarah K. Samman, Co-Editor

Published: 2015
Published by: Springer


Introduces Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy.


Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy: Bridging Emotion, Societal Context, and Couple Interaction describes a new form of clinical work with couples that has recently emerged as the result of research. Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy (SERT) intervenes in sociocultural processes that interfere with couples experiencing mutually supportive relationships. SERT advances social constructionist practice through in-session experiential work that focuses on four conditions foundational to mutual support in relationships; namely, shared vulnerability, mutual attunement, mutual influence, and shared relational responsibility. The book is based on two premises: (1) that transforming power disparities is an important fulcrum around which other clinical change depends and (2) that emotions arise within particular social contexts and engage the neural system, performing as the interface between the individual and the outside world. Chapters illustrate how empathic engagement of a socioculturally attuned therapist sets the stage for new sociocultural experience as it is embodied neurologically and physically in the relationship.
Chapters show how SERT is applicable for heterosexual and same-sex relationships and address complex issues relating to partner’s previous experiences of trauma, infidelity, and spirituality. Authors use case examples to apply research on key clinical competencies such as how therapists practice sociocultural attunement, prevent gender discourses from hijacking therapy, work with power, and relationally engage powerful partners. Focusing on the ability of partners to mutually support each other, SERT therapists recognize that historical gender processes created power differences between men and women that even now continue to be reflected in their couple interactions. For example, stereotypic gender patterns encourage women to focus on others, but teach men to be more self-reliant and clear about their own thoughts. This “gender difference” often creates a power differential in who notices, listens to, and attends to the other. Though cultural and religious norms influence how people understand equality, couples readily agree with the goal of mutual support. SERT help couples achieve this goal and determine what mutuality will look like for them.