Goulding’s Redecision Therapy: How Does It Work and What Methods Do You Use?

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

In this article, we explain how this therapy was born, who are the authors, what are its basic characteristics and how it works.

    Goulding’s redecision therapy

    Goulding’s 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 1960s and 1970s, 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 typical 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.

    It is ideal for use in group therapy. However, it can also take other formats or modalities, such as short-term therapy, or be part of deeper, longer-term therapy.

    Thus, Goulding’s redecision therapy is based on two basic pillars (assumptions or ideals): that the power of change is in itself, and that a sense of humor is at the heart of any therapeutic change process.

    This therapy focuses on being aware of certain explicit decisions made, especially those made in childhood, so that you can become aware and understand how those decisions have affected your life years later.

      Transactional analysis: basic principles

      Before explaining in more detail what Goulding’s redecision therapy is, let’s take a look at the three central principles of transactional analysis (TA), as this therapy is an application of it. Very concisely, Transactional analysis is based on three fundamental principles:

      • We are all born “good”, but depending on our relationships, we can change.
      • We all have human potential to discover and harness.
      • We can all change to be more self-reliant, and we have the resources to make it happen.

      Features of this type of therapy

      Now that we know the basic premises of transactional analysis, we’ll talk about Goulding’s redecision therapy. Compared to its characteristics, Goulding Redecision Therapy it focuses on the vision of the life scenario that people adopt, Influenced by external factors (from the environment), in particular the family environment.

      One of the great goals of Goulding’s Redecision Therapy is for the patient to be able to make life changing decisions. As in all psychotherapy, the therapist guides the patient on this “path of change and decision”.

      The authors of this therapy they emphasize the importance of the decisions we make when we are children; these decisions respond to the different orders and “mandates” we receive from parents and other important people, and can be verbal or non-verbal responses (i.e. behaviors, actions, feelings, words , etc.).

      Thanks to these decisions (which are in fact adaptive responses), we subjectively survive in our environment, again according to the Gouldings, and we do so with the resources at our disposal, which at 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”) greatly influence and mark our future life, and define our relationships with others. All of this is worked into redecision therapy.


      As for how it works, Goulding Redecision Therapy it starts with the question “What do you want to change now?”. In other words, this therapy is based on change and decision making by the patient, so that the patient becomes his life in what he really wants.

      In the first session, the problem situation is defined; the therapist listens and looks for certain links between the subjects, Attempt to answer the following two questions:

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

      As Goulding’s Redecision Therapy progresses, the therapist sets out to answer the following questions about the patient, approaching the issues as they see it (through different psychological techniques).

      Some of these questions are: “How are you feeling?”, “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 job? “, etc.

      Clearly if the patient has gone to therapy it is because something wants to change, something that makes him unhappy, Either from himself or from his situation. To do this, the therapist will need to understand one of the most important issues in Goulding’s redecision therapy, in order to agree on the therapy contract with the patient; this question is: “What do you want to change?”. So we already have a specific goal (desire), and we can start working on it.

      Methodology and role of the therapist

      According to the same authors (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 role of the therapist is to listen “attentively” (active listening), to observe “attentively” and also to confront “carefully”.

      The method used by the therapist within Goulding Redecision Therapy is based on don’t blame the patient for failures, And by seeking in him the answers he needs to move forward. These responses will also allow the patient to create an environment that facilitates their therapeutic change.

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

      We see it through a series of actions that the therapist will have to perform, and which will allow the patient to relate their memories to their ailments, and to be able to address their internal struggles and tensions. of what he explains, not so much as he talks about it).

      Therapist actions

      We have summarized a series of actions that the therapist will need to perform for therapy to be successful, still based on the original ideas of the Gouldings to develop their therapy. These actions respond to a number of previous situations, such as …

      1. When the therapist listens to the patient …

      the therapist you will need to ask the patient to focus on the present momentand when you explain what you want to communicate.

      2. When the patient offers information from the past …

      In the event that the patient explains data about his past, the therapist will ask him to imagine that he is in this scene at this precise moment, and that he’s trying to explain it like he’s living it right now.

      3. When the patient wants to talk about someone …

      In these cases, the therapist will ask the patient to imagine that this person (or these persons) is / are in the office at the moment; like that, you will have to imagine him talking to him (or them) at this precise moment.


      What can Goulding’s redecision therapy be used for? When to its applications, it can be used to treat a wide variety of psychological and emotional issues, including: depressive, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, 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, with experienced professionals and demonstrable consolidated training.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Criswell, GE & Erskine, RG (2015) Contact Psychotherapy in Relationship. Dialogues with Richard Erskine. Journal of Psychotherapy, 26 (100): 115-127.
      • Quadra, J. (2008). Redecision therapy. Transactional analysis office.
      • Goulding, MM & Goulding, RL (1979), Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy, New York: Brunner / Mazel.

      Leave a Comment