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Fam Process. 2010 Sep;49(3):369-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01328.x.

A socio-emotional approach to couple therapy: linking social context and couple interaction.

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  • 1Counseling & Family Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loa Linda, CA 92350, USA.


This paper introduces Socio-Emotional Relationship Therapy (SERT), an approach designed to intervene in socio-cultural processes that limit couples' ability to develop mutually supportive relationships, especially within heterosexual relationships. SERT integrates recent advances in neurobiology and the social context of emotion with social constructionist assumptions regarding the fluid and contextual nature of gender, culture, personal identities, and relationship patterns. It advances social constructionist practice through in-session experiential work focused on 4 conditions foundational to mutual support--mutual influence, shared vulnerability, shared relationship responsibility, and mutual attunement. In contrast to couple therapy models that mask power issues, therapist neutrality is not considered possible or desirable. Instead, therapists position themselves to counteract social inequalities. The paper illustrates how empathic engagement of a socio-culturally attuned therapist sets the stage for new socio-cultural experience as it is embodied neurologically and physically in the relationship and discusses therapy as societal intervention.

2010 © FPI, Inc.

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