Frequently Asked Questions about RfG Enactments
- For which purposes are RfG enactments conducted in psychotherapy?
- Is RfG only useful in Family Therapy?
- What are some of the elements that Clinicians contribute to a successful RfG session?
- How do you get clients to try RfG enactments?
- As a clinician, what do you look for when observing clients enacting RfG games and exercises?
- What is the difference between an RfG exercise and an RfG game?
- What personal preparation is needed for clinicians to use RfG enactments successfully?
Q-1: For which purposes are RfG enactments conducted in psychotherapy?
A: RfG enactments are mainly applied within conjoint therapies, being used both as assessment tools and as psychotherapy interventions. Assessment aims to understand both intra- and interpersonal relationship functioning while intervention aims to teach skills useful in interpersonal functioning. (For a more detailed discussion of RfG assessment, see Rehearsals for Growth, pp. 152-154. For examples of RfG used for intervention, see case vignettes throughout Rehearsals for Growth and in other chapters and articles cited in the Publications link. The DVD Rehearsals for Growth: Couple Therapy demonstrates the processes of both assessment and intervention).
Q-2: Is RfG only useful in Family Therapy?
A: It is useful both for people who have familial relationships and also for those who are relative strangers, as in a group therapy setting. There are some differences in the way RfG is used, depending upon the relationships between the clients. For clients in an ongoing significant relationship there are likely consequences outside of the sessions that result from enacting scenes in the sessions.
Q-3: What are some of the elements that Clinicians contribute to a successful RfG session?
A: Clinicians provide support and encouragement for anything the clients do, praising the client players for their bravery and effort (short of injuring others or unambiguously sabotaging the enactment). If things go wrong, they take responsibility for not having given clear enough or sufficiently complete instructions, acknowledging this to the clients. Clinicians need to monitor the enactment, intervening by halting or correcting the action if it appears that anything is fundamentally incorrect in the way it is proceeding. They are ready to bring the enactment to an end before it loses energy or becomes repetitious (to err on the side of ending ‘sooner’). They provide further instruction if warranted – like stage directions – to adjust the play for better expression. Clinicians debrief client players by “returning” them to their personalities and offstage seats where they can be invited to share their experiences of the enactment and integrate these experiences into the verbal therapy. (These elements are demonstrated repeatedly in the DVD Rehearsals for Growth: Couple Therapy. Also, for a fuller discussion of how to monitor, debrief, and integrate the experiences of clients in RfG enactments, see Rehearsals for Growth, pp. 150-152).
Q-4: How do you get clients to try RfG enactments?
A: Many clinicians are concerned that RfG enactments will be perceived by clients as too weird, demanding, revealing, or inappropriate, so they refrain from attempting to offer them. We have found the single most important element of the successful use of RfG is the willingness of the clinician to experiment playfully in the moment. Another important factor is client receptivity, which is assessed by signs of over-familiarity or boredom with conventional in-session topics, dynamics and methods. (This process is demonstrated repeatedly in the DVD Rehearsals for Growth: Couple Therapy. For a fuller discussion of the tactics of inducting clients into RfG enactment, see Rehearsals for Growth, pp. 146-150.)
Q-5: As a clinician, what do you look for when observing clients enacting RfG games and exercises?
A: Typically, the clinician has at least one specific purpose for which the specific RfG enactment was offered and this will guide the observations made. Beyond that, there are seven signs of good or deficient improvising which serve as a useful starting point for interpreting client performances in relationships. Deficient improvising appears to correspond with deficiencies in life role functions. (For a fuller discussion of the seven signs of good or deficient improvising, see Rehearsals for Growth, pp. xix-xx and 154-156. For examples of the correspondence between deficiencies in both improvising and life role functions, see Using theater improvisation to assess interpersonal functioning.)
Q-6: What is the difference between an RfG exercise and an RfG game?
A: RfG exercises are enactments in which players, in character as themselves, perform tasks unusual relative to those of everyday life. In RfG games, by contrast, players assume characters other than their everyday selves through whom they respond to situations both realistic and fantastic. (For a partial listing of RfG games and exercises, see Rehearsals for Growth, Appendix A, pp. 249-252.)
Q-7: What personal preparation is needed for clinicians to use RfG enactments successfully?
A: Clinicians need not only the training and practice in doing RfG enactments themselves but also a willingness to enter into the adventure of play and pretense. Even when the clinician remains offstage, s/he needs to be ready, willing and able to participate; clients can often sense the clinician’s attitude even when it isn’t tested or mentioned. Moreover, clinicians need to remain flexible and open should clients depart from expected performances during enactments so as to capitalize on using whatever happens (which is what characterizes improvisation!). (These practices are demonstrated repeatedly in the DVD Rehearsals for Growth: Couple Therapy. Also, for a fuller discussion of Clinicians’ preparation for RfG enactment, see Rehearsals for Growth, pp. 224-237.)