Competition and Language

The theory of Competitive Therapy has its origins in some aspects of modern theoretical thought as well as postmodern theory, as it applies to psychotherapy. In modern thought, theories describe how a therapist is able to assist clients to reformat their relationships in some way via the therapist’s expertise and as an authority figure to utilize their knowledge and give this perspective to clientelle to help them gain additional information to take control over their own lives. Contrastingly, postmodern thought sees the therapist as an equal to the clientelle, with a different subjective set of experiences who engages with clients in their progressive story and work to offer ways to reframe their collective experience.

In Competitive Therapy, benefits to both of these models can be seen. The therapist is seen as a coach, one who is an authority on types of competitive relationships and is able to utilize competitive drives to maximize the potential of every client and help them to fulfill their role within the family system. However, there is a postmodern influence as well, as the therapist does not maintain this role throughout treatment, but rather assists those in leadership positions within the family to restructure the family system with themselves as experts. In this period of transition, the ‘coach’ encourages the ‘leader’ to become what is known in the sporting world as a “player-coach”; specifically a person who is both a participant of the activity and also one who can dictate what aims the team overall is geared toward. Due to the complexity of having this duel-role, it is common to need assistance of the therapist as coach to take over one of these roles during times of crisis, but not to maintain that role throughout the entirety of the family system or team.

As a result, Competitive Therapy continues to be brief in nature. Once family roles are identified, the player-coach learns to behave in their duel roles and at different times. The best way to do this is to utilize the language of how the family defines their roles and experience. When competition is the underlying feature bringing clients into treatment, the competition is directed at other member of the family unit. As change occurs, a therapist can help to redirect the competition to an outside agent where the family joins together in an effort to overcome this adversary. A mentality within sports teams mimic this theory as an “us-against-the-world” philosophy. By joining with the player-coach, a therapist can help to encourage the leader to use language to solidify the team while also holding each members role as an invaluable asset to the overall functioning of the system.

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