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Section 5
Intimacy Conflicts

Question 5 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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On the last track we discussed hidden sources of knowledge.  Our discussion will be based on four principles for identifying hidden knowledge.  The four principles we will discuss are most criticisms have some basis in reality, many criticisms are disguised statements of your own unmet needs, some criticisms may be an accurate description of a disowned part of the self, and some criticisms may help identify the lost self.

On this track we will discuss the stretching technique.  Utilizing the stretching technique, clients can take the knowledge gleaned from mutual criticisms and convert it into an effective, growth-producing process.  In my practice, I break the stretching technique down into six steps.  The six steps of The Stretching Technique are identify grievances, identify underlying desires, make a specific request, share underlying desires, rank requests, and exchanged lists. 

The purpose of this exercise was to educate Gerry to his partner’s deepest needs and to give him the opportunity to change his behavior so that he could meet those needs.  As your client stretches against his resistance, his partner may also be healed and he may become a more whole and intimate individual.

In my practice, I find that this can be an integral part of therapy.  Therefore, I recommended to Gerry that he give it a high priority.  Could your client also benefit from the stretching technique?

6-Step to Stretching Technique

Step # 1: Identify Grievances
The first step in the stretching technique was for Gerry to identify grievances through the desires that lie behind his frustrations.  I stated, "On a separate sheet of paper, make a comprehensive list of all the things that bother you about Julie.  When does she make you feel angry, annoyed, afraid, suspicious, resentful, hurt, or bitter?"  At the top of the list, Gerry wrote, "I don’t like it when you..."  On each subsequent line below that were individual descriptions of her behavior such as criticize me in front of the children, undermine my authority with the children, and criticize me in a joking manner in front of friends. 

Step # 2: Identify Underlying Desires
The second step in the stretching technique was for Gerry to identify underlying desires.  I stated, "Now use this second sheet of paper to write down the desire that lies hidden in each frustration.  Skip several lines after each desire.  Do not write down the frustration, only the desire."  Gerry asked why. 

I continued by stating, "This is necessary, because you will be showing this second sheet to your partner."  For example, Gerry’s first desire corresponded to the first frustration from his initial list.  Gerry wrote, ‘I would like to feel valid in front of the children.’  So, the first step allows the client to say what he doesn’t like and the second step allows him to say why he doesn’t like it. 

Step # 3: Make a Specific Request 
In addition to identifying grievances and identifying underlying desires, Gerry’s third step was to make a specific request.  Underneath each desire, Gerry wrote a specific request that he thought would help him satisfy that desire.  I explained to Gerry that it was important that his requests be positive and that they describe a specific behavior.  For example, Gerry’s desire was to feel valid in front of the children.  Therefore, Gerry requested that when Julie criticize him, she does it when the children are not around.

Clearly, Gerry’s request was for a specific, positive behavior.  However, the following request that Gerry made was a bad example because it was not specific.  For example, Gerry wrote, "I would like you to be more attentive."  I suggested Gerry rewrite this request to make it more detailed.  Gerry then wrote, ‘I would like you to give me a warm hug as soon as you come home from work.’  Might it be helpful to evaluate your client’s requests for specificity? 

Step # 4: Share Underlying Desires
The fourth step that Gerry implemented in the stretching technique was to share underlying desires from the second list (the one that lists desires and re­quests but not frustrations) with Julie.  I stated, "Use your communication skills to clarify each desire and request so that it is clearly understood.  Rewrite the request if necessary so that Julie knows exactly what kind of behavior you want."  For additional information on the communication skills Gerry used, you might consider replaying track 2 of this home study course.

Step # 5: Rank Requests
For Gerry’s application of the stretching technique, the fifth step was to rank his requests.  I stated, "Now take back your own list and rank each request on the left side of the page with a number from 1 to 10 indicating its relative importance to you, 10 indicating "very important," and 1 indicating "not very important."

Step # 6: Exchange Lists
Sixth, Gerry exchanged lists with Julie.  Gerry and Julie assigned a number from 1 to 10 on the right side of the paper indicating how difficult it would be for each other to grant each request, with 10 indicating "very difficult," and 1 indicating "not at all difficult."

I stated, "Keep each other’s lists.  Starting today, you have the opportunity to grant your partner three or four of the easiest requests each week.  Remember that these behaviors are gifts.  Regardless of how you feel and regardless of how many changes your partner is making, keep to a reliable schedule of at least three or four behavior changes a week.  But feel encouraged to add more requests to your lists as time goes on. 

Think of your Gerry.  How might the stretching technique benefit your client?  How could you adapt this technique for clients without partners?  Could playing this track in an upcoming session be productive?

On this track we have discussed the stretching technique.  In my practice, I break the stretching technique down into six steps.  The six steps of the stretching technique are identify grievances, identify underlying desires, make a specific request, share underlying desires, rank requests, and exchanged lists. 

On the next track we will discuss testing.  Most of this track focuses on a technique for overcoming testing that tends to be productive for male intimacy clients.  Therefore, after examining testing and the Two Stages of Progression Through Abandonment that often accompany testing, we’ll discuss the experiencing neediness technique.  In my use of the experiencing neediness technique there are five steps.  The five steps I use are confessing an inability to need, don’t fake it, keeping boundaries, confessing needs that can’t be experienced, and paying attention to what evokes hunger. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Debrot, A., Cook, W. L., Perrez, M., & Horn, A. B. (2012). Deeds matter: Daily enacted responsiveness and intimacy in couples' daily lives. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(4), 617–627.

Eatough, V. (2011). Review of Intimacy, transcendence, and psychology [Review of the book Intimacy, transcendence, and psychology, by S. Halling]. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39(2), 182–185. 

Papp, L. M., Goeke-Morey, M. C., & Cummings, E. M. (2013). Let's talk about sex: A diary investigation of couples' intimacy conflicts in the home. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 2(1), 60–72.

What are the six steps of the stretching technique? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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