Incorporating Impact Therapy into Relationship Education, Counselling and Mediation

Impact Therapy is a transformative approach that can be incorporated into relationship education and mediation, offering an action and insight orientation and a departure from the traditional facilitative model.

Developed by Ed Jacobs and Christine Schimmel, Impact Therapy is an active, multisensory, concrete, theory driven approach that recognises that change comes from not only verbal, but also visual and kinaesthetic exchanges. It offers the relationship educator or mediator the potential to effect much deeper changes in people and their interpersonal relationships, to improve relationship education, counselling and mediator outcomes, using creative methods to help the parties learn, change and develop (Jacobs and Schimmel, 2013, pp 5).

In practice: 

The five T’s of Impact Therapy

Theory, Timing, Teaching, Training and Thinking are key concepts of Impact Therapy.

Impact Therapy is built on the premise that all sessions should be theory driven. Since Impact Therapy is an active form of therapy, the educator/counsellor/mediator has to always be aware of the timing of his/her strategies and techniques. There are times during facilitation when teaching and training are appropriate ways to have impact. Thinking plays a major part in Impact Therapy with regard to both the practitioner and the parties.

Adapted for use in marriage and relationship education, Impact Therapy provides the educator/counsellor/mediator with ways to frame the interaction and to encourage the parties to be active, thinking, seeing and experiencing during each session, speeding up the process by introducing multisensory, motivational, and marketing and maps to the processes.

Whilst firmly in the realm of transformative work and closely related to therapeutic counselling, Impact Therapy aims to help the parties to get to the core of the problem by cutting off unnecessary details, irrelevant stories and unfocussed discussion (Jacobs and Schimmel, 2013, pp 5). 

Integrating concepts from Relational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Transactional Analysis (TA), Gestalt, Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) and Reality Therapy with creative techniques, the approach is action and insight oriented and can be explained in the following 4 M’s:

  • Multi-sensory: Using multisensory tools activates neurons in the brain which tend to make the mediation more effective, increases meaning attribution and easier recall at a later date. Multisensory tools include, props, butchers paper, chairs, mindfulness and experiential learning exercises.
  • Motivational: Working with the parties to increase their motivation is best achieved by focusing on the balance of desire/aspiration and challenge/fear that gets in the way.
  • Marketing: Creating relevance in our work to what the parties need, often leads to openness to change and an opportunity to do something different rather than a process that is a hassle or a boring experience.
  • Maps: Maps are tools that help mediators enable the parties to get to where they need to go. Along with the use of REBT, TA, Gestalt, RCT and Reality Therapy, the educator/counsellor/mediator uses Impact Therapy and the RCFFC therapeutic map (Rapport, Contract, Focus, Funnel and Close) and depth chart to guide the discussion.

More on the RCFFC therapeutic map next week.

    Reference: Jacobs and Schimmel, 2013: Impact therapy.

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