FAQ (En Español) scroll down
Each issue of the Journal will pose a Frequently Asked Question for discussion. The emphasis on discussion is based on the notion that questions are posed as starting points for dialogue and not for answers. In the spirit of the Journal as a format for interchange, there will be multiple conversation-initiators to each question. Reflections-discussions are first presented in English, followed by the Spanish translation. Readers are invited to post their responses to the question as well as their engagement with the initiating responses. Readers are also invited to pose questions for the FAQ section of future issues of the Journal. (To post, please scroll to the end of the page to the Comment box.)
Question: “What is collaborative and what does collaborative mean?”
Conversation Initiators: Sophie Holmes, Gilberto Limon Arce
Gilberto Limon Arce
Mexico City, Mexico
The essential unit of our humanity is the meaningful and genuine relational encounter, firstly in our family, and then in the wider groups of friendship, school, community, therapy, workplace, church, town and country etc. Gerald Edelman, (2006) the Nobel laureate neuroscientist, in describing his research on how consciousness arises, not only supports the idea that the collaborative relational experience of ‘in-it-together’ creates our minds but describes our minds and experience of ourselves as concurrently embedded in the relational matrix and embodied in the experiences that arise within us. In effect we are collaboratively created beings and our minds are a core part of that creation.
When we naturally seek out collaborative experiences either verbally or non verbally, and while in the act of meaningful collaborative experience, new ideas and new experiences are created and new dimensions of ourselves emerge. It is in these experiences that there is a free flow of both ideas and emotional states such as warmth, intimacy, ease, and depth of trust and connection are both created, and previous such experiences re-emerge. In contrast to collaboration is the experiences of relational dominance and submission where, in either dominating or in submitting position, the experiences of ourselves becomes emotionally distant, cold, unsafe, repetitive, constrained, stuck and inflexibility becomes a dominant feature the relational encounter. The experience of dominance and submission can work well to reduce tension and uncertainty by creating predictability and pseudo-safety but not the genuine and free-flowing emotional safety of a collaborative engagement.
Collaborative relationships and conversations that make a difference and can be summarised in the following;
Two truths approach each other. One comes from within,
one comes from without—and where they meet you have the chance
to catch a look at yourself.” (Transtromer, 2001, p. 32).
I consider that we can hardly ascribe a meaning to collaboration, like with so many other terms, ideas and concepts, meaning if we do not bond with a reference frame that can provide a more enlightening, useful and contextualized meaning. This is a term chosen by Harlene Anderson to emphasize one of the most representative / meaningful components of her considerable way of doing therapy. Thus, I regard it as a term, idea or concept that is inseparable from the other components of her approach.
The important thing, in my opinion, is not to stumble with the word (or etymology) or try to define / understand outside of context, but with the ‘spirit’ or meanings that surround the idea of collaboration especially as Anderson uses it being with our consultees … ‘in collaboration’.
Collaborate with Whom, for What and for What Purpose?
Particularly I regard it as a term, idea or concept that helps me to keep a friendly, understanding and respectful conversation with our consultees (clients) to get involved with them in a hermeneutical dialogue (interpretative) and constructionist manner that enables them to expand their freedom boundaries (in what regards of meaning systems which govern their lives as how to connect with others).
This makes me to consider the importance of the ‘context’ which involves more thoroughly both collaborative proposals as social constructionism It is at this point where I think that collaboration takes on a meaning that bring us to the responsibility we have towards our consultees (and ourselves as social actors), especially if we relativize their lifestyles, resignify their experience, encourage the generation of new and more appropriate meanings, or involve with them in a positive transformative dialogue (as Kenneth Gergen points out in his answer to the FAQ in Issue 3 of this Journal). Because, in my opinion, there is not a collaboration that they can create as they please the universe every time it starts,’ as Isaiah Berlin said of the Romanticists (not in my way of doing therapy), but to reflect / talk / collaborate with them on building new ways to see themselves and relate better to their meaningful environment (without neglecting the political dimension of my own therapeutic practice).
As pointed out by Gergen and Warhus at another time, ‘therapeutic work necessarily involves a form of political and social activism, is recognized or not, and any act within society creates its future, for better or worse’. Thus the sensitivity and responsibility which I contemplate for my way of being in collaboration with our consultees, and hence also my appreciation of the “philosophy” that envelops Anderson’s collaborative proposal.
Anderson, H. (2007). The heart and spirit of collaborative therapy: The philosophical stance – “A way of being” in relationship and conversation. In H. Anderson & D. Gehart (Eds.), Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference (pp.99-108). NY: Taylor and Francis
Anderson, H. & Gerhart. (2007). Collaborative therapy: Relationships and conversations that make a difference. NY: Taylor and Francis.
Edelman, G. M. (2006). Second nature: Brain science and human knowledge. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Transtromer, T. (2001). The half finished heaven: The best poems of Thomas Transtromer. (R. Bly, Trans.). US: Graywolf Press.
Dr. Sophie Holmes
Director Williams Road Family Therapy Centre,
Gilberto Limón Arce
Facultad de Psicología, UNAM, México
Associate Taos Institute
Lic. Comercio Exterior
Universidad del Valle de México
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