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Identity Renegotiation is a unique new approach to helping people succeed as individuals, couples, and families. 

A Helping Approach for Postmodern Times

It is now over 100 years since professional counseling and psychotherapy were created. They were considered “modern” at the time, but so was indoor plumbing. What were the conditions of people's lives that time?

  • Economies were growing and the new "nuclear family" was highly valued.
  • Marriage was essentially mandatory and divorce was not an option.
  • Sexuality was generally denied and the problems of the typical patient--a woman--were blamed on repression.
  • Individuals were seen as separate, self-directed, and hidden from themselves and others.
  • Helping was defined as a process of uncovering repressed parts of the self.

In the last few decades, a period that has been labeled as “postmodern,” conditions have changed. Birth control technologies have changed many people's experience of sexuality, and a greater awareness of sexual diversity has allowed many others to celebrate their attractions and loves. An avalanche of communication technologies and a global economy have increased cross-fertilization among cultures and promoted sensitivity to differences including gender, sexual identity, race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, class, ability status, and age. Some economies are shrinking, and career paths include twists and turns. Stepfamilies, single parent families, cohabiting partners, and multigenerational households may outnumber nuclear families.

At the same time, the Euro-Western ideal of the separate “self,” dating back to classical Greece, has been challenged. People are reconnecting with an ancient image of a Relational Self--a person whose life is intertwined with others, who is responsible not only for self but for the social group. This fits with contemporary experiences of global interdependence.

In a world where difference is a constant—understandings and skills for collaborating with others seem to be the most basic needs. In counseling, education, and other human service fields, the theory of Identity Renegotiation focuses on those understandings and skills.

Goals of Identity Renegotiation Counseling

Identity Renegotiation offers a supportive framework for understanding people’s problems and a plan for organizing the helping process. Identity Renegotiation Counseling (IRC) works by helping people to:

  • View their lives in terms of universal themes of complexity, continuity and change;
  • Value differences, seeing the strengths in conflicting viewpoints;
  • Appreciate universal human needs for validation and support; 
  • Become more  sensitive to ways in which people coordinate thoughts, behavior, and feelings; 
  • Develop skills for collaborating to achieve mutually desired changes; and
  • Reduce problems by renegotiating identities with loved ones, colleagues, co-workers, and larger communities.

Structure of Identity Renegotiation Counseling

The goals of Identity Renegotiation Counseling are flexible and can be applied to the unique needs of particular individuals, groups, couples and families.

One at a time or together, help is available in traditional face-to-face settings and through online connections. These online contacts are often text-based (chat, text message, and e-mail) because language is very powerful, but voice and video technologies are extremely helpful with strained relationships. Readings and homework exercises can provide support for clients as they begin to change their ways of thinking and acting. Progress is generally rapid as both historical accounts and present realities are changed.


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