Learning RFT: An Introduction to Relational Frame Theory and Its Clinical Application
Relational frame theory, or RFT, is the little-understood behavioral theory behind a recent development in modern psychology: the shift from the cognitive paradigm underpinning cognitive behavioral therapy to a new understanding of language and cognition. Learning RFT presents a basic yet comprehensive introduction to this fascinating theory, which forms the basis of acceptance and commitment therapy. The book also offers practical guidance for directly applying it in clinical work.
In the book, author Niklas Törneke presents the building blocks of RFT: language as a particular kind of relating, derived stimulus relations, and transformation of stimulus functions. He then shows how these concepts are essential to understanding acceptance and commitment therapy and other therapeutic models. Learning RFT shows how to use experiential exercises and metaphors in psychological treatment and explains how they can help your clients. This book belongs on the bookshelves of psychologists, psychotherapists, students, and others seeking to deepen their understanding of psychological treatment from a behavioral perspective.
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As language acquisition generally tends to take place within the realm of consciousness (operant) rather than as a biological or reflexive process (respondent), Skinner’s notions of generalization and discrimination are particularly important to how a child acquires and uses new words. One can perhaps use the terms transferability and non-transferability of behaviour to particular consequences respectively, and in relation to certain antecedents. In order to navigate successfully through life we learn to do or say things that we know we can perhaps repeat in given future situations depending on the contexts.
Being able to know when a certain action is required to achieve a certain outcome and knowing when that same action can be transferred to other types of outcomes or contexts as well as initiated from different antecedents, seems to be an ability that distinguishes humans from animals. This taking of shortcuts allows humans to learn to interact with and manipulate their environment in a way animals could never do.
A child quickly comes to understand that by carrying out a perlocutionary speech act such as the imperative “milk!”, an adult will react and also carry out an act. A child then generalizes this behaviour to similar speech acts in order to achieve generalised positive outcomes such as the receipt of milk, a toy or a dodi.
Niklas Törneke describes these and many other notions in a way that makes it very accessible to the non-scientific reader.