Reality Attunement Therapy (RAT) represents a novel approach to psychotherapy, synthesizing key elements from Buddhist psychology, Gestalt therapy, and existential approaches. At its core, RAT seeks to foster deep attunement to the reality of one’s present moment experience, advocating for awareness, acceptance, and authenticity. These principles promote mental wellbeing, guide individuals towards self-discovery, and provide tools to face the existential dilemmas that life presents.
Overview of Influences
Before delving into the specifics of RAT, it’s worth outlining the key influences from its three root disciplines.
Buddhist psychology provides a practical framework to understand the nature of suffering and its cessation. It emphasizes mindfulness, compassion, impermanence, non-self, and the interdependence of all phenomena. Central to its philosophy is the Four Noble Truths, which state that suffering exists, it has a cause, it has an end, and there is a path leading to its cessation.
Gestalt therapy focuses on the individual’s experience in the present moment, the therapist-client relationship, the environmental and social contexts in which these occur, and the self-regulating adjustments people make as a result of the overall situation. It emphasizes direct experience, personal responsibility, and the power of the ‘here and now.’
Existential therapy concentrates on free will, self-determination, and the search for meaning, emphasizing personal responsibility for one’s existence. This approach confronts the four ‘givens’ of existence – death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness – and encourages a life lived with authenticity and intentionality.
Principals of Reality Attunement Therapy
- Mindfulness and Presence: Borrowing heavily from Buddhist psychology, RAT prioritizes mindfulness as a pathway to attunement with reality. Therapists teach clients to observe their thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment or avoidance. This non-reactive awareness of the present moment allows individuals to see reality more clearly and accurately, unclouded by anxieties about the future or ruminations on the past.
- Authenticity and Personal Responsibility: Influenced by both Gestalt and existential therapy, RAT encourages clients to take ownership of their actions, feelings, and experiences. Therapists guide individuals towards living in alignment with their true selves, challenging them to accept personal responsibility for their lives and to make choices that are congruent with their values and desires.
- Acceptance of Life’s ‘Givens’: Existential underpinnings are evident in the RAT’s focus on the realities of existence. This includes acknowledging and confronting the inevitability of death, the reality of freedom and its accompanying responsibility, existential isolation, and the challenge of meaning-making. By coming to terms with these fundamental aspects of life, clients can experience a profound shift in their perspective, allowing them to live with greater authenticity and purpose.
- Compassionate Engagement: Drawing on Buddhist psychology’s emphasis on compassion, RAT promotes an attitude of kindness towards oneself and others. Clients learn to reduce self-judgment and cultivate compassion, enhancing their capacity to engage with life’s challenges in a healthier, more balanced way.
The therapeutic process in RAT is characterized by a supportive, empathetic relationship between the therapist and client. In line with the Gestalt approach, the therapist actively engages with the client, focusing on the ‘here and now’ to increase awareness and understanding of their immediate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Therapists using RAT leverage mindfulness exercises to ground clients in the present moment and help them gain insights into their internal processes. Dialogues may touch upon existential concerns
to help clients navigate life’s ‘givens,’ fostering courage, resilience, and personal growth.
Mindfulness techniques, meditation practices, guided self-reflection, and experiential exercises are all crucial components of the RAT process. The goal is to cultivate a deep, nonjudgmental awareness of the self and the world, fostering a sense of interconnection and alleviating the distress caused by the denial of existential realities.
Reality Attunement Therapy presents a unique blend of Buddhist psychology, Gestalt therapy, and existential approaches. By fostering mindfulness, encouraging authenticity, and grappling with life’s ‘givens,’ RAT offers individuals a profound avenue for personal growth and self-discovery. As a therapeutic approach, it provides a nuanced framework for understanding human suffering and offers practical tools to navigate life with greater resilience, compassion, and authenticity.