The Hideaway Experience
In October 2010 I was sitting “third chair” at The Hideaway Experience in Amarillo, TX. The Hideaway Experience is a four-day marriage intensive that I had decided to go check out after hearing about it from a colleague of mine. My colleague had started doing marriage intensives with them and he couldn’t say enough things about the groundbreaking work that was being done in these four day intensives. So I had to go find out what this was all about.
So for 4 days I sat what was called “third chair”, which essentially meant I was an observer of the weekend, there to learn about the model that was being used. For four days I watched intently as the “first chair” and “second chair” (the two therapists in charge of facilitating the intensive) led four couples on an amazing journey of restoration. There were times I shared during the intensive, though most of that was at all our shared meal times together and free time. I was knew to this experience and really felt like I lacked the confidence to speak any truth into the lives of those four couples that week. Though many of them asked my opinion, I was learning this new model just like they were.
During that four day marriage intensive I was given a pre-published copy of 5 Days to a New Marriage written by Terry Hargrave and Shawn Stoever. I spent my nights reading through the copy of the that book, while I spent my days watching the model they proposed unfold before my eyes.
In this model I learned about this process of helping a couple identify their Pain Cycle and Peace Cycle. The Pain Cycle is the negative pattern of interaction that couples create (most often unconsciously), and it it consists of the underlying feelings that one experiences in their relationship (most often in conflict), and the coping behaviors they resort to. And the I learned about the Peace Cycle, which is the positive pattern of interaction that couples learned to create, which consists of each spouse’s truth, and the actions that emanate from that truth. In between the work around these two cycles, I learned a lot about each spouse’s family of origin, and how their earlier experiences shaped much of their Pain and Peace Cycle. This was stuff I learned early on in my graduate school work, but to learn about these patterns in a really precise way, and then to see them mapped out on large sticky notes, was really revolutionary for me, and quite life-changing.
As couples worked diligently, and often painfully to map out their Pain and Peace Cycle, a transition began to take place on day three, where steps were put into place to help the couples really begin to raise awareness about their patterns of interaction, as well as giving them a roadmap to begin practicing the patterns in their marriage. This was an element that was new to me, as most of my counseling work involved a lot of work around insight, believing that the insight would garner a lot of change, but I had never seen couple’s work before that had them engaging in a process of walking through steps, rather than simply talking at, or to each other. And then as day three began to play out, couples began moving from simply working as a group of four couples, and started working in groups of two, and eventually by the last day, couples were working just as one, spouse to spouse.
I wish I could do this experience justice, but that is for another writing. I did though, try and capture some of that experience in a post I wrote shortly after attending my first Hideaway Experience.
What I do know is that I walked away from that experience changed. I knew not only would it impact myself and my marriage in a profound way, but I was left with the sense that I couldn’t go back to my therapy office and do the same thing with couples that I had always been doing. My eyes had been opened during the marriage intensives, and I wanted to learn more about this model and begin to implement it into my work. So over the next several months I attended a few more marriage intensives, sitting “third chair”, soaking up all the wisdom and experience of the intensives, as well as gaining more confidence to participate more and more in our sessions.
I eventually went on staff with The Hideaway Experience, co-leading marriage intensives for four years, before stepping down to focus more on my private practice and focusing on time with my family. But that experienced left an indelible mark on me, and I taught every individual and couple and family the Pain and Peace Cycle in therapy, as well as working on it in my everyday life.
This model would later establish itself as Restoration Therapy, founded by Terry Hargrave. He developed the model with the help of others, and The Hideaway was one of the first places to practice it exclusively as their marriage model. Though there is much history that I am overlooking, my experience with Restoration Therapy had its genesis in the Pain and Peace Cycle at The Hideaway Experience, and that was so transforming for me and my work, that when Terry Hargrave started training and certifying therapists in RT (i.e. Restoration Therapy), I jumped at the chance and started training with him in 2014. My training with Terry Hargrave only confirmed to me what I already knew…Restoration Therapy is life changing.
What Makes RT Unique
There are many things that I love about Restoration Therapy, but when I have to boil it down to its core components, there are usually 3-4 things that I really focus on, and that I think embody the core of RT. And it is these 3-4 components that have helped transform my work around anxiety and depression. In fat, I think that these key elements are crucial if one wants to make progress with their anxiety and depression.
Let me begin by sharing each of the components in very simple terms, and then saying a few words about why they are important in any work that one does with anxiety or depression.
Attachment is crucial to the work of Restoration Therapy. When I speak of attachment, it’s simply about how a person (usually from a very early age) forms relationships. How do they attach, or don’t attach to people? How does that experience of attachment affect them? I love this definition from the Simply Psychology website:
“Attachment is a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969).”
Restoration Therapy is interested in how people bonded/bond (or didn’t bond) with those key relationships in their lives. In Restoration Therapy the key aspects of attachment are around love and trust. What is love and trust? Let the words of RT founder Terry Hargrave explain:
“Love is essential in the family because it informs individuals of basic identity. This basic identity is best expressed in terms of uniqueness, worthiness, and desirability…When love is lacking in family interactions, individuals are left to cope with loss of love through identity struggles.”
“Trust becomes essential in the family because it informs individuals of their basic competencies and safety in the family environment. Safety is best expressed in terms of predictability, openness, and fairness…When trustworthiness is lacking in family interactions, individuals are left to cope with the loss of trustworthiness through dependence on self.”
When people experience a lack of love and trust in their family of origin, other relationships, peer group, etc. (and by the way, no one experiences love and trust perfectly), they are left with a deficit in those areas. That deficit creates certain core underlying feelings, and those painful feelings must be coped with by varying means (i.e the Pain Cycle). And as people begin to understand their attachment issues through the lens of the love and trust, they begin to not only understand their pain, but they also begin to work on their peace. Attachment is at the core of Restoration Therapy, as it helps people construct their Pain and Peace Cycle, leading to great insight about themselves and their relationships.
Anxiety and Depression
In my opinion, and in my experience, attachment is key to working with anxiety and depression, especially through the lens of love and trust, and the Pain and Peace Cycle. If someone struggling with anxiety and depression doesn’t understand their attachment issues, then they won’t be able to construct a Pain and Peace Cycle, therefore, they won’t be able to identify the underlying core feelings that are driving one’s anxiety and depression. Without identifying and understanding and working on the underlying core feelings, anxiety and depression become simply a symptom to constantly treat, rather than working towards healing the root feelings.
Mindfulness is a word that has really become en vogue in the last couple of years. I tend to think of mindfulness as simply one’s awareness about themselves, their lives, and others. The popular source of information, Wikipedia, states that mindfulness is:
“Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
Without mindfulness, one is not able to create change. I tell people in my practice all the time that if they aren’t aware of what they are doing (i.e. they aren’t mindful of what they are doing), then they will be unable to create change. Mindfulness puts one in the position to create change, because you know what you are doing and what needs to change.
In Restoration Therapy, the development of the Pain and Peace Cycle is to help individuals, couples, families (organizations and on and on) become aware of their patterns, so that they can change them.
Anxiety and Depression
In order to transform anxiety and depression, one has to be mindful of when it is present in their lives, and what the underlying core feelings are that drive the behavior of anxiety and depression. The more that someone struggling with anxiety and depression can be aware of those behaviors in the moment, the more they can position themselves to create change around them. Often when I get ready to go speak to a group of people I am anxious leading up the event, and the anxiety intensifies the closer the event starts to arrive. In the past I didn’t have awareness around my anxiety and what the core underlying feelings were. But when I began to do my attachment work and develop a Pain and Peace Cycle, then I was much more mindful of what was going on with me in the moment I was feeling anxious. And because I was mindful of it in the moment, I was able to then begin to create change with it as it was happening. I was placing myself in control, rather than the anxiety.
Emotional regulation seems to be the “name of the game” these days. If one is unable to emotionally regulate themselves, then they have a hard time making change. Again, I turn to Wikipedia for a simple definition of emotional regulation:
“Emotional self-regulation or regulation of emotion is the ability to respond to the ongoing demands of experience with the range of emotions in a manner that is socially tolerable and sufficiently flexible to permit spontaneous reactions as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed.”
What is so great about Restoration Therapy is that the Pain and Peace Cycle are the simple tools to help one emotionally regulate, and the when one implements the tools, their mindfulness tends to rise. I will get more into the steps below, but each cycle (the Pain and the Peace) have two steps that a person is supposed to say out loud when they notice their feelings getting triggered, or simply when they notice they are emotionally dysregulated. The process of walking through some simple steps, and taking it a step further and saying it out loud, help people emotionally regulate. I remember the first time that I walked through my Pain and Peace Cycle in my marriage, and how that process revolutionized our conflicts.
Anxiety and Depression
If you have every struggled with anxiety or depression, then what I’m about to say will resonate with you. But anxiety and depression tend to pull people out of their physical bodies, often leaving them feeling like they aren’t in control of those coping behaviors (i.e. anxiety and depression). So the ability to emotionally regulate yourselves when anxious or depressed, helps keep a person more grounded and centered in the moment, creating the opportunity for them to change their anxiety and depression. Going back to my example of getting anxious when I speak. For the last 8 years when I start to feel anxious when I’m about to speak, I simply walk through the steps of my Pain and Peace Cycle, allowing me to emotionally self-regulate. So then I can go out and speak from a place of being non-anxious, rather than anxious.
Practice is everything. In fact, my motto for my private practice and the work I do is Insight + Deliberate Practice = Transformation. Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, writes the following:
“Deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience.”
I state it often this way to couples. The more you practice deliberately, the more you will begin to experience engagement at a whole new level, one where you are rarely even thinking about it, but instead it is happening naturally. But to get there, if you have to deliberately practice a lot, and here is why Restoration Therapy is so great.
Restoration is comprised of several core pieces, much of what I’m sharing with you now. But at it’s heart is the Pain and the Peace Cycle. And these two cycles have four simple steps that one says to help them work through their issues and conflicts. The four steps are as follows:
- Say what you feel (Pain Cycle)
- Say what you normally do (Pain Cycle)
- Say your truth (Peace Cycle)
- Say what you will do differently (Peace Cycle)
That’s it. Four simple steps. People don’t need a lot of tools, they just need a few tools they can deliberately practice over and over again until they become very proficient at it. And Restoration Therapy consists of a simple few steps that people can work on becoming very good at using. What other model of therapy work combines such a focus on insight and practice.
Anxiety and Depression
This is a very important aspect of Restoration Therapy. Mainly because I find that many types of modalities tend to focus on insight about one’s anxiety and depression, but don’t often help a person put that insight into practice. When a person can practice their anxiety and depression, than I think they have a real opportunity to transform it. So back to my speaking example from above. When I start feeling anxious I simply walk through my four steps over and over again until I’m ready to speak. And those 4 steps help me emotionally regulate my anxiety, allowing me to try and do something different in the face of anxiety. So rather than withdraw and become more anxious, I tend to really engage now and use tools that help me stay non-anxious.
Coming Full Circle
In the Fall of 2018, Restoration Therapy held it’s first ever conference and I was asked to be the keynote speaker for that conference. And the topic I spoke on was anxiety and fear. What began as exploring work for couples at a marriage intensive, led me to doing a deep dive into a model that was later taught to me firsthand by Terry Hargrave. And what initially began as a confined focus on just marriage, has now expanded into many things, like work on anxiety and depression, and using RT to help me understand and transform it more, are part of my current journey.
I am thankful for all that Restoration Therapy has given me, and I am excited about what I will continue to learn about it. In the meantime, I will work hard hard on becoming more masterful in utilizing the four components I mentioned above. Because it is these components that really make RT stand out, especially its application to anxiety and depression.
Rhett Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Plano, TX. He specializes in helping people struggling with anxiety find new opportunities for growth, as well as spending a majority of his week with couples as they navigate relational issues. He is the author of The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? and What It Means to Be a Man: God’s Design for Us in a World Full of Extremes. Rhett lives in McKinney, TX with his wife Heather and their two children. You can discover more about Rhett’s work through his writing and podcast at rhettsmith.com