- Learning RFT: An Introduction to Relational Frame Theory and Its Clinical Application by Törneke Niklas
Learning RFT: An Introduction to Relational Frame Theory and Its Clinical Application by Törneke Niklas (2010; Foreword by Dermot Barnes-Holmes, Afterword by Steven C. Hayes) provides a comprehensive overview of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) with the aim to educate the reader regarding the basic principles of RFT. The book consists of 11 chapters divided into three parts:
Part 1 (Background)—Includes three chapters which present a concise but well written introduction to the philosophy and conceptual basis of behavior analysis. It also presents limitations of current behavioral and cognitive accounts regarding human language and thinking.
Part 2 (Relational Learning)—Consists of four chapters, all presenting the theory behind RFT. The chapters are written, as the author asserts (and I agree) “with a perfect balance between providing an appropriate level of technical detail and keeping the writing lively, light and a pleasure to read” (p. xi).
Part 3 (Clinical Implications)—Consists of four chapters, focusing mainly on the clinical implications of RFT.
The purpose here, in addition to the review of the book structure and chapters, is to answer the following questions:
1. Is the book fulfilling its purposes as stated by the author?
2. Who should read the book?
3. Is the book appropriate for behavior analysts who want to know more about RFT before forming a firm opinion regarding RFT?
My hope is that any interested reader who wants to know more about RFT, will be able to make an educated decision whether the book “Learning RFT” would be of a benefit for him or her.
About the Author
It was interesting for me (as it probably will be to other readers as well) to realize that the author, Niklas Törneke, was not always a behavior analyst. As noted, the author started his journey as a psychologist in the world of psychodynamic approaches. “As a [End Page 247] psychotherapist, I am a child of my time,” the author states at the beginning. However, very early in his career he abandoned psychotherapy, in favor of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), due to the lack of research supporting psychodynamic approaches. He found CBT overcame some of the most critical shortcomings psychodynamic approaches had, including the lack of research and the inapplicable therapy.
But still, something was missing. As the author states:
During the 1990s, I progressively found what I saw as shortcomings in cognitive theory. It was difficult to get a clear idea of what the basic terminology was and what scientific support it had. Different cognitive theorists liberally used their different terms to describe what was taking place in the “psyche,” and this obscurity and lack of consensus became all the more troublesome due to the assumption that the core of psychological problems was located somewhere inside this unknown realm.(p. 1)
In his search for a theory that could provide him with better answers, the author then encountered Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which is strongly based on classical behavior therapy. His interest in the use of metaphors as a therapeutic tool led him then to read about and become interested in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). As he describes in the book, ACT is a therapy model which is based on DBT but has a much more theoretical and experimental foundation—Relational Frame Theory. As he became more and more invested in ACT and RFT, Törneke realized that one cannot understand RFT and practice ACT without comprehending the basic behavioral principles of operant and respondent conditioning. For him, that was the turning point when he started to consider and present himself as a behavior analyst.
The Purpose of the Book According to the Author
The main purpose of the book, as indicated by its title, is to teach, and for the reader to learn, RFT. The book aims to describe the principles underlying RFT and to suggest how this theory might help clinicians in their therapy. Similarly to Skinner’s book Verbal Behavior...