“I developed The Houle Relationship Approach (HRA) to offer an alternative explanation for problem behaviors based upon the premise that our relationships are actually the environments in which social, emotional and behavioral problems occur.”                                                                                                  — Dr. Thomas Houle

Why We Behave The Way We Do:
The Houle Relationship Approach

Relationships Matter A Lot More Than We Think

Dispelling the Myth of “Mental Illness”

People often ask me if mental illness is real. I think they are really asking if mental illness has a physical cause that we can diagnose and treat the same way we can with a physical disease.

I believe that the term “mental illness” is completely inaccurate and that there are no true illnesses of the mind.

If problems-in-living are not mental illnesses, then exactly what are they? Part of the answer can be found in what the illness model calls symptoms. To many people these so-called symptoms are the problem, not just a manifestation of the problem.

I see things differently. My Houle Relationship Approach (HRA) maintains that these “symptoms” are behaviors that people acquire not by disease but by learning and experience in their interactions with others.

So, here’s the key. Each of us has certain guidelines or rules we see as governing our specific relationships. These rules are made up of the expectations we have as to how others in that relationship should act. When we believe someone in the relationship has violated these guidelines or rules, problems develop.

It all boils down to this:

• Relationships are the arenas in which all mental, emotional and behavior problems (MEBP) occur.
• Every relationship has rules that guide its participants on how to behave.
• These rules all spring from the structural elements; those things that make up relationships and the HRA has identified four: Power, Status, Interests and Purpose.
• When any of the rules associated with these element’s are violated, MEBP can occur.

Therefore, when we are experiencing a personal, emotional, and/or behavioral problem in ourselves or others, the first thing we must do is look to relationships and their demands as the source of the problem.

©2023. Dr. Thomas A. Houle. All rights reserved.