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The Creeping Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy Part 1: Introduction

Jun 12, 2017 | Mental Health

“It has been said that, in psychotherapy, ‘understanding is the booby prize.’ It is a hollow victory to end up with a psychological explanation for problems that remain unchanged.” – Louis Cozolino

I began my Master’s Degree in counseling at the University of North Texas around the time that PTSD was considered a controversial topic. Veterans were returning from Vietnam with disturbing flashbacks and other symptoms, and therapists were at a loss as to how to treat them. I distinctly remember a classmate asking an instructor if there was anything we, as therapists, could do to ‘fix’ these problems.

“You cannot ‘fix’ these issues,” the instructor responded, “…the best we can ever do is to help people learn to live better in spite of these problems.” In this way, therapists became indoctrinated into a way of thinking that has been revealed to be fundamentally flawed.

It is entirely possible to eliminate traumatic memory and negative emotion — as evidenced by emerging psychotherapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, (EMDR), Traumatic Incident Reduction, (TIR), Thought Field Therapy, (TFT), Emotional Freedom Techniques, (EFT), and Rapid Trauma Resolution, (RTR).

These approaches are highly effective in the treatment of traumatic memory and negative emotion in general, often resulting in dramatic improvement during a single session. They also imply a need to revise our understanding of the human brain and psyche.

These new techniques, collectively referred to as Power Therapies, have given rise to a grass roots shift in psychotherapy. In order to achieve this, therapists have occasionally had to work outside the intellectual confinement of Western Science and explore concepts from other, older psychological paradigms such as yoga and acupuncture.

Much of what they have discovered is supported the latest advances in brain science. These cross-cultural excursions, combined with the latest research, have resulted in innovative techniques that are difficult to fit into the current reductionist paradigm of Western Science.

According to Thomas Khun in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, (1962), paradigm change is generally effected by persons and ideas from outside the existing paradigm. Change is always resisted by the prevailing paradigm — much like the metaphor of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It is important that we modify our paradigm to fit the facts rather than dismiss the evidence out of hand. Otherwise we risk “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

An open mind to new information is essential for change to occur. We must overcome our cultural biases and xenophobia to promote change and progress to provide effective treatment for clients.

Read More In This Series:

The Creeping Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy Part 2: Cross Cultural Innovations
The Creeping Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy Part 3: A New Theory of Emotion
The Creeping Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy Part 4: Brain Systems and Functions – The Hemispheres

About the Author

Matthew-Fox-200x200 Matthew Fox, LMHC, CAP is a mental health counselor with over 20 years experience in the treatment of substance abuse and trauma. He specializes in cutting-edge approaches that integrate neurobiology, yoga psychology, acupressure, and meditation. He has presented professional trainings in Europe, Australia, and the US.