Read Part 1 of the Series:
“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
After having spent many years in college, I found I was disappointed in the state of psychotherapy and its limitations. I had investigated diaphragmatic breathing and meditation as promising areas of specialization, but the hours of practice and temporary relief afforded seemed to be a drawback.
Yoga and acupuncture were always of interest to me, but their application in psychotherapy seemed limited and required too much effort to master. I was also strongly influenced by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, primarily due to the emphasis on spirituality. Unfortunately, the rigid, judgmental thinking of many of AA’s adherents was off-putting.
Carl Jung’s Analytical psychology had also been a major influence on my thinking, although I found it dense and difficult to penetrate. I had always been intrigued by current research into the brain, but little had been done to apply this new understanding to the practice of psychotherapy.
I had a nagging feeling that there was something missing in all this, that there were faster and more effective interventions that I had yet to discover. Luckily, early in my internship, I was introduced to Thought Field Therapy, (TFT), and Emotional Freedom Techniques, (EFT), by a supervisor.
While initially skeptical, I was open minded enough to try these techniques myself, and was amazed by the results. This seemed to be the missing piece to the puzzle. Over the years, a perspective that integrated all of the above influences began to coalesce into a theory of practice.
In the current therapeutic paradigm, insight is generally assumed to have curative properties, and the prevailing axiom in psychotherapy seems to be “Insight is necessary to promote change.”
In fact, insight often does resolve an individual’s problems, and can be effective. On the other hand, I have often encountered clients who have told me, “I have been in therapy for years, and I understand what happened and why I feel this way, but I still feel terrible.”
Current brain research has revealed that the emotional underpinnings of the brain take precedence over the rational mind, and these irrational emotional states impact thinking, resulting in perceptual and cognitive distortions. This fact is self-evident to anyone who has experienced anger or any other overwhelming emotion.
The new approaches have the effect of neutralizing the emotional load, and clinical experience demonstrates that new insights and perspectives often emerge as the brain reorganizes itself in the absence of the disrupting trauma.
This is a natural process that owes much to brain plasticity. The brain becomes organized around the traumatic event, as the individual compartmentalizes the memory to avoid the accompanying emotional pain.
In these approaches, the focus is not on understanding the traumatic event, but on eliminating the underlying affect. Following the intervention, “the pieces begin to come together.” Thus the emerging axiom becomes “Insight is optional.”
Read More In This Series:
About the Author
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.