What is Andy’s Man Club?

Introduction

Andy’s Man Club is described as:

“a talking group, a place for men to come together in a safe environment to talk about issues and problems they have faced or are currently facing”.

Background

It was formed by Luke Ambler and his mother-in-law Elaine after his brother-in-law took his own life.

The club, with its slogan “it’s okay to talk”, started in early 2016 in Halifax with a first meeting of nine men. Since then, the group has expanded across the country and by February 2020 had over 800 men attending every week. Each group meeting is led by a volunteer “group facilitator” who has been trained by the organisation.

Other similar organisations have come to exist, some with a local focus and others with a national.

In 2021 they earned the Queens’s award for voluntary service.

Similar Charities

  • It’s tricky to talk.
  • Talk Club.
  • MenSpeak.
  • Men Walk Talk.
  • Proper Blokes Club.
  • It’s Worth Talking About.
  • Man-Down.

Locations

There are a variety of locations (as of November 2021):

  • Altrincham.
  • Batley.
  • Bradford.
  • Brighouse.
  • Dewsbury.
  • Doncaster.
  • Dundee.
  • Dunfermline.
  • Edinburgh.
  • Exeter.
  • Glenrothes.
  • Gosport.
  • Halifax Central.
  • Halifax North.
  • Hartlepool.
  • Hebden Bridge.
  • Huddersfield Ainley Top.
  • Huddersfield Central.
  • Hull Central.
  • Hull North.
  • Leeds East.
  • Leeds West.
  • Manchester.
  • Newton Abbot.
  • Oldham.
  • Perth.
  • Peterborough.
  • Plymouth.
  • Porthcawl.
  • Preston.
  • Rhondda.
  • Rochdale.
  • Rotherham.
  • Scarborough.
  • Sheffield.
  • Stafford.
  • St. Andrews.
  • Sunderland.
  • Torbay.
  • Wakefield.

What is Systems-Centred Therapy?

Introduction

Systems-centred therapy (SCT) is a particular form of group therapy based on the Theory of Living Human Systems developed by Yvonne Agazarian.

The theory postulates that living human systems survive, develop, and transform from simple to complex through discriminating and integrating information. Corresponding to the small and rigorously defined set of concepts, SCT defines a set of methods, techniques and instruments. SCT practitioners use these with individuals, couples and groups to explore the experience of their differences and work with these to integrate them. Using the method of functional subgrouping, these living human systems increase their ability to see both sides of their issues and resolve them productively. The theory was first developed in Agazarian’s 1997 book, Systems-Centred Therapy for Groups, and grew out of her earlier work in group psychotherapy under the influence of such figures as W.R. Bion and John Bowlby through the further input of the general systems theory of Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

SCT explains how living human systems contain their energy within functional boundaries and direct it towards their goals: the primary goals of survival and development and the secondary goals of environmental mastery. In SCT training groups, all members work in functional subgroups rather than work alone. Subgroups work both sides of every issue in the group-as-a-whole.  This practice strengthens both the therapeutic capacity of the training group and allows individual members to choose which side of the conflict has therapeutic salience for their own personal work.

Theory of Living Human Systems: An Introduction

SCT and consultation developed by Yvonne Agazarian is based on the Theory of Living Human Systems, a theory that can be applied to any living human system as small as one individual or a large group and couples, families, classrooms, committees, businesses or even nations. Thus the theory offers a set of ideas for thinking about how living human systems work that can be applied at any level.

The theory defines “a hierarchy of isomorphic systems that are energy-organizing, self-correcting and goal directed” – working on the assumption that psychic patterns will be repeated in the same form (isomorphy)at every nested level of interaction. Each of these constructs is then operationally defined with methods developed that test the hypothesis of the theory. In this way, it offers a comprehensive systems theory and methodology of practice that can be applied in clinical, organisational and educational settings. Most importantly, Agazarian’s theory of living human systems introduces the hypothesis that the single essential process by which living human systems survive, develop and transform is by discriminating and integrating differences.

Working with Differences

Differences are challenging for people, whether they are differences in opinions, beliefs, ideas, wishes, or feelings. Differences are challenging even when we find them inside of ourselves. Groups often respond to differences that are “too different” by ignoring the differences, avoiding the differences, trying to change or convert the differences or blaming, judging or scapegoating the differences. Groups that respond in these ways to differences can survive unchanged for a long time since anything that challenges the status quo does not become incorporated into the group or is rejected by the group.

Because of this tendency, Systems-centred therapists or consultants pay a lot of attention to communication within the system. They are particularly looking to reduce the defensive “noise” within the communication.  Noise is defined as contradictions, (Simon and Agazarian), ambiguities and redundancies (Shannon and Weaver). This concept of noise was developed from work by Shannon and Weaver who formulated observations about the inverse relationship between noise and information transfer. By highlighting and reducing contradiction, ambiguities, and redundancies, i.e. “noise”, communication is more effective in transferring information and the system has a better chance of discriminating and integrating its differences.

According to the theory of living human systems, groups that are able to take in and use differences are able to not only survive but also develop and transform. This kind of development enables groups to use their differences as resources to find solutions to problems that are more comprehensive and responsive to the complexity of the problem. They are able to move with less difficulty toward their goals.

Functional Subgrouping

In systems-centred therapy, members are taught to manage differences and resolve conflicts by a technique called functional subgrouping. Rather than individual members working alone, functional subgrouping requires that all members of a system that are similar work together to deeply explore their similarity. When that subgroup finishes its exploration, the subgroup holding a difference begins its work, exploring their similarities with one another. Inevitably, as the members of a subgroup talk with each other, they discover differences (i.e. differences within the apparently similar) within their subgroup and also, find similarities with the other subgroup (similarities in the apparently different). By using functional subgrouping, the whole group has a better chance of integrating its differences rather than rejecting differences. When a group can make use of its differences it becomes more complex and interesting akin to the way music is enriched by harmonies or interwoven themes. The group moves from the survival of the status quo to development and transformation.

SCT clients learn through experience. By exploring one’s experience rather than explaining it, members learn to tell the difference between comprehensive understanding (words first, experience second) and apprehensive understanding (experience first, words second). Clients learn to restore the connection between their comprehensive, thinking self and their emotional, intuitive self. Learning this skill leads to “containing” the energy and gaining the knowledge that frustrations and conflicts arouse, rather than discharging, binding or constricting it in defensive symptoms.  Energy in SCT is understood as the ability of the group or individual to work towards its goals.

Working with Perspectives

Another important part of the theory of living human systems is that groups function more effectively when there is the capacity to shift perspective from the perspective of the individual to the perspective of the whole group.  Being able to shift perspective from seeing things from the perspective of a person in a group (or couple or family or business, etc.) to the perspective of a member of the group creates a climate of mutual work toward a common goal. Individuals who are able to make the shift from the perspective of an individual to the perspective of a member or systems-centred perspective are less likely to take personally the inevitable challenges that arise as a human system moves toward its goal.  When we take things less personally, we are less likely to get bogged down in frustration, hurt feelings and unproductive arguments. When we understand ourselves in the context of the systems that we belong to and co-create – our families, schools, businesses, labour unions, political parties, churches, sports clubs – we not only participate in their tasks, we are also involved in their development: establishing the distribution of authority and the degree of trust that help these systems survive and grow. Doing this, we contribute to the system balance between innovation and continuity, and at the same time strike a balance between our own desire to learn and our want for security.

Phases of Development

The systems-centred methods which developed from the theory of living human systems offers a map of predictable phases for the development of human systems. In the first phase of development, a system comes to terms with the issues of giving and taking authority and with the authority that resides in the members. Successful management of this phase leads to cooperation between members and between members and leaders. Unsuccessful management of this phase results in members behaving defiantly or compliantly which inevitably undermines the group’s development.

In the second phase, called the intimacy phase, the group wrestles with the challenges of closeness and distance from fellow members. This is the phase of team building for workgroups and the phase in which the issues related to separation and individuation are explored in therapy groups. As the group works in this phase it explores the pull to becoming enchanted with itself or becoming disenchanted and falling into despair with no energy to do its work. Successful management of this phase allows members to gain greater access and intimacy with themselves and also to work together with others in a climate of tested and mutual trust.

In the third phase of development, the group has the opportunity to develop a greater access to its emotional and rational intelligence and develops the capacity to use that information effectively in the service of the group’s goals. The group works more efficiently as it is more able to accept the reality of the role each member plays in the group, and stays more connected to the goal of the group and the reality of the environment in which the group is working.

Successfully managing the challenges of these phases of development means that the system is capable of developing an effective distribution of authority, establishing a climate of trust, and developing the capacity for system adaptation and learning. Wheelan (2005) has shown that work groups that are more developed in their phases have increased productivity.

As Psychotherapy

The theory of living human systems has been applied to psychotherapy as well as to business, organisational and educational consultation. In its application to psychotherapy, a unique aspect of this theory is that it is equally applicable to both individual and couples psychotherapy and to group psychotherapy. SCT posits that much of a person’s suffering is related to viewing oneself only from the perspective of the individual self, a person-centred view. By developing a capacity to see oneself from the perspective of the system one is a part of, a systems-centred perspective, the psychotherapy client is able to more consciously influence their own development and the development of the systems they are a part of.

A SCT therapist uses the phases of development described in the theory of living human systems to systemically train a client to recognise states of mind that interfere with reaching the client’s goal. These interfering states of mind are referred to as defences. Two of the most common defences that bring people to psychotherapy are anxiety and depression;  these are addressed in the first phase of treatment. Clients are taught how to recognise and reduce these defences so that they are freed to traverse life less painfully and more smoothly. SCT work is a partnership in which the therapist governs the structure of the therapy and clients make a series of manageable choices at different “forks in the road”. Each fork is a choice a person makes between familiar defences and experiencing the emotion, conflict or impulses that triggered the defence. The systems-centred therapist teaches the client to systematically weaken the defence, such as anxiety or tension, in a structured sequence that matches the client’s ability to choose. As each defence is undone, the client can choose to take the fork in the road away from the symptoms generated by their defensive responses, and towards discovering the conflicts, between their emotions or impulses and the fears of their emotions or impulses, that were being defended against. As SCT psychotherapy proceeds, the client acquires skills that increase their ability to undo their own defences. Through this process, clients regain their ability to use their common sense,  (and existential humour!) to manage the every day conflicts between themselves and reality. Clear outcome criteria for each step are in the sequence of defence modification locates the client in the SCT treatment plan. Because each defence modification addresses a specific symptom, therapy can be delivered either continuously or chunked into modules. SCT can therefore be applied to the goals of both short-term and long-term therapy.

Criticism

Irvin D. Yalom has seen the formation of subgroups as a negative indicator in the context of group therapy.

What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy?

Introduction

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat personality disorders, ADHD, and interpersonal conflicts.

There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioural patterns such as self-harm and substance use. DBT evolved into a process in which the therapist and client work with acceptance and change-oriented strategies, and ultimately balance and synthesize them, in a manner comparable to the philosophical dialectical process of hypothesis and antithesis, followed by synthesis.

This approach was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington, to help people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help avoid undesired reactions.

Linehan developed DBT as a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the late 1980s to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and chronically suicidal individuals. Research on its effectiveness in treating other conditions has been fruitful; DBT has been used by practitioners to treat people with depression, drug and alcohol problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), binge-eating disorder, and mood disorders. Research indicates DBT might help patients with symptoms and behaviours associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury. Work also suggests its effectiveness with sexual-abuse survivors and chemical dependency.

DBT combines standard cognitive-behavioural techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from contemplative meditative practice. DBT is based upon the biosocial theory of mental illness and is the first therapy that has been experimentally demonstrated to be generally effective in treating BPD. The first randomised clinical trial of DBT showed reduced rates of suicidal gestures, psychiatric hospitalisations, and treatment drop-outs when compared to treatment as usual. A meta-analysis found that DBT reached moderate effects in individuals with borderline personality disorder.

Overview

DBT is considered part of the “third wave” of cognitive-behavioural therapy, and DBT adapts CBT to assist patients to deal with stress.

This approach was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington, to help people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to help avoid undesired reactions.

Linehan developed DBT as a modified form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the late 1980s to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and chronically suicidal individuals. Research on its effectiveness in treating other conditions has been fruitful; DBT has been used by practitioners to treat people with depression, drug and alcohol problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI), binge-eating disorder, and mood disorders. Research indicates DBT might help patients with symptoms and behaviours associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury. Recent work also suggests its effectiveness with sexual-abuse survivors and chemical dependency.

DBT strives to have the patient view the therapist as an ally rather than an adversary in the treatment of psychological issues. Accordingly, the therapist aims to accept and validate the client’s feelings at any given time, while, nonetheless, informing the client that some feelings and behaviours are maladaptive, and showing them better alternatives. DBT focuses on the client acquiring new skills and changing their behaviours, with the ultimate goal of achieving a “life worth living”, as defined by the patient.

In DBT’s biosocial theory of BPD, clients have a biological predisposition for emotional dysregulation, and their social environment validates maladaptive behaviour.

DBT skills training alone is being used to address treatment goals in some clinical settings, and the broader goal of emotion regulation that is seen in DBT has allowed it to be used in new settings, for example, supporting parenting.

Four Modules

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the core ideas behind all elements of DBT. It is considered a foundation for the other skills taught in DBT, because it helps individuals accept and tolerate the powerful emotions they may feel when challenging their habits or exposing themselves to upsetting situations.

The concept of mindfulness and the meditative exercises used to teach it are derived from traditional contemplative religious practice, though the version taught in DBT does not involve any religious or metaphysical concepts. Within DBT it is the capacity to pay attention, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment; about living in the moment, experiencing one’s emotions and senses fully, yet with perspective. The practice of mindfulness can also be intended to make people more aware of their environments through their five senses: touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound. Mindfulness relies heavily on the principle of acceptance, sometimes referred to as “radical acceptance”. Acceptance skills rely on the patient’s ability to view situations with no judgment, and to accept situations and their accompanying emotions. This causes less distress overall, which can result in reduced discomfort and symptomology.

Acceptance and Change

The first few sessions of DBT introduce the dialectic of acceptance and change. The patient must first become comfortable with the idea of therapy; once the patient and therapist have established a trusting relationship, DBT techniques can flourish. An essential part of learning acceptance is to first grasp the idea of radical acceptance: radical acceptance embraces the idea that one should face situations, both positive and negative, without judgment. Acceptance also incorporates mindfulness and emotional regulation skills, which depend on the idea of radical acceptance. These skills, specifically, are what set DBT apart from other therapies.

Often, after a patient becomes familiar with the idea of acceptance, they will accompany it with change. DBT has five specific states of change which the therapist will review with the patient:

  • Precontemplation is the first stage, in which the patient is completely unaware of their problem.
  • In the second stage, contemplation, the patient realises the reality of their illness: this is not an action, but a realisation.
  • It is not until the third stage, preparation, that the patient is likely to take action, and prepares to move forward. This could be as simple as researching or contacting therapists.
  • Finally, in stage 4, the patient takes action and receives treatment.
  • In the final stage, maintenance, the patient must strengthen their change in order to prevent relapse.

After grasping acceptance and change, a patient can fully advance to mindfulness techniques.

There are six mindfulness skills used in DBT to bring the client closer to achieving a “wise mind”, the synthesis of the rational mind and emotion mind: three “what” skills (observe, describe, participate) and three “how” skills (nonjudgementally, one-mindfully, effectively).

Distress Tolerance

Many current approaches to mental health treatment focus on changing distressing events and circumstances such as dealing with the death of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness, terrorist attacks and other traumatic events. They have paid little attention to accepting, finding meaning for, and tolerating distress. This task has generally been tackled by person-centred, psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, gestalt, or narrative therapies, along with religious and spiritual communities and leaders. Dialectical behaviour therapy emphasizes learning to bear pain skilfully. This module outlines healthy coping behaviours intended to replace harmful ones, such as distractions, improving the moment, self-soothing, and practicing acceptance of what is.

Distress tolerance skills constitute a natural development from DBT mindfulness skills. They have to do with the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and non-judgemental fashion, both oneself and the current situation. Since this is a non-judgmental stance, this means that it is not one of approval or resignation. The goal is to become capable of calmly recognizing negative situations and their impact, rather than becoming overwhelmed or hiding from them. This allows individuals to make wise decisions about whether and how to take action, rather than falling into the intense, desperate, and often destructive emotional reactions that are part of borderline personality disorder.

Emotion Regulation

Individuals with borderline personality disorder and suicidal individuals are frequently emotionally intense and labile. They can be angry, intensely frustrated, depressed, or anxious. This suggests that these clients might benefit from help in learning to regulate their emotions. DBT skills for emotion regulation include:

  • Identify and label emotions.
  • Identify obstacles to changing emotions.
  • Reduce vulnerability to emotion mind.
  • Increase positive emotional events.
  • Increase mindfulness to current emotions.
  • Take opposite action.
  • Apply distress tolerance techniques.

Emotional regulation skills are based on the theory that intense emotions are a conditioned response to troublesome experiences, the conditioned stimulus, and therefore, are required to alter the patient’s conditioned response. These skills can be categorised into four modules: understanding and naming emotions, changing unwanted emotions, reducing vulnerability, and managing extreme conditions:

  • Learning how to understand and name emotions:
    • The patient focuses on recognising their feelings.
    • This segment relates directly to mindfulness, which also exposes a patient to their emotions.
  • Changing unwanted emotions:
    • The therapist emphasizes the use of opposite-reactions, fact-checking, and problem solving to regulate emotions.
    • While using opposite-reactions, the patient targets distressing feelings by responding with the opposite emotion.
  • Reducing vulnerability:
    • The patient learns to accumulate positive emotions and to plan coping mechanisms in advance, in order to better handle difficult experiences in the future.
  • Managing extreme conditions:
    • The patient focuses on incorporating their use of mindfulness skills to their current emotions, to remain stable and alert in a crisis.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The three interpersonal skills focused on in DBT include self-respect, treating others “with care, interest, validation, and respect”, and assertiveness. The dialectic involved in healthy relationships involves balancing the needs of others with the needs of the self, while maintaining one’s self-respect

Tools

Specially formatted diary cards can be used to track relevant emotions and behaviours. Diary cards are most useful when they are filled out daily. The diary card is used to find the treatment priorities that guide the agenda of each therapy session. Both the client and therapist can use the diary card to see what has improved, gotten worse, or stayed the same.

Chain Analysis

Chain analysis is a form of functional analysis of behaviour but with increased focus on sequential events that form the behaviour chain. It has strong roots in behavioural psychology in particular applied behaviour analysis concept of chaining. A growing body of research supports the use of behaviour chain analysis with multiple populations.

Efficacy

Borderline Personality Disorder

DBT is the therapy that has been studied the most for treatment of borderline personality disorder, and there have been enough studies done to conclude that DBT is helpful in treating borderline personality disorder. A 2009 Canadian study compared the treatment of borderline personality disorder with dialectical behaviour therapy against general psychiatric management. A total of 180 adults, 90 in each group, were admitted to the study and treated for an average of 41 weeks. Statistically significant decreases in suicidal events and non-suicidal self-injurious events were seen overall (48% reduction, p=0.03; and 77% reduction, p=0.01; respectively). No statistically-significant difference between groups were seen for these episodes (p=.64). Emergency department visits decreased by 67% (p<0.0001) and emergency department visits for suicidal behaviour by 65% (p<0.0001), but there was also no statistically significant difference between groups.

Depression

A Duke University pilot study compared treatment of depression by antidepressant medication to treatment by antidepressants and dialectical behaviour therapy. A total of 34 chronically depressed individuals over age 60 were treated for 28 weeks. Six months after treatment, statistically-significant differences were noted in remission rates between groups, with a greater percentage of patients treated with antidepressants and dialectical behaviour therapy in remission.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

Exposure to complex trauma, or the experience of traumatic events, can lead to the development of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) in an individual. CPTSD is a concept which divides the psychological community. The American Psychological Association (APA) does not recognise it in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual used by providers to diagnose, treat and discuss mental illness), though some practitioners argue that CPTSD is separate from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

CPTSD is similar to PTSD in that its symptomatology is pervasive and includes cognitive, emotional, and biological domains, among others. CPTSD differs from PTSD in that it is believed to originate in childhood interpersonal trauma, or chronic childhood stress, and that the most common precedents are sexual traumas. Currently, the prevalence rate for CPTSD is an estimated 0.5%, while PTSD’s is 1.5%. Numerous definitions for CPTSD exist. Different versions are contributed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), and individual clinicians and researchers.

Most definitions revolve around criteria for PTSD with the addition of several other domains. While The APA may not recognise CPTSD, the WHO has recognized this syndrome in its 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The WHO defines CPTSD as a disorder following a single or multiple events which cause the individual to feel stressed or trapped, characterised by low self-esteem, interpersonal deficits, and deficits in affect regulation. These deficits in affect regulation, among other symptoms are a reason why CPTSD is sometimes compared with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Similarities between CPTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder

In addition to affect dysregulation, case studies reveal that patients with CPTSD can also exhibit splitting, mood swings, and fears of abandonment. Like patients with borderline personality disorder, patients with CPTSD were traumatised frequently and/or early in their development and never learned proper coping mechanisms. These individuals may use avoidance, substances, dissociation, and other maladaptive behaviours to cope. Thus, treatment for CPTSD involves stabilising and teaching successful coping behaviours, affect regulation, and creating and maintaining interpersonal connections. In addition to sharing symptom presentations, CPTSD and BPD can share neurophysiological similarities, for example, abnormal volume of the amygdala (emotional memory), hippocampus (memory), anterior cingulate cortex (emotion), and orbital prefrontal cortex (personality). Another shared characteristic between CPTSD and BPD is the possibility for dissociation. Further research is needed to determine the reliability of dissociation as a hallmark of CPTSD, however it is a possible symptom. Because of the two disorders’ shared symptomatology and physiological correlates, psychologists began hypothesising that a treatment which was effective for one disorder may be effective for the other as well.

DBT as a Treatment for CPTSD

DBT’s use of acceptance and goal orientation as an approach to behaviour change can help to instil empowerment and engage individuals in the therapeutic process. The focus on the future and change can help to prevent the individual from becoming overwhelmed by their history of trauma. This is a risk especially with CPTSD, as multiple traumas are common within this diagnosis. Generally, care providers address a client’s suicidality before moving on to other aspects of treatment. Because PTSD can make an individual more likely to experience suicidal ideation, DBT can be an option to stabilize suicidality and aid in other treatment modalities.

Some critics argue that while DBT can be used to treat CPTSD, it is not significantly more effective than standard PTSD treatments. Further, this argument posits that DBT decreases self-injurious behaviours (such as cutting or burning) and increases interpersonal functioning but neglects core CPTSD symptoms such as impulsivity, cognitive schemas (repetitive, negative thoughts), and emotions such as guilt and shame. The ISTSS reports that CPTSD requires treatment which differs from typical PTSD treatment, using a multiphase model of recovery, rather than focusing on traumatic memories. The recommended multiphase model consists of establishing safety, distress tolerance, and social relations.

Because DBT has four modules which generally align with these guidelines (Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Affect Regulation, Interpersonal Skills) it is a treatment option. Other critiques of DBT discuss the time required for the therapy to be effective. Individuals seeking DBT may not be able to commit to the individual and group sessions required, or their insurance may not cover every session.

A study co-authored by Linehan found that among women receiving outpatient care for BPD and who had attempted suicide in the previous year, 56% additionally met criteria for PTSD. Because of the correlation between borderline personality disorder traits and trauma, some settings began using DBT as a treatment for traumatic symptoms. Some providers opt to combine DBT with other PTSD interventions, such as prolonged exposure therapy (PE) (repeated, detailed description of the trauma in a psychotherapy session) or cognitive processing therapy (CPT) (psychotherapy which addresses cognitive schemas related to traumatic memories).

For example, a regimen which combined PE and DBT would include teaching mindfulness skills and distress tolerance skills, then implementing PE. The individual with the disorder would then be taught acceptance of a trauma’s occurrence and how it may continue to affect them throughout their lives. Participants in clinical trials such as these exhibited a decrease in symptoms, and throughout the 12-week trial, no self-injurious or suicidal behaviours were reported.

Another argument which supports the use of DBT as a treatment for trauma hinges upon PTSD symptoms such as emotion regulation and distress. Some PTSD treatments such as exposure therapy may not be suitable for individuals whose distress tolerance and/or emotion regulation is low. Biosocial theory posits that emotion dysregulation is caused by an individual’s heightened emotional sensitivity combined with environmental factors (such as invalidation of emotions, continued abuse/trauma), and tendency to ruminate (repeatedly think about a negative event and how the outcome could have been changed).

An individual who has these features is likely to use maladaptive coping behaviours. DBT can be appropriate in these cases because it teaches appropriate coping skills and allows the individuals to develop some degree of self-sufficiency. The first three modules of DBT increase distress tolerance and emotion regulation skills in the individual, paving the way for work on symptoms such as intrusions, self-esteem deficiency, and interpersonal relations.

Noteworthy is that DBT has often been modified based on the population being treated. For example, in veteran populations DBT is modified to include exposure exercises and accommodate the presence of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and insurance coverage (i.e. shortening treatment). Populations with comorbid BPD may need to spend longer in the “Establishing Safety” phase. In adolescent populations, the skills training aspect of DBT has elicited significant improvement in emotion regulation and ability to express emotion appropriately. In populations with comorbid substance use, adaptations may be made on a case-by-case basis.

For example, a provider may wish to incorporate elements of motivational interviewing (psychotherapy which uses empowerment to inspire behaviour change). The degree of substance use should also be considered. For some individuals, substance use is the only coping behaviour they know, and as such the provider may seek to implement skills training before target substance reduction. Inversely, a client’s substance use may be interfering with attendance or other treatment compliance and the provider may choose to address the substance use before implementing DBT for the trauma.

What is Clinical Behaviour Analysis?

Introduction

Clinical behaviour analysis (CBA; a third-generation behaviour therapy) is the clinical application of behaviour analysis (ABA). CBA represents a movement in behaviour therapy away from methodological behaviourism and back toward radical behaviourism and the use of functional analytic models of verbal behaviour – particularly, relational frame theory (RFT).

Current Models

CBA therapies include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), behavioural medicine (such as behavioural gerontology and paediatric feeding therapy), community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT), exposure therapies/desensitisation (such as systematic desensitisation), functional analytic psychotherapy (FAP, such as behavioural activation (BA) and integrative behavioural couples therapy), and voucher-based contingency management.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Acceptance and commitment therapy is probably the most well-researched of all the third-generation behaviour therapy models. Its development co-occurred with that of relational frame theory, with several researchers such as Steven C Hayes being involved with both. ACT has been argued to be based on relational frame theory, although this is a matter of some debate within the community. Originally this approach was referred to as comprehensive distancing. Every practitioner mixes acceptance with a commitment to one’s values. These ingredients become enmeshed into the treatment in different ways which leads to ACT being either more on the mindfulness side or more on the behaviour-changing side. ACT has, as of May 2021, been evaluated in over 600 randomised clinical trials for a variety of client problems. Overall, when compared to other active treatments designed or known to be helpful, the effect size for ACT is a Cohen’s d of around 0.6, which is considered a medium effect size.

Behavioural Activation

Behavioural activation emerged from a component analysis of cognitive behaviour therapy. This research found no additive effect for the cognitive component. Behavioural activation is based on a matching law model of reinforcement. A recent review of the research supports the notion that the use of behavioural activation is clinically important for the treatment of depression.

Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training

Community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT) is a model developed by Robert Meyer and based on the community reinforcement approach (CRA) first developed by Nathan Azrin and Hunt. The model focuses on the use of functional behavioural assessment to reduce drinking behaviour. CRAFT combines CRA with family therapy.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy

Functional analytic psychotherapy is based on a functional analysis of the therapeutic relationship. It places a greater emphasis on the therapeutic context and returns to the use of in-session reinforcement. The basic FAP analysis utilises what is called the clinically relevant behaviour (CRB1), which is the client’s presenting problem as presented in-session. Client in-session actions that improve their CRB1s are referred to as CRB2s. Client statements, or verbal behaviour, about CRBs are referred to as CRB3s. In general, 40 years of research supports the idea that in-session reinforcement of behaviour can lead to behavioural change.

Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy

Integrative behavioural couples therapy developed from dissatisfaction with traditional behavioural couples therapy. Integrative behavioural couples therapy looks to Skinner (1966) for the difference between contingency shaped and rule-governed behaviour. It couples this analysis with a thorough functional assessment of the couples relationship. Recent efforts have used radical behavioural concepts to interpret a number of clinical phenomena including forgiveness.

Clinical Formulation

As with all behaviour therapy, clinical behaviour analysis relies on a functional analysis of problem behaviour. Depending on the clinical model this analysis draws on B.F Skinner’s model of Verbal Behaviour or relational frame theory.

Professional Organisations

The Association for Behaviour Analysis International has a special interest group in clinical behaviour analysis ABA:I. ABA:I serves as the core intellectual home for behaviour analysts.

The Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) also has an interest group in behaviour analysis, which focuses on clinical behaviour analysis.

The Association for Contextual Behavioural Science is devoted to third-generation therapies and basic research on derived relational responding and relational frame theory.

What is Behavioural Activation?

Introduction

Behavioural activation (BA) is a third generation behaviour therapy for treating depression.

It is one functional analytic psychotherapy which are based on a Skinnerian psychological model of behaviour change, generally referred to as applied behaviour analysis. This area is also a part of what is called clinical behaviour analysis (CBA) and makes up one of the most effective practices in the professional practice of behaviour analysis. The technique can also be used from a cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) framework.

Overview

The Beck Institute describes BA as “getting clients more active and involved in life by scheduling activities that have the potential to improve their mood.”

Theoretical Underpinnings

Behavioural activation emerged from a component analysis of cognitive behavioural therapy. This analysis found that any cognitive component added little to the overall treatment of depression. The behavioural component had existed as a stand-alone treatment in the early work of Peter Lewinsohn and thus a group of behaviourists decided that it might be more efficient to pursue a purer behavioural treatment for the disorder. The theory holds that not enough environmental reinforcement or too much environmental punishment can contribute to depression. The goal of the intervention is to increase environmental reinforcement and reduce punishment.

The theoretical underpinnings of behavioural activation for depression is Charles Ferster’s functional analysis of depression. Ferster’s basic model has been strengthened by further development in the study of reinforcement principles which led to the matching law and continuing theoretical advances in the possible functions of depression, as well as a look at behaviour analysis of child development in order to determine long-term patterns which may lead to dysthymia.

Methods

One behavioural activation approach to depression was as follows: participants were asked to create a hierarchy of reinforcing activities which were then rank-ordered by difficulty; participants tracked their own goals along with clinicians who used a token economy to reinforce success in moving through the hierarchy of activities; participants were measured before and after by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and a great effect on their depression was found as a result of their treatment. This was then compared to a control group who did not receive the same treatment. The results of those who received behavioural activation treatment were markedly superior to those of the persons in the control group. Multiple clinics have since piloted and developed the treatment.

Another behavioural activation approach utilised a different methodology: clients are asked to develop an understanding of the relationship between actions and emotions, with actions being seen as the cause of emotions. An hourly self-monitoring chart is created to track activities and the impact on the mood they create for a full week. A rating scale from 1 to 10 is used for each mood change per hour. The goal is to identify depression loops. A depression loop is when a temporary coping method reduces the overall depression, such as the temporary relief provided by alcohol or other drugs, escape or avoidance or rumination. When patterns of dysfunctional responding, or loops, are identified alternative coping responses are attempted to break the loop. This method is described with the acronym “TRAP” (Trigger, Response, Avoidance Pattern) which is to be replaced with a “TRAC” (Trigger, Response, Alternate Coping response). Particular attention is given to rumination, which is provided with its own acronym RCA (Rumination Cues Action). Rumination is identified as a particularly common avoidance behaviour which worsens mood. The client is to evaluate the rumination in terms of it having improved the thing being ruminated about, providing understanding, and its emotional effects on the client. Attending to experience is suggested as an alternative to rumination as well as other possible distracting or mood improving actions.

The general program is described with the acronym ACTION (Assess behaviour/mood, Choose alternate responses, Try out those alternate responses, Integrate these alternatives, Observe results and (Now) evaluate). The goal being the understanding of the relationship between actions and emotional consequences and a systematic replacement of dysfunctional patterns with adaptive ones. Additionally, focus is given to quality sleep, and improving social functioning.

Research Support

Depression

Reviews of behavioural activation studies for depression found that it has a robust effect and that policy makers should consider it an effective treatment. A large-scale treatment study found behavioural activation to be more effective than cognitive therapy and on par with medication for treating depression. A meta-analysis study comprising 34 Randomised Control Trials found that while Behavioural Activation treatment of adults with depression showed significantly greater beneficial effect compared with control participants, compared to participants treated with CT/CBT, at post treatment there were no statistically significant differences between treatment groups. A 2009 meta-analysis showed a medium post-treatment effect size compared to psychotherapy and other treatments.

Anxiety

A 2006 study of behavioural activation being applied to anxiety appeared to give promising results. One study found it to be effective with fibromyalgia-related pain anxiety.

In the Context of Third Generation Behaviour Therapies

Behavioural activation comes under the heading clinical behaviour analysis or what is often termed third generation behaviour therapy. Other behaviour therapies are acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), as well as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) and functional analytic psychotherapy (FAP). Behavioural activation owes its basis to Charles Ferster’s Functional Analysis of Depression (1973) which developed B.F. Skinner’s idea of depression, within his analysis of motivation, as a lack of reinforcement.

Professional Organisations

The Association for Behaviour Analysis International has a special interest group for practitioner issues, behavioural counselling, and clinical behaviour analysis. The association has larger special interest groups for behavioural medicine. It also serves as the core intellectual home for behaviour analysts.

The Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) also has an interest group in behaviour analysis, which focuses on clinical behaviour analysis.

Doctoral level behaviour analysts who are psychologists belong to the American Psychological Association’s division 25 -Behaviour analysis. APA offers a diplomate in behavioural psychology.

BA in Virtual Reality

Due to a lack of access to trained providers, physical constraints or financial reasons, many patients are not able to attend BA therapy. Researchers are trying to overcome these challenges by providing BA via Virtual Reality. The idea of the concept is to enable especially elderly adults to participate in engaging activities that they would not attend it without VR. Possibly, the so-called “BA-inspired VR protocols” will mitigate the lower mood, life satisfaction, and likelihood of depressions.

What is Metacognitive Therapy?

Introduction

Metacognitive therapy (MCT) is a psychotherapy focused on modifying metacognitive beliefs that perpetuate states of worry, rumination and attention fixation.

It was created by Adrian Wells based on an information processing model by Wells and Gerald Matthews. It is supported by scientific evidence from a large number of studies.

The goals of MCT are first to discover what patients believe about their own thoughts and about how their mind works (called metacognitive beliefs), then to show the patient how these beliefs lead to unhelpful responses to thoughts that serve to unintentionally prolong or worsen symptoms, and finally to provide alternative ways of responding to thoughts in order to allow a reduction of symptoms. In clinical practice, MCT is most commonly used for treating anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), health anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as depression – though the model was designed to be transdiagnostic (meaning it focuses on common psychological factors thought to maintain all psychological disorders).

Refer to Metacognitive Training.

Brief History

Metacognition, Greek for “after” (meta) “thought” (cognition), refers to the human capacity to be aware of and control one’s own thoughts and internal mental processes. Metacognition has been studied for several decades by researchers, originally as part of developmental psychology and neuropsychology. Examples of metacognition include a person knowing what thoughts are currently in their mind and knowing where the focus of their attention is, and a person’s beliefs about their own thoughts (which may or may not be accurate). The first metacognitive interventions were devised for children with attentional disorders in the 1980s.

Model of Mental Disorders

Self-Regulatory Executive Function Model

In the metacognitive model, symptoms are caused by a set of psychological processes called the cognitive attentional syndrome (CAS). The CAS includes three main processes, each of which constitutes extended thinking in response to negative thoughts. These three processes are:

  • Worry/rumination.
  • Threat monitoring.
  • Coping behaviours that backfire.

All three are driven by patients’ metacognitive beliefs, such as the belief that these processes will help to solve problems, although the processes all ultimately have the unintentional consequence of prolonging distress. Of particular importance in the model are negative metacognitive beliefs, especially those concerning the uncontrollability and dangerousness of some thoughts. Executive functions are also believed to play a part in how the person can focus and refocus on certain thoughts and mental modes. These mental modes can be categorised as object mode and metacognitive mode, which refers to the different types of relationships people can have towards thoughts. All of the CAS, the metacognitive beliefs, the mental modes and the executive function together constitute the self-regulatory executive function model (S-REF). This is also known as the metacognitive model. In more recent work, Wells has described in greater detail a metacognitive control system of the S-REF aimed at advancing research and treatment using metacognitive therapy.

Therapeutic Intervention

MCT is a time-limited therapy which usually takes place between 8-12 sessions. The therapist uses discussions with the patient to discover their metacognitive beliefs, experiences and strategies. The therapist then shares the model with the patient, pointing out how their particular symptoms are caused and maintained.

Therapy then proceeds with the introduction of techniques tailored to the patient’s difficulties aimed at changing how the patient relates to thoughts and that bring extended thinking under control. Experiments are used to challenge metacognitive beliefs (e.g. “You believe that if you worry too much you will go ‘mad’ – let’s try worrying as much as possible for the next five minutes and see if there is any effect”) and strategies such as attentional training technique and detached mindfulness (this is a distinct strategy from various other mindfulness techniques).

Research

Clinical trials (including randomised controlled trials) have found MCT to produce large clinically significant improvements across a range of mental health disorders, although as of 2014 the total number of subjects studied is small and a meta-analysis concluded that further study is needed before strong conclusions can be drawn regarding effectiveness. A 2015 special issue of the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research was devoted to MCT research findings.

A 2018 meta-analysis confirmed the effectiveness of MCT in the treatment of a variety of psychological complaints with depression and anxiety showing high effect sizes. It concluded (Morina & Normann, 2018):

“Our findings indicate that MCT is an effective treatment for a range of psychological complaints. To date, strongest evidence exists for anxiety and depression. Current results suggest that MCT may be superior to other psychotherapies, including cognitive behavioral interventions. However, more trials with larger number of participants are needed in order to draw firm conclusions.”

In 2020, a study showed superior effectiveness in MCT over CBT in the treatment of depression. It summarised (Callesen et al., 2020):

“MCT appears promising and might offer a necessary advance in depression treatment, but there is insufficient evidence at present from adequately powered trials to assess the relative efficacy of MCT compared with CBT in depression.”

In 2018-2020, a research topic in the journal Frontiers in Psychology highlighted the growing experimental, clinical, and neuropsychological evidence base for MCT.

References

Morina, N. & Normann, N. (2018) The Efficacy of Metacognitive Therapy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. 9:2211. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02211.

Callesen, P., Reeves, D., Heal, C. & Wells, A. (2020) Metacognitive Therapy versus Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in Adults with Major Depression: A Parallel Single-Blind Randomised Trial. Scientific Reports. 10(1):7878.

Book: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – A CBT Guide To Theories & Professional Practice

Book Title:

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – A CBT Guide To Theories & Professional Practice.

Author(s): Bill Andrews.

Year: 2019.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Independently Published.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Here is finally a complete guide on CBT that is for the mental health practitioner as well as the clients. The guide is expansive on CBT with new ideas and suggestions for both clinical and non-professional settings.

The book’s main purpose will help you deliver:

  • Hacks for fast and effective treatments to most mental health issues.
  • A complete professional guide for mental health practitioners of all levels.
  • Detailed explanations and simple strategies anyone can help implement.
  • Effective uses including suggested therapies for most mental health disorders.

A well researched cognitive therapy guide explores powerful tools & suggested therapies, including everything you should know about CBT and it’s effective uses.

Both professional practitioner and even mental health novices can benefit from this power packed guide.

Finally you can deal with disorders in a fast and powerful way and we also include a complete range of important topics most other CBT guides omit like:

  • Changing Maladaptive Thinking.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Assessment Model Explanations.
  • Intervention & Treatment Analysis.
  • The Power of CBT: Removal of Erroneous Thinking.
  • Cognitive Distortion Made Whole.
  • Reducing Emotional Distress with CBT.
  • Modern CBT & the Latest Tools and More!

What is Cognitive Analytic Therapy?

Introduction

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) is a form of psychological therapy initially developed in the United Kingdom by Anthony Ryle.

This time-limited therapy was developed in the context of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) with the aim of providing effective and affordable psychological treatment which could be realistically provided in a resource constrained public health system. It is distinctive due to its intensive use of reformulation, its integration of cognitive and analytic practice and its collaborative nature, involving the patient very actively in their treatment.

The CAT practitioner aims to work with the patient to identify procedural sequences; chains of events, thoughts, emotions and motivations that explain how a target problem (for example self-harm) is established and maintained. In addition to the procedural sequence model, a second distinguishing feature of CAT is the use of reciprocal roles (RRs). These identify problems as occurring between people and not within the patient. RRs may be set up in early life and then be replayed in later life; for example someone who as a child felt neglected by parents perceived as abandoning might be vulnerable to feelings of abandonment in later life (or indeed neglect themselves).

Background

As the name implies, CAT evolved as an integrative therapy based on ideas from cognitive and analytic therapies. CAT was also influenced in part by George Kelly’s constructivism. Kelly had developed personal construct theory and the repertory grid method, and Kelly’s approach to therapy “offered a model of nonauthoritarian practice” that psychotherapist Anthony Ryle found appealing.

Ryle, a general practitioner and analytically trained psychotherapist, was undertaking research into psychotherapy practice using repertory grids in the 1970s. He found that the themes eventually addressed in analytic work were in fact present in transcripts from the very first sessions. However the slow, exploratory nature of traditional analytic therapy meant that these were not always addressed early and assertively, with the result that therapy, while effective, took a long time to produce results. In a 1979 paper, he proposed a shorter, more active form of therapy which integrated elements from cognitive therapy practice (such as goal setting and Socratic questioning) into analytic practice. This would include explicitly formulating the problems experienced by the patient, and sharing this formulation with the patient to engage them in psychotherapy as a co-operative enterprise.

Subsequently CAT has been influenced by ideas from the work of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky and Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. From Vygotsky come concepts such as the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and scaffolding. The ZPD implies that new tasks set for the patient (for example, tolerating anxiety about social situations) should extend what they do beyond their current capabilities, but only by a small and achievable amount. Scaffolding involves the therapist providing support for the patient’s efforts to change, but varying this level of support as the patient’s needs change.

Bakhtin provided concepts such as dialogism from which come techniques such as Dialogical Sequence Analysis. This is a structured attempt to identify and visually display sequences of behaviour, thinking, and emotions so that the patient becomes more aware of these and can start to modify them.

In Practice

The model emphasises collaborative work with the client, and focuses on the understanding of the patterns of maladaptive behaviours. The aim of the therapy is to enable the client to recognise these patterns, understand their origins, and subsequently to learn alternative strategies in order to cope better.

The approach is always time-limited, typically taking place over 8-24 weekly sessions (the precise number being agreed at the start of therapy). Sixteen sessions is probably the most common length. In the first quarter of the therapy (the Reformulation phase) the therapist collects all the relevant information, asking the patient about present day problems and also earlier life experiences. At that point the therapist writes a reformulation letter to the client. This letter summarises the therapist’s understanding of the client’s problems. Particular attention is given to understanding the connection between childhood patterns of behaviour and their impact on adult life. The letter is agreed between patient and therapist and forms the basis for the rest of the work.

After the reformulation letter the patient may be asked to complete diaries or rating sheets to record the occurrence of problems and their context. During this period (known as the Recognition phase) patient and therapist construct a diagrammatic formulation to illustrate the unhelpful procedures which maintain problems for the patient. The aim of this phase is to enable the patient to recognise when and how problems occur.

In the second half of the therapy work moves into the Revision phase, where patient and therapist identify and practice “exits” from the procedural diagram established in the previous phase. For example, a problematic procedure might move a patient from feeling angry to taking an overdose. An exit might involve expressing the anger in some way as an alternative to self-injuring behaviour.

At the end of the therapy, patient and therapist each write “goodbye letters” which they exchange, summarising what has been achieved in the therapy and what remains to be done. After the end of the agreed number of weekly sessions, planned follow-up sessions take place to monitor and support the changes that have been made. Typically, a 16-session CAT might be followed up by a single session one month after the end of therapy, and a final one three months later.

Evidence Base

CAT has been the subject of a number of research studies published in peer-reviewed journals. These include randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and other kinds of study. The approach is too new for any systematic reviews of RCTs to have been conducted, and therefore is not yet explicitly recommended by name by the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). However NICE has recommended that there should be further research of CAT, for example in borderline personality disorder. A review of CAT research evidence published in 2014 reported that although there were five randomised controlled trials published, research evidence into the approach was dominated by small-scale, practice-based studies. These tended to be with complex and severe clinical groups; 44% of studies reviewed involved personality disorder. A review of CAT looking back over the 30 years to its beginnings contains a meta-analysis of 11 outcome studies of CAT. The overall number of patients treated in the studies was 324 and the average effect size across all studies was 0.83 (95% confidence interval 0.66-1.00). This is a large effect and suggests that CAT is efficacious in treating mental health problems.

Evidence from Randomised Controlled Trials

CAT has been shown to lead to subjective improvement in people with anorexia nervosa. It has also been shown to produce significant improvements in adolescents with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. A different trial suggested that CAT for adult patients with personality disorders also showed improvements in symptoms and interpersonal functioning, as against controls who deteriorated on these measures. CAT has also been shown to improve patients’ management of diabetes. An RCT of the use of a CAT-informed assessment for young people who had self-harmed suggested that it was effective in increasing rates of attendance at community follow-up.

Evidence from Other Methodologies

Comparative studies have suggested CAT to be at least as effective as other forms of brief psychotherapy, person-centred therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.

Case series and single case studies have also been published describing the use of CAT in:

  • Depression.
  • Dissociative psychosis.
  • The treatment of offenders.
  • Brain injury.
  • Deliberate self-harm.
  • Dissociative identity disorder.
  • Histrionic personality disorder.
  • Panic disorder.
  • Psychological problems in multiple sclerosis.
  • With carers of people with dementia.
  • Morbid jealousy.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
  • Paranoid personality disorder.
  • Survivors of child sexual abuse.

What is Logotherapy?

Introduction

Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, on a concept based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life.

Frankl describes it as “the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” along with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology. Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Alfred Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.

A short introduction to this system is given in Frankl’s most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he outlines how his theories helped him to survive his Holocaust experience and how that experience further developed and reinforced his theories. Presently, there are a number of logotherapy institutes around the world.

Basic Principles

The notion of Logotherapy was created with the Greek word logos (“reason”). Frankl’s concept is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. The following list of tenets represents basic principles of logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stance we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

The human spirit is referred to in several of the assumptions of logotherapy, but the use of the term spirit is not “spiritual” or “religious”. In Frankl’s view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis, therefore, is on the search for meaning, which is not necessarily the search for God or any other supernatural being. Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity’s quest for meaning in life. He warns against “…affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism…” in the search for meaning.

Purpose in life and meaning in life constructs appeared in Frankl’s logotherapy writings with relation to existential vacuum and will to meaning, as well as others who have theorised about and defined positive psychological functioning. Frankl observed that it may be psychologically damaging when a person’s search for meaning is blocked. Positive life purpose and meaning was associated with strong religious beliefs, membership in groups, dedication to a cause, life values, and clear goals. Adult development and maturity theories include the purpose in life concept. Maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality which contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.

Frankl’s ideas were operationalized by Crumbaugh and Maholick’s Purpose in Life (PIL) test, which measures an individual’s meaning and purpose in life. With the test, investigators found that meaning in life mediated the relationships between religiosity and well-being; uncontrollable stress and substance use; depression and self-derogation. Crumbaugh found that the Seeking of Noetic Goals Test (SONG) is a complementary measure of the PIL. While the PIL measures the presence of meaning, the SONG measures orientation towards meaning. A low score in the PIL but a high score in the SONG, would predict a better outcome in the application of Logotherapy.

Discovering Meaning

According to Frankl, “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”. On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

“Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, “What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive without you?:” “Oh,” he said, “for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” Whereupon I replied, “You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her.” He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.

Frankl emphasized that realising the value of suffering is meaningful only when the first two creative possibilities are not available (for example, in a concentration camp) and only when such suffering is inevitable – he was not proposing that people suffer unnecessarily.

Philosophical Basis of Logotherapy

Frankl described the meta-clinical implications of logotherapy in his book The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. He believed that there is no psychotherapy apart from the theory of the individual. As an existential psychologist, he inherently disagreed with the “machine model” or “rat model”, as it undermines the human quality of humans. As a neurologist and psychiatrist, Frankl developed a unique view of determinism to coexist with the three basic pillars of logotherapy (the freedom of will). Though Frankl admitted that a person can never be free from every condition, such as, biological, sociological, or psychological determinants; based on his experience during his life in the Nazi concentration camps, he believed that a person is “capable of resisting and braving even the worst conditions”. In doing such, a person can detach from situations and themselves, choose an attitude about themselves, and determine their own determinants, thus shaping their own character and becoming responsible for themselves.

Logotherapeutic Views and Treatment

Overcoming Anxiety

By recognising the purpose of our circumstances, one can master anxiety. Anecdotes about this use of logotherapy are given by New York Times writer Tim Sanders, who explained how he uses its concept to relieve the stress of fellow airline travellers by asking them the purpose of their journey. When he does this, no matter how miserable they are, their whole demeanour changes, and they remain happy throughout the flight. Overall, Frankl believed that the anxious individual does not understand that their anxiety is the result of dealing with a sense of “unfulfilled responsibility” and ultimately a lack of meaning.

Treatment of Neurosis

Frankl cites two neurotic pathogens: hyper-intention, a forced intention toward some end which makes that end unattainable; and hyper-reflection, an excessive attention to oneself which stifles attempts to avoid the neurosis to which one thinks oneself predisposed. Frankl identified anticipatory anxiety, a fear of a given outcome which makes that outcome more likely. To relieve the anticipatory anxiety and treat the resulting neuroses, logotherapy offers paradoxical intention, wherein the patient intends to do the opposite of their hyper-intended goal.

A person, then, who fears (i.e. experiences anticipatory anxiety over) not getting a good night’s sleep may try too hard (that is, hyper-intend) to fall asleep, and this would hinder their ability to do so. A logotherapist would recommend, then, that the person go to bed and intentionally try not to fall asleep. This would relieve the anticipatory anxiety which kept the person awake in the first place, thus allowing them to fall asleep in an acceptable amount of time.

Depression

Viktor Frankl believed depression occurred at the psychological, physiological, and spiritual levels. At the psychological level, he believed that feelings of inadequacy stem from undertaking tasks beyond our abilities. At the physiological level, he recognised a “vital low”, which he defined as a “diminishment of physical energy”. Finally, Frankl believed that at the spiritual level, the depressed individual faces tension between who they actually are in relation to what they should be. Frankl refers to this as the gaping abyss. Finally Frankl suggests that if goals seem unreachable, an individual loses a sense of future and thus meaning resulting in depression. Thus logotherapy aims “to change the patient’s attitude toward their disease as well as toward their life as a task”.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Frankl believed that those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder lack the sense of completion that most other individuals possess. Instead of fighting the tendencies to repeat thoughts or actions, or focusing on changing the individual symptoms of the disease, the therapist should focus on “transform[ing] the neurotic’s attitude toward their neurosis”. Therefore, it is important to recognise that the patient is “not responsible for his obsessional ideas”, but that “he is certainly responsible for his attitude toward these ideas”. Frankl suggested that it is important for the patient to recognise their inclinations toward perfection as fate, and therefore, must learn to accept some degrees of uncertainty. Ultimately, following the premise of logotherapy, the patient must eventually ignore their obsessional thoughts and find meaning in their life despite such thoughts.

Schizophrenia

Though logotherapy was not intended to deal with severe disorders, Frankl believed that logotherapy could benefit even those suffering from schizophrenia. He recognised the roots of schizophrenia in physiological dysfunction. In this dysfunction, the person with schizophrenia “experiences himself as an object” rather than as a subject. Frankl suggested that a person with schizophrenia could be helped by logotherapy by first being taught to ignore voices and to end persistent self-observation. Then, during this same period, the person with schizophrenia must be led toward meaningful activity, as “even for the schizophrenic there remains that residue of freedom toward fate and toward the disease which man always possesses, no matter how ill he may be, in all situations and at every moment of life, to the very last”.

Terminally Ill Patients

In 1977, Terry Zuehlke and John Watkins conducted a study analysing the effectiveness of logotherapy in treating terminally ill patients. The study’s design used 20 male Veterans Administration volunteers who were randomly assigned to one of two possible treatments – (1) group that received 8 45-minute sessions over a 2-week period and (2) group used as control that received delayed treatment. Each group was tested on 5 scales – the MMPI K Scale, MMPI L Scale, Death Anxiety Scale, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, and the Purpose of Life Test. The results showed an overall significant difference between the control and treatment groups. While the univariate analyses showed that there were significant group differences in 3/5 of the dependent measures. These results confirm the idea that terminally ill patients can benefit from logotherapy in coping with death.

Forms of Treatment

Ecce Homo is a method used in logotherapy. It requires of the therapist to note the innate strengths that people have and how they have dealt with adversity and suffering in life. Despite everything a person may have gone through, they made the best of their suffering! Hence, Ecce Homo – Behold the Man!

Controversy

Authoritarianism

In 1969 Rollo May argued that logotherapy is, in essence, authoritarian. He suggested that Frankl’s therapy presents a plain solution to all of life’s problems, an assertion that would seem to undermine the complexity of human life itself. May contended that if a patient could not find their own meaning, Frankl would provide a goal for his patient. In effect, this would negate the patient’s personal responsibility, thus “diminish[ing] the patient as a person”. Frankl explicitly replied to May’s arguments through a written dialogue, sparked by Rabbi Reuven Bulka’s article “Is Logotherapy Authoritarian?”. Frankl responded that he combined the prescription of medication, if necessary, with logotherapy, to deal with the person’s psychological and emotional reaction to the illness, and highlighted areas of freedom and responsibility, where the person is free to search and to find meaning.

Religiousness

Critical views of the life of logotherapy’s founder and his work assume that Frankl’s religious background and experience of suffering guided his conception of meaning within the boundaries of the person and therefore that logotherapy is founded on Viktor Frankl’s worldview. Many researchers argue that logotherapy is not a “scientific” psychotherapeutic school in the traditional sense but a philosophy of life, a system of values, a secular religion which is not fully coherent and is based on questionable metaphysical premises.

Frankl openly spoke and wrote on religion and psychiatry, throughout his life, and specifically in his last book, Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning (1997). He asserted that every person has a spiritual unconscious, independently of religious views or beliefs, yet Frankl’s conception of the spiritual unconscious does not necessarily entail religiosity. In Frankl’s words: “It is true, Logotherapy, deals with the Logos; it deals with Meaning. Specifically, I see Logotherapy in helping others to see meaning in life. But we cannot “give” meaning to the life of others. And if this is true of meaning per se, how much does it hold for Ultimate Meaning?” The American Psychiatric Association awarded Viktor Frankl the 1985 Oskar Pfister Award (for important contributions to religion and psychiatry).

Recent Developments

Since the 1990s, the number of institutes providing education and training in logotherapy continues to increase worldwide. Numerous logotherapeutic concepts have been integrated and applied in different fields, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and burnout prevention. The logotherapeutic concepts of noogenic neurosis and existential crisis were added to the ICD 11 under the name demoralisation crisis, i.e. a construct that features hopelessness, meaninglessness, and existential distress as first described by Frankl in the 1950s. Logotherapy has also been associated with psychosomatic and physiological health benefits. Besides Logotherapy, other meaning-centred psychotherapeutic approaches such as positive psychology and meaning therapy have emerged. Paul Wong’s meaning therapy attempts to translate logotherapy into psychological mechanisms, integrating CBT, positive psychotherapy and the positive psychology research on meaning. Logotherapy is also being applied in the field of oncology and palliative care (William Breitbart). These recent developments introduce Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy to a new generation and extend its impact to new areas of research.

What is Relational Psychoanalysis?

Introduction

Relational psychoanalysis is a school of psychoanalysis in the United States that emphasizes the role of real and imagined relationships with others in mental disorder and psychotherapy. ‘Relational psychoanalysis is a relatively new and evolving school of psychoanalytic thought considered by its founders to represent a “paradigm shift” in psychoanalysis’.

Relational psychoanalysis began in the 1980s as an attempt to integrate interpersonal psychoanalysis’s emphasis on the detailed exploration of interpersonal interactions with British object relations theory’s ideas about the psychological importance of internalised relationships with other people. Relationalists argue that personality emerges from the matrix of early formative relationships with parents and other figures. Philosophically, relational psychoanalysis is closely allied with social constructionism.

Drives versus Relationships

An important difference between relational theory and traditional psychoanalytic thought is in its theory of motivation, which would ‘assign primary importance to real interpersonal relations, rather than to instinctual drives’. Freudian theory, with a few exceptions, proposes that human beings are motivated by sexual and aggressive drives. These drives are biologically rooted and innate. They are ultimately not shaped by experience.

Relationalists, on the other hand, argue that the primary motivation of the psyche is to be in relationships with others. As a consequence early relationships, usually with primary caregivers, shape one’s expectations about the way in which one’s needs are met. Therefore, desires and urges cannot be separated from the relational contexts in which they arise; motivation is then seen as being determined by the systemic interaction of a person and his or her relational world. Individuals attempt to re-create these early learned relationships in ongoing relationships that may have little or nothing to do with those early relationships. This re-creation of relational patterns serves to satisfy the individuals’ needs in a way that conforms with what they learned as infants. This re-creation is called an enactment.

Techniques

When treating patients, relational psychoanalysts stress a mixture of waiting and authentic spontaneity. Some relationally oriented psychoanalysts eschew the traditional Freudian emphasis on interpretation and free association, instead emphasising the importance of creating a lively, genuine relationship with the patient. However, many others place a great deal of importance on the Winnicottian concept of “holding” and are far more restrained in their approach, generally giving weight to well formulated interpretations made at what seems to be the proper time. Overall, relational analysts feel that psychotherapy works best when the therapist focuses on establishing a healing relationship with the patient, in addition to focusing on facilitating insight. They believe that in doing so, therapists break patients out of the repetitive patterns of relating to others that they believe maintain psychopathology. Noteworthy too is ‘the emphasis relational psychoanalysis places on the mutual construction of meaning in the analytic relationship’.

Authors

Stephen A. Mitchell has been described as the “most influential relational psychoanalyst”. His 1983 book, co-written with Jay Greenberg and called Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory is considered to be the first major work of relational psychoanalysis. Prior work especially by Sabina Spielrein in the 1910s to 1930s is often cited, particularly by Adrienne Harris and others who connect feminism with the field, but as part of the prior Freud/Jung/Spielrein tradition.

Other important relational authors include Neil Altman, Lewis Aron, Hugo Bleichmar, Philip Bromberg, Nancy Chodorow, Susan Coates, Jody Davies, Emmanuel Ghent, Adrienne Harris, Irwin Hirsch, Irwin Z. Hoffman, Karen Maroda, Stuart Pizer, Owen Renik, Ramón Riera, Daniel Schechter, Joyce Slochower, Martha Stark, Ruth Stein, Donnel Stern, Robert Stolorow, Jeremy D. Safran and Jessica Benjamin – the latter pursuing the ‘goal of creating a genuinely feminist and philosophically informed relational psychoanalysis’. A significant historian and philosophical contributor is Philip Cushman.

Criticisms

Psychoanalyst and philosopher Jon Mills has offered a number of substantial criticisms of the relational movement. Mills evidently thinks this “paradigm shift” to relational psychoanalysis is not exclusively due to theoretical differences with classical psychoanalysis but also arises from a certain group mentality and set of interests: “Relational psychoanalysis is an American phenomenon, with a politically powerful and advantageous group of members advocating for conceptual and technical reform” from a professional psychologist group perspective: “most identified relational analysts are psychologists, as are the founding professionals associated with initiating the relational movement”.

From a theoretical perspective, Mills appears to doubt that relational psychoanalysis is as radically new as it is touted to be. In its emphasis on the developmental importance of other people, according to Mills, “relational theory is merely stating the obvious” – picking up on “a point that Freud made explicit throughout his theoretical corpus, which becomes further emphasized more significantly by early object relations therapists through to contemporary self psychologists.” Mills also criticizes the diminishing or even the loss of the significance of the unconscious in relational psychoanalysis, a point he brings up in various parts of his book Conundrums.

Psychoanalyst and historian Henry Zvi Lothane has also criticised some of the central ideas of relational psychoanalysis, from both historical and psychoanalytic perspectives. Historically, Lothane believes relational theorists overstate the non-relational aspects of Freud as ignore its relational aspects. Lothane maintains that, though Freud’s theory of disorder is “monadic,” i.e. focused more or less exclusively on the individual, Freud’s psychoanalytic method and theory of clinical practice is consistently dyadic or relational. From a theoretical perspective, Lothane has criticised the term “relational” in favour of Harry Stack Sullivan’s term “interpersonal”. Lothane developed his concepts of “reciprocal free association” as well as “dramatology” as ways of understanding the interpersonal or relational dimension of psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalyst and philosopher Aner Govrin examines the heavy price psychoanalysis paid for adopting postmodernism as their preferred epistemology. He posits that only analysts who thought they “know the truth,” created classical, interpersonal, self-psychology, ego psychology, Kleinian, Bionian, Fairbairnian, Winiccottian and other schools of thought. While the relational tradition had made extraordinary and positive contributions to psychoanalysis, and its postmodern epistemology is indeed moderate, as a political movement the American relational tradition had unwanted psychological and sociological effects on psychoanalysis. This led to a severe decline in the positive image of knowledge that is crucial for the building of new theories. Led by the relational movement, but influenced by a much broader movement in western philosophy and culture, this impact has greatly influenced international psychoanalysis. It has led not only to the disparagement of the school era but also to the devaluation of any attempt to know the truth.

Adopting a more sympathetic line of criticism, Robin S. Brown suggests that while relational thinking has done much to challenge psychoanalytic dogmatism, excessively emphasizing the formative role of social relations can culminate in its own form of authoritarianism. Brown contends that the relational shift has insufficiently addressed the role of first principles, and that this tendency might be challenged by engaging analytical psychology.