The Journey of Psychotherapy
There are many types of psychotherapies, and each separate type of therapy targets one type of system or area of functioning of a person. However, we are made up of many memory and information processing systems (cognitive, emotional, behavioural, somatic, attachment, narrative, etc.). These need to be comprehensively addressed for optimal therapeutic change. This then necessitates an integrative approach where all the systems and areas of functioning are addressed. My counselling approach attempts to address these systems in both the experiential (implicit) type of processing and the more verbal and conscious (explicit) type of processing so that integration of the two occurs. The main goal of psychotherapy is to bridge the gap between maladaptive implicit memories of experiences with more adaptive ways of thinking, feeling, behaving, and relating in the present. This process is called integration.
Traditional therapy (talk therapy) tends to focus on just the verbal forms and leaves the experiential forms largely on the sidelines. However, the explicit form is of great significance too because making what was implicit explicit brings the previously dissociated memories into cortical control that allows processing, inhibition, and organization of impulses, reflexes, and emotions. However, it seems that ‘talk therapy’ must also combine action and adaptive simulated lived experience in order to impact the experiential memory systems (i.e., somatic-sensory, motor, and emotional). The experiential memory systems are the first to arise in development and form most of the information processing that occurs, which happens outside of conscious awareness.
To some extent there seems to be a reciprocal impact of the memory systems on one another. This is not to say that the cognitive can form an experiential memory proper, but it can produce greater awareness of that domain and have limited interrelated effects (within the sphere of its function) on one another. For example, cognitions can trigger emotions; emotions can elicit cognitions; impulses elicit emotions; emotions and impulses can lead to behaviour. The limitations of the interrelation is their ability to form memories in that domain and the presence or absence of embodied experiences and action. This presence or absence can be reflected by whether it is associated with the right or left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is more tied with emotion, and somatic-sensory memories, and the left with more analytical, logical, and sequential tendencies. Trauma can form faster but this is to do with fear and a generalized interpretation, and we are trying to form a positive, contexualized interpretation.
The first step in therapy is to learn about the brain and how your mind reflects the brain’s processes so that you know how best to influence your mind. The second step is to learn the processes for implementing the interventions. The third step is to learn how to foster neuroplasticity. And the fourth step is learning the stress management so you can remain regulated during exploration and repair of implicit memories. The fifth step is learning principles for implementing. This is called self-directed neuroplasticity.
This is important so you can create lasting therapeutic change. Because the type of memory that we need to change is more experiential in nature we need to make the healing process reflect lived experience which heavily involves the more procedural, emotional, and somatic (body) types of memory processes - in addition to the important language-based processes as well that are part of our lived experience. The experiential processes tend to be less focused on in traditional therapy so an emphasis on impacting these through experiential interventions is made.
Self-directed neuroplasticity can be used for therapeutic intervention or even when simply wanting to deepen a positive experience in daily life and make it stick in your implicit memory more. Over time this can help contribute to a more positive and adaptive background mood.
I also teach you how to work with the natural tendencies of your brain, such as the generalizing tendency and the negativity bias so that you can even more clearly and effectively think, feel, behave, and relate better with others. I also show clients how to cope with and resolve psychological issues that originate from past experiences that have stuck with them in unconscious (implicit memory). If you are ready for the journey, no need to pack your bags, our job is to help you lighten the burden and clear your path to happiness, peace, and well-being.
Until next time, keep up the excellent work on your journey in counselling!
Alistair Gordon, M.A., R.C.C.
Registered Clinical Counsellor #13561