There are many therapeutic approaches that Clinical Psychologists may use to help individuals with their presenting problems. These approaches can be used independently but it is not unusual for a therapist to use a combination of techniques from different therapeutic models. I prefer to be flexible in the application of therapy and use ideas from different psychological models, which include the following.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
EMDR is a therapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Research on EMDR therapy has demonstrated that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works naturally to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, the wound will persist and cause you pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with our psychological processes. The brain as information processing system naturally moves toward mental health; however, if our processing system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound persists and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy
The process of a CAT focused therapy is to identify patterns of relating to others and ourselves and explore the effect these patterns are having on our relationships, our lives and how we view ourselves. Using this understanding the therapy then explores the ways in which you have learned to cope with what has happened in your life and think through whether there are different ways of coping that might improve your life and relationships.
“Narrative therapy seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counseling and community work, which centers people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives.” From “What is Narrative Therapy? An easy-to-read introduction by Alice Morgan.
A Narrative approach recognizes how dominant social and cultural beliefs and practices can influence individuals to develop a problem saturated story about their identity and possibilities for their future. One of the aims of this approach is to look out for examples of the alternative stories of a preferred identity during therapeutic conversations and work towards building a thicker description of this preferred identity and open up possibilities for change in a more desired direction.
Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP)
The Safe and Sound Protocol by iLs (Integrated Listening Systems) is an evidence-based intensive 5 hour listening programme application of Polyvagal Theory, developed by neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges, and is designed for children, adolescents and adults who are experiencing:
- Social and emotional difficulties
- Auditory and sensory sensitivities (such as Misophonia)
- Anxiety and / or trauma
The SSP has been created as a technology that promotes a sense of safety, calmness, emotional regulation, enhanced sleep and improved social engagement, among many other benefits.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
ACT is a mindfulness based behavioural therapy that uses a mixture of metaphor, mindfulness techniques, experiential exercises and values-based behavioural interventions. ACT believes that psychological improvements come from accepting what is out of your personal control and committing to action that enriches your life. The ACT approach teaches individuals psychological skills to respond to painful thoughts and feelings in a way that may reduce their distressing impact and influence. In conjunction with this, ACT also focuses on clarifying what is meaningful to individuals and then applies that knowledge to guide positive change.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
A CBT approach looks at how an individual thinks about a situation and how this in turn affects how an individual acts. CBT also focuses on how our actions can affect how we think and feel. Psychological problems are thought to arise when individuals become locked into unhelpful patterns of interpreting themselves, the world and the future as well as unhelpful behaviours in response to these interpretations. The individual’s perspective and behaviours are the main focuses of CBT. The therapist and client work toward changing the client’s behaviours, or their thinking patterns, or both of these.
Solution Focused Therapy
A Solution Focused approach concentrates on what clients want to achieve through therapy, rather than on the problem(s) they are currently experiencing. The approach does not focus on the past, but instead looks at the present and what a preferred future would look like if the problem did not exist. Part of this approach aims for the therapist and client to discover ‘exceptions’, which are the actions an individual is already doing that might contribute to the resolution of the problem. Exploration of what life would be like without the problem and about what is happening in the present that helps to create distance from the problem is thought to facilitate a clearer understanding of the direction of therapeutic goals.
The application of mindfulness techniques aims to focus an individual’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly and non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness practitioners believe that by turning towards the present moment individuals can learn more about their inner world and use this awareness to respond in new and preferred ways to situations. The Buddhist origins of Mindfulness practice has been around for thousands of years and has recently gained popularity and scientific evidence of its potential for helping individuals to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, manage a wide range of physical conditions, and for general wellbeing.