Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is Showing Emotion Appropriate?

     If we were to split up the practitioners of psychotherapy into to distinct groups, I think that one criterion that splits them might have to do with the relationship the therapist has with emotion. Better said: Will the facilitator allow himself or herself to feel with/due to the client? Feeling takes real energy from the practitioner that can manifest later or can crop up outside the relationship. It could also be a subjective marker for the client. Does feeling help the therapy process? Perhaps feeling leads to ethical dilemmas. Many of those sound, negative but assuredly there is much that is positive here.
     As far as different theories are concerned, I think that we can all agree that fundamentalist clinicians, if such a thing were to exist, would come down on one side of this argument. More humanistic practitioners would describe the importance of being in the  moment with the client, experiencing what they are experiencing to some degree. More cognitive therapists, by nature, would eschew such tactics and really heavily on the thought process of the client. Both the nature of the therapy and role of the clinician as expert would not really allow the therapist the space to identify the clients/their own emotional circumstances.
     Were the therapist to allow himself or herself to feel, would there be any negative side effects in the session? Sure, emotions can be distracting. The clinician must not only track and pursue the emotions of the client, but must also keep a tight hold on his or her own feelings. These could cloud the counselor's judgement, disallowing good therapy to occur. It is very possible that, based on a clinician's own past, an intervention could fail. Feeling also takes up energy that the therapist could use thinking, filling out paperwork, or relaxing.
     The client must e taken into account as well. Does he or she respect the emotional spectrum? Is there a previous diagnosis that precludes accessing emotional data? Just as the style of therapy should match the therapist, of course that same style should match the client. There are some who either militantly do not wish to access their emotions, or are so cognitive that emotions play little part in their lives. With these clients, showing what the therapist feels would be uncomfortable and, for them, almost bordering on inappropriate.
     Feeling emotions is one thing, but showing them is altogether different. While the argument for or against showing emotions is not over, I'd like to cover this. Some clients would like the therapist to show some kind of emotion - this could vary from a slight pinching in the eyes  in empathetic pain, to openly weeping.  Personally, I would say that the former is better than the latter. There are some clients that might take advantage of the therapist of the latter emotional persuasion. Covering up emotions can also take up important time and energy that could be used for other things.
     Opinion time: I am an advocate of the therapist feeling in session. There are some definite negative possibilities to the equation there, though. A therapist can choose to act on the feelings, engaging in either predatory, maleficent, or sexual acts with the client. This probably isn't the best option. Some other negatives are listed above. Emotional therapists can also use their feelings as tools. They can deduce, though their own state, what the clients if feeling. They can also attempt to use this superpower to try to predict behavior.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

REBT as Technique, not Therapy or The Disadvantage of Logic in Therapy

     I think a lot about the elegance of certain psychotherapeutic theories. One that comes up quite a bit is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Certainly it is a very elegant theory. The way Ellis connects thoughts, beliefs, and feelings through the use of logic is a great technique. It is the logic part that we must discuss.
     Ellis was a very logical guy. He used that innate logic, coupled with a review of some philosophy, to create REBT. This is all well and good, but we must ask ourselves whether a theory based strictly upon logic is good. Most of our clients are "stuck." Their "logic processes" are malfunctioning and they need someone to help these processors get up and running again. It seems to me that logicking a client to death might be somewhat counterproductive.
     As we know, Ellis simplifies REBT through the use of the alphabet. "A" means activating event or antecedent, representing an event that has occurred that "sets off" the following behaviors. "B" means irrational/illogical belief - we'll come back to this. "C" is an emotional consequence that is normally negative (and thus the reason someone is coming to therapy). Ellis said that many people that outside situations or actions (A) affect them, created their distress (C). What they failed to grasp is the ever elusive B. The person's illogical belief, their interpretation, of A led to their disturbance. He would dispute (D) their thought pattern until they saw the light.
     Disputing, in my view, can only go so far. This is especially true when the disputer talks from a standpoint of expertise. This tends to sound high and might to many clients, which can undermine any helpful tendencies of therapy. I think that it might be better to work with the client and that disputing a claim rather than discussing it is probably an incorrect approach.
     I know I wrote that a theory based strictly upon logic probably isn't all that great. I would like to explain this. A lot of other theory is very metaphor-based, meaning that, to some degree, it is constructed with a good amount of wiggle room and space for project and interpretation. It leaves room for interpretation. REBT does not. It espouses an idea of total correctness. Is it correct? In its limited scope, yes. But there is much more to psychotherapy, "stuckness," and a client than the relationship between beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.
     I think that REBT is better categorized not as a psychotherapeutic discipline, but rather as an effective group of techniques whose goal is to use psychoeducational techniques to help clients with their understanding of basic relationships between beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Interplay between Thoughts, Emotions, and Beliefs

     I think that it's about time to struggle through the trinity of experience explainers.  This trinity, is, of course, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  To some degree, I think that behaviors should be thought of as part of that system, but behaviors don't explain, they are the explanations.  Better said: behaviors are the end result of feelings, beliefs, or thoughts - they are the effect to thoughts', feelings', and beliefs' cause.  I think that there is very little that can be described as "pure behavior."  One could cite reaction as pure behavior, but something started or informed such action - some previous thought, deep feeling, or belief.  The experience explainers are precursors to all behavior as action cannot occur without thought or due to some deeply-rooted feeling or belief.
     So what is the difference between these three states?  Where do they come from?  How are they linked?  How/why are they so easily misunderstood or mislabeled?  First, I'll try to define each one.  1) Thoughts:  Thoughts are reason in electrical form.  A true thought is complete, meaning that its very reason for existing is known.  It exists in order to explain, or help explain, something.  A thought is refined.  Thoughts are created when problems are introduced  and a reasoning chain is used to overcome it.  Logic can be used to develop a thought, but there are indeed many that are formed without its consent.
     2) Feelings:  Feeling are  much more primal than thoughts.  The previously-mentioned reactions have more to do with feelings than they do with thoughts.  Just as thoughts are refined through some kind of process, feelings most often aren't, or, perhaps, can't be.  To think through a feeling strips it of its raw, primal nature, and transforms it, by definition, into a thought.  In this way, we can say that feelings are precursors to thoughts.  Whereas thoughts are a very cerebral ornament, feelings are less so.  I very much hesitate to say that they are reptilian, as I do not know for sure if reptiles or similarly "un-evolved" animals have the capacity for higher-order feelings.  Feelings can be based on the old adage of "mad, sad, bad, glad."  Most feelings can be added to one of these headings.  Feelings are created when an experience upsets or supports previously-held beliefs.
     3) Beliefs:  I think that beliefs are some of the most interesting constructs we know about.  Beliefs are thoughts without evidence.  One believes something only when a thought is impossible because reasoning cannot adequately occur.  One must take a belief on faith.  I don't really mean the same faith as religion, but a similar one that requires adherence without proof.  Beliefs are inherently illogical.  Logicality is the domain of thought.  Violating a belief normally causes a negative feeling.
     REBT would tell us that when we experience something less than savory, a belief is called into question, leaving us with a bitter feeling.  It is only through complete and logical thought that the healing process can occur.  I think that this makes sense, but that the CBTers are speaking to their boathouse on this one.  OF COURSE thought would be the end result for a cognitive therapist.  Emotion-focused theorists think that the examination of feelings (rather than the interplay under REBT) are the true path to understanding the self.  Beliefs, it seems to me, are the jurisdiction of none (at least in the sense of this post).
     I think that beliefs have no part in therapy or in everyday life.  Beliefs are abstract, not thought through, and due to a lack of evidence, can really get a client into trouble.  To some degree, I think that it is a therapist's job to help a client explore their beliefs and discard those that are so illogical that thought is not permitted and feelings run rampant.