coherence therapy

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Coherence therapy

Coherence therapy is based on the premise that whatever difficulty you are having makes sense on a deeper emotional level. In other words, it is coherent and not a sign of dysfunction or irrationality. Discovering this hidden sense is the key to deep and lasting change.

It was developed by Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley in the 1990's as they sought to understand what makes certain therapy sessions so much more effective than others. They undertook a detailed study of all sessions that led to significant improvement in their clients and found that there were specific qualities that made them different. They found that in those sessions, the therapist did nothing to try to overpower the symptom or to make it stop. Instead, in each of these sessions, the client had a powerful experience that the symptom -- which had seemed so irrational and dysfunctional -- actually made sense on a deeper level. Aware of the hidden sense of the symptom, they experienced deep and lasting changes.

While this approach may sound simple or even obvious, it is a significant departure from how most therapy is done. For the most part, the field of psychology currently looks at people and sees irrational thoughts, dysfunctional patterns and imbalanced chemicals. Coherence therapy sees intelligent human beings coping with difficult circumstances in ways that always make sense, even if the sense is hidden at the start of therapy.

Ecker and Hulley took these principles and designed a way of doing therapy that aims to facilitate the kinds of experiences that create deep change from the first session. What they found is that their clients were able to improve much more quickly and consistently by using these new methods.

This site offers some of the methods they created to the public for no charge. While seeing a trained coherence therapist is ideal because the exercises can be tailored to you specifically, we hope that you will benefit from these resources.

Recently, there has been some research into how coherence therapy may work with the brain's own mechanisms for change. A newly discovered process called reconsolidationcould hold the key to understanding the brain's role in these transformative experiences. Neuroscientists believe that reconsolidation may occur when someone experiences two incompatible things to be true at the same time. When that happens, one of them is completely transformed to maintain internal consistency. Amazingly, this process was described by Ecker and Hulley several years earlier and called transformative juxtaposition. It is the basis for how change happens once the hidden sense of a symptom is discovered. For example, someone may discover that the purpose of his anxiety is to keep him safe. Once he has connected with that, it is now possible to experience "anxiety keeps me safe" and "anxiety doesn't keep me safe" as true at the same time. If there are no other complicating factors, "anxiety keeps me
safe" will completely cease to feel true or real, and the neural circuits storing it will be reconsolidated. If that was the only purpose he had for feeling anxious, then his anxiety would be gone as well. While there is a lot of evidence to support this conclusion, more research needs to be done to know for sure.

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copyright © 2007 Coherence Counseling, MA. Last updated 07October2008.