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The Science of Self Help Therapy

Our Self-Help programme for mental health problems involves learning a range of scientifically proven tools and techniques derived from Cognitive Psychology, Self-Determination Theory, Social Psychology and Attribution Theory.

Not everybody suffering from mental health problems needs to visit a therapist to overcome their problem.

Research indicates that Self-Help programmes can be as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy and offer a number of advantages over them including the ability to make changes in your own time and in your own home.

The science of self help

Therapy is Just a Conversation!

Psychotherapy is best described as a ‘relational act’.

What this means is that it involves people ‘relating’ to each other.

When a therapist and a patient (client) participate in a therapy ‘session’ they do NOTHING more than just talk.

The therapist talks to the client and the client talks to the therapist.

The therapist might suggest that the client could ‘think about’ or ‘make sense’ of their current personal circumstances in ‘different’ ways and if the client is able to do this and change the way that they think about things, then they will invariably feel quite differently (and hopefully more positively) about their ‘problem’.

You could call this conversation almost anything you like such as:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
  • EMDR
  • Hypnosis
  • Gestalt Therapy
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Any other of over 400 talking therapy ‘types’

The only real difference between any of the talking therapies is that the ‘words’ that the therapist chooses to ‘speak out loud’ to the client differ according to the model of therapy being used.

If the therapist and the client are both English, then all of the ‘therapy words’ are going to be part of the English language.

There will not be any ‘magical’ words that will somehow make the clients brain chemistry change without the client knowing about it, just words out of the available stock of English words!

It should be apparent, therefore, to any reader, that therapy is nothing more than a conversation between two people in which English words (or the common language being used by the therapist and client) are used to communicate a set of ideas and beliefs.

The science of self help therapy banner- sometimes you win sometimes you learn

Therapy is the Acquisition of New Knowledge.

Given that it is widely recognised that talking therapies DO help people to overcome a wide range of problems, the question then becomes HOW does talking to someone in a room result in one of the recipients (the client) FEELING differently about their lives?

The answer to this question is very simple.

As a result of the conversation with the therapist, the client learns ‘new’ things about themselves including the meanings that they have attributed to their life experiences (what things mean) as well as how some of the ways that they have traditionally tried to cope with their problem may have actually made the problem worse (avoidance and safety behaviours).

In summary, the client acquires NEW KNOWLEDGE.

Change is the Application of New Knowledge.

On its own, this new knowledge that the client acquires will do NOTHING.

It is nothing more than a set of ideas stored in the brain of the client in the same way that knowing how a car works and driving a car are completely different things.

Successfully driving a car requires applying the knowledge that one has about how cars work in a practical way.

In other words, sitting in the driving seat and operating all of the required controls that lead to the car moving, safely, from A to B.

The only way to ‘feel’ differently about a problem, is to use the new knowledge that is acquired during the therapy conversation in a practical way.

You could call this adopting new behaviours (actions).

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Therapy Doesn’t DO Anything TO a Person.

Despite the claims that are made by the inventors of the (currently) 400+ different ‘talking therapies’, NONE have proven to be more effective than any others in helping people overcome mental health problems.

Remember, no matter what ‘super special’ technique is claimed for a type of therapy, ALL of them are nothing more than a conversation between two people.

No magical forces fly through the air from the therapist to the client.

The Most Important Outcome Influencer in Therapy is the Client.

So, if the ‘type’ of therapy isn’t what brings about change in the way the client feels, then what does?

Research in this area has been significant over the last 50 years and what we know today (at least within the scientifically informed academic community) is that the ‘outcome’ of the therapeutic encounter (the conversation) is determined by the following factors:

  • Completely unknown factors – 40%
  • What the client ‘brings to the table’ – 30%
  • The relationship between the therapist and client – 12%
  • The technical words used in the conversation (the ‘technique) – 8%
  • The ‘skill’ of the therapist – 7%
  • Various other factors such as ‘time’ – 3%

Just to give the significance to that data in case it is not clear; 70% of the factors that contribute to a person overcoming a mental health problem have got absolutely NOTHING to do with the process of therapy.

Of the factors that have been positively identified as being significant in bringing about change to a person’s mental health, it is the person themselves that is most significant.

The type of therapy, the skill of the therapist and the quality of the relationship between the client and the therapist only provides the client with new knowledge.

If the client does not do anything with this new knowledge, the entire (therapy) conversation will have no effect whatsoever.

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Do I need a Therapist to Give Me the New Knowledge?

No, absolutely not.

New knowledge can be acquired by many different routes that do not require another human being to be present, including:

  • Knowledge contained from written words.
  • Knowledge gained from new experiences.
  • Knowledge gained from watching videos or other visual materials.

There is no difference between the knowledge one acquires through a book than that acquired by listening to somebody speaking.

What’s the Difference Between Self-Help Therapy and Therapy with a Therapist?

The principal difference between the knowledge acquired through self-help therapy and that provided by a therapist is that a therapist is able to determine if the client is APPLYING the new knowledge to their problem.

This is principally determined by asking the client if they ‘feel’ any different since they acquired this new knowledge.

In other words, the therapist will observe if the client is BEHAVING differently as this will be the best indicator that they have APPLIED what they have learnt to their problem.

We could say, therefore, that the process of therapy involves providing and monitoring the acquisition and application of new knowledge by the client. You could call this ‘overcoming’ the problem.

The acquisition and practical application of new knowledge gleaned from the self-help therapy context is not monitored or measured by any third party (a therapist) and so self-monitoring has to be used.

This is normally achieved by a number of methods:

  • Checking the level of understanding of any new knowledge that is acquired (knowledge testing).
  • Comparing old and new behaviours (monitoring the application of new knowledge)
  • Monitoring and measuring one’s feelings (checking behavioural outcomes).

In this sense, self-help therapy courses involve you acting as your own therapist.

In fact, is our assertion (based on sound academic research) that ALL therapy is ultimately self-help therapy (in that 70% of change is down to the client).

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About the Course Author

Paul is an academic and practicing psychologist with both a BSc. (Hons) and a Master’s MSc. (Distinction) degree in Applied Psychology.

Master Psychologist Paul Lee

He has been offering clinical psychology and counselling to private clients along with a small team of therapists from the Tranceform Psychology offices in Wombourne near Wolverhampton since 2009.

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