The trigonometry of effective therapy.

3 min read
23 Jan

I frequently find confusion from prospective clients about how can therapy help and which modality applies best to them. This confusion has filled me with doubt in the past as well, how do I know I can really help this client?

There are three principles that in my experience ensure progress and ultimate success in psycotherapy, these fundamentals work in sinergy ( each one enhancing the other) and we need to keep them in mind on every session. They present a kind of trigonometry of successful therapy that transcends therapy modalities and personality differences as this framework includes all of them.

The three principles work because they are in sync of universal principles that sustain wellbeing and progress. There are many prestigious authors and reputed studies that agree there are identifiable universal principles behind progress. A principle is a logical concept that brings a value (emotional ideal) into fruition. The three principles I have identified as more relevant to therapy are the principles of promoting truth, love and empowerment.

In physics there is consensus that all things tend towards entropy (chaos and decay) unless there is a system destined to improve its parts (Negentropy). Life is considered to be negentropic, so is the Solar System, societies and  (returning to our topic) so should be effective therapy .

First principle : Promoting love. This  is how I label the client/ therapist dynamic characterised by safety, trust, congruence, respect and expression.

Without this first pillar little or no therapeutic benefits are to be expected.

Carl Rogers, one of the fathers of humanistic psychology,  called it the 3 conditions for therapeutic change : congruence ( genuiness) , unconditional positive regard ( acceptance) and accurate empathy. He concluded that only through these conditions therapeutic progress can develop

These 3 conditions, which I call promoting love (for simplification) are the first pillar for effective counselling.

Second principle: Promoting truth. Can only develop if previous pillar exists. Promoting truth is comitting to an expression of what is real, real as in what is really being thought and felt: encouraging a flow of expression of the clients subjective reality.

This expression often brings aliveness to client as it allows for energy of client to become unstucked. It allows the processing of emotions and often brings renewed clarity. Without getting in touch with ones thoughts and feelings, further action will likely reinforce whatever negative pattern the client is already experiencing. 

Clarity precedes inspiration and healthy action. Lack of clarity impairs motivation significantly. Exploration of one´s subejtive truth is what brings clarity. The role of the therapist is to encourage and validate the expression of subjective reality.

The final aim is for client to realise negative patters lose powers once they are clarified and expressed, and that those negative patterns offer an opportunity to follow a path of psychological integration. In a way this is what Carl Jung refered as making the unconscious conscious, so that then the uncsoncious stop running our lives freeing the requiered energy for the conscious to take over.

These exploration of thinking and feeling must be a benign one, aimed at understanding and accepting current feelings and thoughts. The intention is not to censor or correct but to discover and restructure. (Negentropy).

The third principle of promoting empowerment, usually crystallises  on an agreed technique/interevention. In my experience. what works best,  is selcting a variety of techniques applied to different aspect of the client´s life.

I identify six main dimensions of a persons life: cognitive, emotional,physical, spiritual, social and general lifestyle. What follows are examples of strategies that can applied to each area. The art of the therapy is in finding the combination of techniques that  matches best the client.

Cognitive: CBT (identifying dysfunctional beliefs and their functional update), Mindfulness, journaling, Internal family systems, Hypnosis, TA...

Emotional: ACT (ability to accept emotions and commit to right action), Focusing( locating emotions in body and relating to them),  cathartic practices (art),  trauma release techniques , Inner-child therapy, rehearsing desired emotions, shadow work...

Physical: breath work, somatic therapy, exercise, nutrition, rest, accupuncture, yoga, EFT...

Spiritual: revising life´s meaning, connecting to one´s purpose, identifying transpersonal beliefs, faith/religion...

Social: social skills, tackling toxic relationships, social ecosystem, belonging to community or to networks...

Lifestyle: how our current habits or lifestyle impacts on the previous areas for us and for those around us.

The triad of effective therapy that allows us to intervene in  6 the dimensions of a person´s life,  will create a pattern of progress that can be described as another trigonometry, a sort of second order triangle that involves the felt experience of : safety (in one-self and others), self-worth and competency (ocurring when one person feels safe and worthy to persevere in a task/skill which then leads to confidence).

Once the client attains this second level triangle  there will be a third-level triangle of development in which the person becomes transpersonal : altruism (focuses on enhancing wellbeing of others), purpose (firm commitment to one or several causes) and  spiritual development.

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