Perhaps the title of the workshop should have been The Coherence Therapy Model rather than the Neuroscience of Transformation as the day was focused on the theory and practice of the Coherence Model. A huge amount of information was given to us so this review attempts to focus on the bare bones of the approach.
This review is based mostly on the article in Therapy Today in March 2014 entitled ‘Remembering in order to Forget’ that our speaker, Paul Sibson, wrote about Coherence Therapy. This very readable article has been sent to you along with the bulletin. I find that the article, being shorter than all the hand-outs, is easier for me to process and write about than the many pages of hand-outs we were given, useful though they are.
In this article Paul Sibson wrote that ‘Since 2004, Neuroscience has evidenced the specific experiential steps required to first unlock the emotional memories in the brain and then permanently modify or erase them’
The Three Steps that Coherence Therapy describes are:
- The Accessing Sequence
- The Transformation Sequence
- The Verification Phase
- Accessing Sequence: In short the client is helped to reveal the symptom and the underlying In Paul’s article, the client finds she is unable to leave the mother’s home (symptom) and this is due to childhood experience which has led her to the belief that if she leaves the mother’s home, the mother will die. (schema)
- The Transformation Sequence: The client is repeatedly shown that the schema is at variance with current reality, and this bumping together of an out-of-date schema with current reality leads to an eventual collapse of the schema. In neuro-scientific language, ‘the synaptic encoding of the old learning is replaced by the synaptic encoding of the new learning.’ (Gosh! How strong is the evidence for this I wonder.)
- The Transformation Sequence ‘permanently dissolves the emotional learnings responsible for symptom production.’ (Gosh again!) ‘Verification involves actively probing for key markers that this process is complete and can be observed in the clients’ self-reports and ways of being.’ This certainly seemed to be the case in the videos of client work that we saw in the workshop. It would have been great if Paul had been able to do a demonstration on the day with one of us participants. That might have had more face validity! You can see some work on video on the link at the end of this review.
I like this simple three stage model of effective counselling/psychotherapy though I find myself resisting the suggestion that it is brand new and I do wonder about the claim that there is solid neuro-scientific evidence behind it. I am always a bit wary of new approaches or conceptions suggesting that they are a complete break from the past or an indispensable way of looking at psychotherapy.
However, I like the positive approach of Coherence Therapy and its essentially person-centred attitude. Perhaps though it is over-selling or even mis-selling itself as fundamentally different from ‘conventional therapy.’ After all, the stages of accessing the client’s symptoms and back story, challenging unhelpful and repeated patterns and scripts, and attempting to root change in a healthier life for the client, are central it seems to me to almost all counselling/psychotherapy approaches.
Feedback from participants about the day was very positive and I think we all enjoyed the warm, human, open and knowledgeable approach that Paul brought to the day. He was also very confident in the model he was presenting. There were lots of practical tools on offer too with regard to the work of the three stages. Many participants felt it will be possible to integrate this Coherence Therapy model and its practical techniques into their own work.
Thank you Paul for an enjoyable and inspiring day.
Here is a good video introduction that Paul recommends. Copy and paste it in your address bar if you would like to watch it.