The Misuse of Reassurance and Release

Most clients arrive in therapy eager to talk about problems.  This is informative briefly. for the therapist, but also a release of tension and anxiety for the client. The ‘expected response’ is reassurance from the therapist. I would say that the majority of masters-level therapy in the US is based on reassurance and problem talk. Some better-trained or more deeply understanding therapists do withhold reassurance so that the client must seek a different avenue of relief for anxiety.

However, it can be very difficult to move away from problem-talk format. Anxiety can be released temporarily by conversations about dangers and fear. However, this also just strengthens anxiety circuits in the limbic system and brainstem much like repetitive resistance training of the same muscle. Imbalance increases in the long run. It can be likened to an addictive process.

Now I am not advocating any type of ‘positive thinking’ model. Such an approach is dissociative at most and usually just an act of pretending.

The real core of change is developing new motor-recruitment patterns, which together with sensory development leads to new experience, perhaps even new experience-recruitment patterns. Where new experience comes about, new behavior patterns, if desireable, are practically self-installing.

Majid Ali, MD, who I cited in the last post, has a blog post of his own that makes a similar point:

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