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The mystery of Transformational therapy

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it is going to be a butterfly. --Buckminster Fuller, architect and engineer

This quote applies to "transformational" therapies, which are focused on building tools for a better future, rather than simply getting rid of symptoms in the present. When we build tools for a better future, the client(s) automatically begin to use them to solve problems in the present, and symptoms actually go away faster. The past begins to stop mattering. The client could have imagined that perhaps problems would be solved in therapy, but never could have imagined this "butterfly," a completely new experience of life.

I used a picture and quote related to the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, because "metamorphosis" is a transformation in which there is a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as if by magic ( Wouldn't you like for your therapy to be like that?

One example of transformational therapy is Gottman method marriage therapy. Couples cannot imagine what it would be like to have a healthy marriage. They can imagine (with understandable longing) that it would be wonderful to just stop arguing, get along, and raise the children in a peaceful environment. But just like the caterpillar, you can't imagine what you've never seen. That applies to the way you were raised as much as to your current therapy. Gottman method marriage therapy is transformational in that a new understanding of marriage emerges from the cocoon--a butterfly, not a better caterpillar--and can take flight. New relational patterns set the stage for a completely different and wonderful experience of intimacy.

Another example of transformational therapy is EMDR, a therapy I commonly blog about, which is used mainly to treat trauma/abuse/PTSD. Some initial explanation is needed. When there is trauma, especially early trauma, what holds it in place and makes it raw like it happened yesterday? The answer is not the symptoms themselves. The symptoms have to come from somewhere. The answer, which EMDR proves to be correct, is that trauma creates deeply held negative beliefs about the self and the world, "musts" such as "I should have done something," or "I'm permanently damaged," or "I can't trust anyone," or even "love isn't love unless it hurts." A person may not believe these on a "head" level--but the symptoms don't occur on a head level, or else therapy wouldn't be needed, people could just "talk it out," which we know doesn't work.

So EMDR works by reprocessing this negative belief into a realistic positive belief, but this is where the transformational aspect comes in. Initially, the client chooses a positive belief that, if it were possible, they would like to have come up when they remember the traumatic memory, as opposed to the negative belief. The client usually chooses a realistic opposite, such as "It wasn't my fault," or "There are people I can trust." However, through the transformational aspect of EMDR, in which the future becomes full of possibility that could not have ever been imagined by a traumatized mind, the change is more profound. When the traumatic memory is resolved, the positive belief has changed into something much more personal, confident, powerful, and independent, reflecting not just healing but a better future. Examples based on transformation of the above positive statements in this paragraph would be, "I can make choices confidently," and "I can choose who to trust." Another example would be the movement from the positive "Other people's actions don't define me," to the transformed belief, "I am creating a new and beautiful chapter in my life." It is so much more personal and action-oriented.

So why wait? Check out other entries on this blog for aspects of this discussion. Hopefully I will soon have more blog entries on Gottman method marriage therapy.

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