The use of irrational practices in psychotherapy is a topical issue with no clear answer. Evidence-based research suggests that many techniques, even those without scientifically proven effectiveness, are considered to work both by clients and their therapists. Moreover, while articles on comparative psychotherapy often mention an “equivalence paradox,” there is little indication of which methods work for which type of patient. For psychotherapy to be considered a science, it is essential to question the use of irrational practices, such as death treatment or systemic constellations because, while these approaches may help some sufferers, they are not based on rational worldviews. Other examples of irrational practices are transpersonal psychology and psychedelic psychotherapy. Nonetheless, even if their effectiveness is debatable, it’s essential to understand which clients may benefit from these approaches.
The choice of a psychotherapist and the psychotherapy technique often depends on the correspondence between the client’s and therapist’s “customer myth” and “therapist myth”. In general, psychoanalysts appeal to the idea of the unconscious mind, a skeptical concept for many experts. On the other hand, although psychotherapeutic practices based on myths may be effective, they are only suitable for those who perceive the world irrationally. Despite being fashionable and in demand, there is a need to examine the potential dangers and negative consequences on the patient’s health and psychological well-being when such practices are applied.
Determining appropriate psychotherapeutic methods requires examining whether rational decision-making always resolves intrapersonal conflict and stress. In this regard, it’s important to understand that the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic theories is often based on their persuasiveness. Common sense and rationality are associated with making safe assumptions and resisting delusions, therefore, the number of rational individuals should exceed that of irrational ones, especially since the prevalence of irrational beliefs is unknown. Common sense is an adaptable tool for practical life that can survive even paranormal experiences.
One of the essential aspects of sanity is the ability to anticipate and predict outcomes, which underlie adaptive mental processes and the harmonious development of the individual’s personality. Fear of uncertainty or intolerance to situations of ambiguity often underpins maladaptive behavior. Forefathers of psychology, Adler and Maslow, claimed that self-actualizing individuals associate their predictions less with their desires, anxieties, and fears and more with general optimism or pessimism. In line with this, psychotherapy needs to go beyond simply treating symptoms and must aim to the formation of a harmonious character and personality with balanced traits, which includes rationality, sanity, maturity, predictive competence, and a reasonable balance of altruistic and selfish goals. The consensus is that CBT and existential psychotherapy are the most effective approaches to achieving these goals as irrational practices are unlikely to be suitable.
As researchers, we proposed a novel technique called Anticipation Training (AT), which is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). AT involves teaching self-regulation skills to patients and providing them with comprehensive information on various psychological defense mechanisms, patterns of thinking and forecasting, conflict resolution, and sanogenetic and pathogenetic patterns. Through this psychotherapy treatment, patients learn to think reflectively, develop sanity and adaptive responses, and enhance their ability to think sanogenetically in response to psycho-traumatic situations. Traditional CBT is typically based on logical persuasion using learning tools to help patients avoid irrational mindsets and delusions. In contrast, “common sense” psychotherapy emphasizes the formation of a flexible, multivariate approach to predicting reality, as opposed to a rigid, univariate system often seen in pathological thinking patterns. The foundation of “common sense” psychotherapy is “anticipation consistency”, which refers to an individual’s ability to anticipate future events based on past life experiences. Our research suggests that only by following AT principles, such as rejection of claims, denial of unambiguity, rejection of fatality, and development of anticipatory coping strategies, can a patient develop harmonious characterological features, personality traits, and stress resistance.
In the practical aspect of our research, we proposed the anticipation training (AT) technique as a form of CBT that involves developing self-regulation skills and providing clients/patients with information on psychological defense and compensation. This psychotherapy aims to teach individuals a reflexive thinking style, promote sanity and adaptive forms of response, and develop the ability to think sanogenetically about psycho-traumatic events.
AT involves an algorithmic approach to analyzing everyday situations, which includes clarification of the problem, sorting out possible resolutions, the assessment of consequences, and the use of anticipation as a protective mechanism to understand or predict the development of the situation. Thus, AT forms harmonious characters and personality traits, as well as stress resistance.
In psychotherapeutic techniques that are based on rationality, the concept of “comprehension” plays a central role. Comprehension means understanding the presence of something and replacing an intuitive understanding of the problem with a rational one. However, knowledge is also used in other psychotherapeutic spheres, even those with no relation to the formation of rationality, such as comprehending repressed affections from the subconscious mind. We must question whether there is evidence that these secret affections exist and where the guarantee is that “new insight” will not become a new misconception that will require “re-insight” in the future.
Psychoanalytic practices are centered around problem awareness, where blocked impulses, images, and ideas from the unconscious are brought into the conscious realm. However, whether the problem becomes rationally analyzed, arises when the person becomes aware of it. In the context of “common sense” psychotherapy, mindfulness practices are gaining attention and being considered a third wave of CBT. The shared objective of mindfulness and CBT is to alleviate rumination as a primary cause of many mental disorders through attention switching. Mindfulness therapy does not intend to change the content of thoughts but to enable clients/patients to recognize that thoughts are not synonymous with reality. By using techniques such as focusing on one’s attitude toward thoughts, individuals can eventually contemplate them with detachment and reduce automatic connections to negative emotions. The goal of mindfulness, based on CBT, is to help people eliminate automatic reactions to thoughts, feelings, and life events by developing mindfulness skills using meditation. Directly being aware of the processes happening in one’s body is considered the “door to the present moment” and the initial step toward observing thoughts and emotions.
The Master Kit multimedia simulator is a popular mobile application for CBT-based “common sense” psychotherapy that incorporates the self-regulation technique. It provides an automated multimedia resource for individuals to work independently on their beliefs, mindsets, emotional states (such as fear and offense), unaccepted qualities, and self-esteem. The Master Kit technique includes six Universal Beliefs, such as “loving yourself unconditionally,” “my wishes,” “my emotions,” “my individuality,” “my life purpose,” and “finding solitude”. This technique synthesizes the author’s text and the client’s unique belief to provide a positive message “spoken out” by the process. It has the right intonation and pauses so that the user can repeat and perform each specific task. In other words, the user can achieve a positive emotional state by repeating the text aloud with their eyes closed and focusing on their internal feelings. Consistent with the CBT approach and the common-sense paradigm, the Master Kit technique aims to teach individuals straight thinking and how to avoid logical errors and delusions.
Some scholars argue that human existence’s rational and irrational aspects are not opposing forces but complementary components of a person’s psyche. In integrated psychotherapy, techniques that blend rational and irrational approaches promote personal growth and effective interventions.
A crucial factor in achieving success in psychotherapy is the correspondence between the therapist’s and the client’s interpretation of reality. This alignment is essential in the postmodern era, where reality and human nature have lost their dominant significance, and reality images have become crucial for the psychotherapeutic process. These images guide a person’s contact organization, their ways of satisfying needs, and their overall lifestyle, and it is the therapist’s job to work with their client’s particular image.
While some patients may benefit from manipulative and irrational psychotherapy techniques, it is generally agreed that rational and common-sense approaches are more effective in the long run. Irrational approaches may provide temporary relief, but they often reinforce a client’s mystical interpretation of reality, which can lead to new mental disorders, disabilities, and the appearance of personal crises in the future.
Instead, psychotherapy that promotes rationalism and common sense is the best approach to achieving personal growth. According to psychotherapist I. Yalom, the primary objective is to bring patients to the point where they can make independent decisions. By contrast, irrationalism undermines personal freedom and diminished their sense of responsibility.
It is worth noting that the world is predominantly irrational, but this does not negate the unique problem-solving abilities of rational approaches when it comes to personal and social issues.
In reference to what was mentioned above, the correspondence between the “customer myth” and the “therapist myth” is essential to achieve effective psychotherapeutic interventions.
Daria Trutneva | Research Institute of Self-regulation