The type of therapy performed in my practice, often referred to as Affective-Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy (ABC Therapy), is integrated out of several different approaches developed during the past century and which emerged as research showed that all therapy, independent of school, works at all levels of the human psyche, at the emotional and the motivational levels, as well as at the levels of conscious thought and behavior. All forms of successful psychotherapy, regardless of school, strengthen self-esteem and provide the patient with warmth, support and understanding. ABC therapy serves to maximize its effectiveness by integrating various aspects of emotional, cognitive and behavioral therapies to the benefit of the patient by applying tools specifically designed to work at all levels of the human psyche. The result creates a more robust and versatile approach to treating psychological problems and disturbances.
My first education was in behavioral psychology, which emphasizes the importance of learning and focuses on an understanding of behavior based on an analysis of the environment in which it has arisen and is sustained. “Behavioral” therapy means analyzing the reaction we have to various events, problems, people and things in our lives in the present. What is our way of reacting to stress, for example? Could we find a more successful strategy, which would bring us closer to living the life we want to live? How can we change our behavior? What makes us behave the way we do? Can we gain control over these factors? What is the history of this behavior? How and when did we learn it? What are the effects and consequences of our behavior? Finding the answers to these questions and designing and practicing new reactions can give us more flexibility in our lives and help us become better able to satisfy our needs. Behavioral therapy analyzes the problems at hand, defines concrete goals and works out strategies and solutions to life problems, so that definite, measurable, self-directed changes are made and the patient can recognize concrete progress.
In Germany, Behavioral Therapy is officially recognized by the health authorities as effective and I have a license to practice it. It provides an important basis to the therapy which I provide.
Cognitive Therapy forms another important part of the integrated form of psychotherapy given in my practice. It was first developed in the 1970‘s and 1980‘s as a form of therapy which emphasized the importance of thinking in governing emotions and behavior. It is fundamentally different from behavioral therapy, which classically occupies itself only with observable behavior. Instead, Cognitive Psychotherapy focuses on improving our emotional life and making our reactions to situations more effective by directing us to concrete, conscious changes in thinking. A large part of the therapy involves analyzing thinking, including assumptions made about ourselves, about other people and about the environment. If we have a life-rule, for example, that we can only be happy, if we have a supportive and understanding relationship, then we will be depressed, if we are without such a relationship. We are usually only dimly aware of such thinking, which greatly impacts our lives, and the therapist and the patient take time to uncover such thinking together. With practice, patients learn to apply the principles of the therapy themselves, so that they can become their own therapists, helping themselves to maintain the progress they have made and giving them tools to solve new problems as they may arise in the future.
Affective Therapy forms a very important third corner-stone for the therapy I use in my practice. Unlike behavioral or cognitive therapy, it focuses on emotions and encourages the patient to become aware of feelings, to accept them and to put them into words. Sharing them in a protected, accepting environment is an important part of affective therapy. Becoming aware of, verbalizing and sharing emotional events and memories is important to the healing process set in motion by Affective Therapy. This aspect of the therapy is indeed reminiscent of that developed by Freud one hundred years ago, as he dealt early in his career with women, who had been sexually molested as children. Freud came to believe that working through childhood trauma was key to psychological growth and healing. The two methods differ in many details. In Affective Therapy, the patient and therapist sit face-to-face and the therapist talks and interacts directly with the patient. Whereas Freud talked about the unconscious (primarily the ID, but also, in part, the superego), ABC therapy often refers to what is called the ”Autonomic Psyche”, the workings of which we are not usually consciously aware. The Autonomic Psyche, thought of as primarily involved with the regulation of emotion, dimly conscious thoughts and behaviors, is modeled analogous to the Autonomic Nervous System, which unconsciously regulates basic bodily functions and hormone levels, as opposed to the Voluntary Nervous System, which consciously regulates motoric behavior. – Interestingly, modern medicine has found evidence that emotions are regulated by deeper structures of the brain (the Limbic System), which are more closely associated with the control of basic bodily functions and distinct from centers of speech and conscious thought in the neural cortex, as new methods have developed to visualize the workings of the brain. – Be that as it may, Affective Therapy does not, of course, only work on childhood trauma, but also on all emotional events and feelings experienced by the patient and which need to be worked through to proceed with life in a satisfying way.
Combining these powerful therapeutic approaches, integrated, ABC psychotherapy, as used in my practice, has proven most effective in the treatment of psychological problems, including depression, panic attacks, phobias and anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), substance abuse (alcoholism and drug-dependence) and eating disturbances (compulsive over-eating, anorexia and bulimia). It has also proven to be an excellent approach to the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to working through stressful life-events in general. It has been found very useful in treating culture-shock, which often plays a major role in many adjustment problems of foreigners living in Germany and can likewise be successfully applied to the counseling of troubled couples, as well as to many other problems not listed here.