When it comes to psychotherapy approaches, there are a number of different theoretical models that would explain how the person interacts with themselves, the others, and the world. Perhaps the most renowned and widespread approach is CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Brief Strategic Therapy (BST) is another one.
This model of psychotherapy was developed by Giorgio Nardone and his collaborators at the Strategic Therapy Centre in Arezzo (Italy), which was founded by Nardone and Paul Watzlawick. Aims of Brief Strategic Therapy are, on the one hand to get rid of the unwanted symptoms or the dysfunctional behaviour that is bothering the person; on the other hand, to bring about a change in the way the person perceives and builds their own reality. Influenced by constructivism, this approach is based on the idea that people build their behaviours on their own perceptions, which at the same time are based on their own experiences.
During therapy, a brief strategic therapist will try to understand how the problem works, rather than looking for the causes of it. After all, looking for the causes is looking to the past, and this unfortunately, cannot be changed. That means that rather than wondering why the problem is present, we wonder how this problem works and what the best solution is.
The first thing we do when we have a problem, is to try to find a solution that could work out the best for us. This strategy/solution might have been effective in the past or may have been effective for someone else in a similar situation. If the strategy works and it’s effective, the problem gets solved in a short period of time. However, when our strategy/solution doesn’t work as we would expect, it leads us to intensifying our efforts in the same direction, due to the believe that the strategy chosen is the best and most logical possible. This is what in Brief Strategic Therapy, it’s called attempted solutions or coping reactions. Nonetheless, the more we put in place our attempted solutions, the worse the situation gets. So, what was meant to be a solution, has ended up being a problem itself. A good example to explain this, is avoidance. When we fear something, our common sense and logical reaction lead us to avoid it. However, what we are doing in fact, by avoiding, is turn the initial stimulus into something even scarier and more sinister. Therefore, if we want a successful intervention, we have to work on the attempted solutions that are perpetuating the problem or even making it worse.
With the use of alternative strategies and persuasive communication, we will guide the person to change their own perception and take them to action. We will be helping the person to have and feel a proper corrective emotional experience that will change their perception. That is, that the person, rather than being told what it would be expected to happen, they would experience themselves the benefits and effects of these changes. That helps the person to perceive their reality with different eyes and what it is most important, to learn by doing. This is what perhaps most differs from CBT: rather than explaining how your perceptions, feelings and behaviours work, and then to act in consequence, we will encourage you to act first, which will make the cognitive process easier. Hence, you feel first, and then you understand.
Persistent problems don’t necessarily mean long-term therapies or complex solutions. If we use the same logic of the problem, similarly to using the power of wind to make energy, we can find together the solution. Because you can’t get different outcomes doing the same things.
Susana Lara offers Brief Strategy Therapy online.