My colleague and I presented the information from the Padesy workshop I recently described to one of our therapy teams.
The debate was electric. People were intrigued by the integration of different ideas in CBT. It came to a raucous debate surrounding Padesky’s emphasis on clients to develop positive core beliefs; the “new system”.
We are so used to asking clients to think of realistic alternative thoughts that we almost frown on positive thoughts. One colleague that introducing the possibility of building new positive beliefs was dangerous as it would definitely disappoint clients the world is not “safe” all the time- why would we encourage someone to think that? He felt this was just as dangerous or more than negative beliefs; in fact I got the sense that the negative beliefs seemed safer to him.
It got me thinking on my bike ride home regarding the role of “positive schemas”. When we are working with those in distress we do not ask them to think of a “so so” place for a “safe place”- the place they invoke is usually one full of positive feeling. This is an internal positive image that they begin to build inside them; in some sense it is a new internal model they can draw on- it is not the real world.
When we are motivating people to change our goal must be something worthwhile- something worth striving for. What the positive core belief is an alternative to the negative belief on an internal level that can stand in competition with the old belief that judges every situation, regardless of whether or not it applies (an overdeveloped strategy). It is not a representation of the world as it is- if that makes sense. The core belief is an ideal that can find a home in someone’s mind. Her theory is that strong experiential affect (negative and positive) make a considerable mark ; they are hotter than a hot thought. Realistic thoughts don’t necessarily have that edge to carry someone into something new. To give someone the courage to try an underdeveloped strategy in a new situation the hope is that positive affect and memory associated with the new system will do that.
Padesky’s behavioural experiments and new strategies allow someone to carry this into the world with them to access to begin to explore the possibility of something new and promising even if it is just a few moments of the world. I’m not sure this makes total sense. I’m still grappling with that. It’s a fascinating topic to contemplate.