Umberto CrisantiCBT, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Canterbury

My research

Can the phylogeny of Compassion Focused Therapy and the ontogeny of Transactional Analysis go beyond Dual-Process Theories and propose multiple modes of thinking?

Source: (Crisanti, 2021, Springer Nature-in printing)


The human brain emerges both phylogenetically and ontogenetically, that is, over many years during the course of evolution, and individually as each person develops throughout their lifetime. The complexity of the evolution of cognitive reasoning and the interaction between cognition and emotion is such that Dual Process Theories in neuromarketing and neuroscience research are not always able to capture the nuances of multiple modes of thinking. Further understanding of these complex modes of thinking are needed in psychotherapy to guide people to greater awareness of their thought processes. The development of conceptualisations in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) have helped Cognitive Behavioural Therapists (CBT) to understand that human beings are ontogenetically and phylogenetically designed to respond to the care and kindness of others. Although CFT focuses particularly on early childhood experiences and how they have affected emotional regulation systems, in this chapter, it is argued that CFT has not ontogenetically conceptualised individual development, and that integrating Transactional Analysis (TA) can be valuable in providing guidance to evidence-based clinicians in many challenging situations. I aim to develop a theoretical phylogenetic and ontogenetic model, which is clinically useful and empirically based, free of jargon and suited to understanding clients who are in treatment for depression and anxiety. Previous literature was analysed and examined, and empirical findings on maintenance factors were reviewed. A model was developed based on clinical utility and current knowledge of processes and maintenance factors in depression and anxiety. Results support the concept of continuous variation in cognitive ability and suggest four different ways of reasoning: a) System 1 Instinctive (survival thinking/non-conscious thinking); b) System 2 Algorithmic, Child or Parent driven; c) System 2 - Safe, Reflective; d) System 2, Metacognitive Awareness. Awareness of the TA-CFT model and continuous variation in cognitive ability enables psychotherapists to pay particular attention to metacognition, games, post hoc justifications and thus avoid ineffective interventions. Seven clinical interventions are also presented.

"What is the advantage of integrating Dual-Process Theories and Compassion Focused Therapy? Is the merger a suitable framework to gain insight on thinking performances in psychotherapy?"

Source: Journal of Evidence-Based Psychotherapies . Mar2019, Vol. 19 Issue 1, p27-47. 21p.
Author: CRISANTI, Umberto

Background: About 2 million years ago, (pre) humans began to evolve a range of cognitive competences for reasoning. Research across disciplines (Barnard, 2009) has developed multiple levels of analysis related to cognitive reasoning, interlinking neural, mental and interpersonal levels influenced by social motives and emotions (Gilbert, 2014). The complexity of cognitive reasoning and the interaction between cognition and emotion is such that further understanding is needed in psychotherapy. The integration of widely recognised Dual-Process Theories (DPT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), an evolutionary functional analysis of basic social motivational systems (Gilbert, 2014) provide an understanding of mechanisms that may not be adequately comprehended and formulated in psychotherapy. Aims: The aim of this paper is to merge DPT and CFT in order to gain insight into reasoning in psychotherapy. Method: Previous literature is reviewed, examined and summarised. Semistructured interviews and observational data are also included. Results: This paper suggests that System 1 is rooted in the Old Brain and can override System 2. As a result, this paper can make a contribution to psycho-education and treatment by helping clinicians and clients to recognise and understand why their ability to exert influence and self-regulate their thinking can be compromised. Conclusion: Clinical implications and limitations are discussed.

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