Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Neuroscience of RRT

MasterPractitioner, Rapid Resolution Therapy   

I would like to speak to the neuroscience of RRT. I have an article coming out about the emotional brain and RRT in the Psychotherapy Networker this month and am so excited we are all getting more information out there in the media.

I started the research on possible neuroscience explanations behind RRT back in 2007 when Jon asked me to do one-day trainings for therapists. In order to give an effective training, I thought I needed to understand more about how RRT worked. My first hypothesis was that by keeping the client emotionally present, we calm down the amygdala/limbic system and this allows the information to get processed properly. When you are actively in fight/flight, brain inhibits parts of hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, so information can get stuck as a sensory imprint in implicit memory rather than move into conscious, verbal explicit memory where brain realizes the event is finished. Jon calls this the "impression" which is the first thing we target clearing with RRT. 

Then, I also thought it had something to do with using non-verbal, experiential communication the right brain understands because right brain has more direct connections to the emotional brain where our emotional memories and attachment schemas are stored. I spoke about this on my blog and in one-day trainings I did called "Therapy for the Right Side of Your Brain." But when I talked to NYU neuroscientist Joe LeDoux who wrote "The Emotional Brain" and did split-brain research, he said this was too simple of an explanation as hemispheric processing is not that clean, so you can't say one side does this and one side does that. 

NOW- I believe it has something to do with Memory Reconsolidation, and Joe LeDoux believes this theory is a more sound explanation for why RRT may work. I post about this on my blog in a post entitled "Erasing Fear Memories." 

We have now learned from neuroscience that you can update an emotional memory if you bring it up to conscious, experiential awareness and insert new information within a certain window of time (10 minutes to 5 hours). The new information has to be a "mismatch" with the original meaning that was attached to the traumatic memory - meaning it has to completely flip the meaning the brain attached to it - something Jon is masterful at doing. I am now teaching this in all my workshops and participants agree it makes a lot of sense.

To reach the emotional brain, the mismatch also has to come in the form of an EXPERIENCE that flips the meaning, not just a cognitive analytical argument. Again, Jon is masterful at creating these magical EXPERIENCES that change the emotional meaning of the event. 

Courtney Armstrong, M.Ed., LPC/MHSP, is a licensed professional counselor and nationally known speaker on trauma and grief. She is the author of Transforming Traumatic Grief: Six Steps to Move from Grief to Peace After Sudden or Violent Death of a Loved One.

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