Arnon Rolnick, Ph.D
The Siach Institute for psychotherapy
Paul R. Bindler, Ph.D.
Dept. of Psychology, Queens College of CUNY, USA
Various forms of psychotherapy can be successfully integrated with methods based in clinical psychophysiology to enhance the treatment process. To a certain degree, psychotherapists practice some of these methods when they attune themselves to bodily cues which reflect either conscious or unconscious processes in the patient. These non-verbal cues may be as overt as tears and smiles, or as subtle as slight shifts in breathing patterns or muscles tension. To the extent the therapist is aware of these cues he/ she can integrate the information into the treatment approach.
The processes already afforded to the clinician in the above mentioned intuitive style can be more directly brought to bear in the therapeutic process through the methods of clinical psychophysiology. This integration was initiated in Charcot's clinic in Paris where he pioneered the use of the electrodermal response (EDR) in psychotherapy. Jung also employed the EDR in his psychoanalytic investigations. This emerging field has been called psychophysiological psychotherapy, which Ian Wickram has aptly defined as the "verbal self- exploration in a trusting human relationship conducted in a patient generated low arousal state".
There are numerous advantages of integrating psychophysiology into the treatment process. For example, one could use sensitive indices of emotional responding such as EDR, to monitor the course of verbal therapy. The clinician can use the physiological signals to identify otherwise vague areas of emotional response and to clarify the patient's defensive style. In addition, psychophysiological psychotherapy allows for 1) cultivating low arousal states through biofeedback and relaxation training, 2) monitoring emotional responsiveness during therapy, 3) developing ego-mastery and self-regulation, 4) enhancing body-image, 5) promoting self-awareness and the dynamics of the psychophysiological relationship, 6) matching treatment strategies to patient variables, and 7) enhancing the effectiveness of the treatment process.
Integrating the methods of clinical psychophysiology and psychotherapy with EDR biofeedback allows for emergent possibilities in the treatment process. It can facilitate the matching of treatment strategy to the individual cognitive and personality characteristics of the patient. Psychophysiological psychotherapy also establishes a greater understanding of the etiology of and therapy for anxiety and psychophysiological disorders. These techniques are readily integrated into a variety of therapeutic approaches and readily informs these approaches with data which is clinical relevant but otherwise not readily available. In sum, these methods can help optimize and enhance the treatment process.