The Mind in Therapy: Cognitive Science for Practice

By Dozois, David J. A. | Canadian Psychology, November 2006 | Go to article overview

The Mind in Therapy: Cognitive Science for Practice


Dozois, David J. A., Canadian Psychology


KATHERINE D. ARBUTHNOTT, DENNIS W. ARBUTHNOTT and VALERIE A. THOMPSON The Mind in Therapy: Cognitive Science for Practice Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006, 432 pages (ISBN 0-8058-5675-7, US$49.95 Paperback) Reviewed by DAVIDJ. A. DOZOIS

Cognitive science has undoubtedly contributed importantly to our understanding of adaptive and maladaptive human functioning and will increasingly continue to do so. Basic cognitive science offers a tremendous wealth of knowledge about various processes and mechanisms that are fundamental to a client's functioning, a therapist's efficacy, and the client-therapist interaction. Among other forms of psychological interventions, cognitive therapy has explicitly adopted constructs and adapted methodologies from cognitive science and has evolved conceptually and clinically as a result of this empirical work (cf. Clark & Fairburn, 1997). As McFaIl and Townsend (1998) cogently argued, however, most clinical psychologists focus on idiographic solutions to a client's problems and pay less attention to the nomothetic solutions that pertain to a broader range of issues: "It is as if the two worlds of psychology not only moved in independent orbits, but also occupied different corners of the universe. Many clinical psychologists seem unaware of and unaffected by developments and discoveries in the nomothetic world, even when these potentially could help them understand, assess, treat, predict, and prevent psychopathology and other suffering" (p. 325). Clinical science and practice, they contend, would benefit from greater integration with cognitive science.

In The Mind in Therapy: Cognitive Science for Practice, Arbuthnott, Arbuthnott, and Thompson attempt to bridge this gap by grounding psychotherapy in basic cognitive science. They do not intend to do so in the way that empirically based treatment does (i.e., by demonstrating what works for which particular psychiatric difficulties or by examining what are the effective ingredients of therapy) ; rather, their text applies the conceptual underpinnings of cognitive science, and its empirical findings, to particular practical issues. This book is thus timely, innovative, and interesting.

In 16 chapters, the authors review different areas of cognitive research and emphasize findings relevant to the theoretical and applied aspects of psychotherapy. An overarching objective of the book is to better inform practitioners about some of the key cognitive variables that impact clients, therapists, and the therapy process. Each chapter begins with general definitions of key terms and explains how various cognitive constructs, and the research literature surrounding them, are important to psychotherapy. Many chapters also include case illustrations to translate these concepts into application.

In Chapter 1, the authors make the case that cognitive processes are essential to all forms of psychotherapy in that they provide the pathways for treatment change or set up constraints to psychotherapeutic intervention. In the second chapter, Arbuthnott and her co-authors contextualize the processes and methods of psychotherapy within the framework of problem-solving. They review the literature on what facilitates effective problem-solving and how to overcome deficits and impasses. Chapter 3 provides a good review of memory retrieval and priming. The issue of how past memories are activated is described, vis-à-vis an associated network, and recommendations are made for how therapists might elicit and reframe a client's autobiographical memories in the most effective manner possible. The literature pertaining to autobiographical memory, the "lifeblood of psychotherapy" (p. 55) is further elaborated upon in Chapters 4 and 5. Common errors in autobiographical memory (e.g., overconfidence, schematic knowledge errors) are also described and the implications for therapists highlighted. In Chapter 6, prospective memory is discussed in the context of between-session extratherapy tasks. …

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