Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Linguistic Therapy of Evaluation: A Perspective on Language in Psychotherapy

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

The Linguistic Therapy of Evaluation: A Perspective on Language in Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

The clinical procedure presented here could be considered a type of cognitive psychotherapy which has the main aim of producing an evaluational change through linguistic means. The linguistic therapy of evaluation is based upon the theory of general semantics and is based on a theory which connects emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression, with language use. These elements are described along with some other important issues, such as how language is understood from the general semantics perspective, the four main therapeutic elements of the therapy, the structure of the clinical procedure and two of its two main techniques: the orders of abstraction and the extensional devices. The paper will conclude by introducing some of the main differences and similarities between the linguistic therapy of evaluation and two of the main cognitive perspectives, those termed rationalist and those termed constructivist.

The linguistic therapy of evaluation (LTE), formerly referred to as the "cognitive therapy of evaluation" (Caro, 1990) has been developed from the theory of general semantics (Korzybski, 1933) as a clinical procedure for the treatment of emotional problems. The results found thus far have allowed us to ascertain that the clinical procedure based on a general semantics approach offers good results in the treatment of emotional problems such as anxiety and depression (Caro, 1992a), although it has been used with other types of problems (Caro, 1986; Caro & Ibafiez, 1993).

In this paper the LTE will be discussed from several vantage points. First, the psychotherapeutic importance of general semantics theory will be discussed, followed by the main theoretical ideas and definition of the LTE. Third, a general description of the clinical procedure will be given. Then, some of its main therapeutic techniques will be described. And finally, the differences and similarities between the LTE and other cognitive perspectives will be described.

"THOSE WHO RULE THE SYMBOLS, RULE US" (KORZYBSKI, 1933, p. 76)

General semantics theory was developed by Alfred Korzybski (1933) as an explanatory theory about human beings which could be applied as a general orientation in all human fields.

According to Korzybski (1921, 1933) the two fundamental characteristics of human beings are: a time-binding class of life and the functioning of the organism as a whole. The first characteristic means that human beings "make the past live in the present and the present in the future" (Korzybski, 1921, p. 186). Human beings store, inherit and transmit, construe and reconstrue knowledge because of one of their main distinctive characteristics: the use of symbols. Symbolizing appears to be a unique human element, basic for survival, as symbols represent our tools for thinking and communicating. Since we are surrounded by symbols and create them in an ongoing way, we wish to point to several precautions to be taken when dealing with symbols.

General semantics is based on three main theoretical ideas, which are called the three non-Aristotelian premises. The first premise states that the map is not the territory (or the word is not the object). The second is that the map does not cover all the territory characteristics (words are incomplete or human knowledge is an abstraction). The third states that language is self-reflexive (we can always make a map of a map of a map, etc.).

Another main concept is the idea of human beings as organisms-as-a-whole, living in a neurolinguistic and neurosemantic environment (Korzybski, 1933). It means that we are living in a world of relations and that everything is interconnected. To "be" means to be related. These two issues, "as a whole" and "linguistic- neurosemantic," are the two concepts at the core of the clinical application of general semantics: evaluation and how human beings use language.

The fact that general semantics deals with one of the main elements of human beings' functioning, language use, could explain why it has been widely applied. …

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