SELECTIVE AWARENESS THERAPY [S.A.T. ] is a short-term therapy; a series of from three to five one-hour sessions at weekly intervals are expected to lead to significant change in a client’s illness pattern. After identifying and breaking the perpetuating thought/emotion/physical symptom chain, the client is helped to adjust attitudes and self-image accordingly so that the changes will become permanent. When a client has a number of unrelated symptoms, it is necessary to explore the dynamics of each symptom in turn, allowing two or three sessions for each disease. An initial S.A.T. session begins with a short inquiry into the client’s social and medical history and current complaint. Evidence of a recent medical work-up is essential when treating physical symptoms outside of a medical setting.After discussion of the S.A.T. approach,the client is introduced to the state of selective awareness through a process of deep relaxation. An eight- to ten-minute tape of the relaxation induction is made during the session and the client is asked to listen to the tape twice a day. Finger signals are established to facilitate communication on a subconscious level and especially to check for the client’s consent at all stages of therapy.
A typical second session begins with a brief relaxation induction into a state of selective awareness.Then the client is asked to orient himself back to the most recent time when he experienced the symptom (for example, stomach pain, insomnia, depression), to describe the situation,and to reexperience the thoughts and emotions that were dominant at that time. Examination of a succession of such “symptom-producing events” leads back to an original “sensitizing event” and reveals a clear pattern of relationship between the symptom and a triggering thought/emotion complex.When the client gains insight into the origin of the symptom and begins to take responsibility for ill health, then healing and change begin to take place.
A third session would make use of “bio-automation” or creative image rehearsal” to sever the connection between symptom and thought/emotion complex. Bio-automation involves using mental imagery to gain positive influence over autonomic functions of the body, such as circulation, digestion, and healing. Negative patterns of behavior and communication can similarly be influenced through creative image rehearsal, a process of mentally visualizing and rehearsing desired changes in behavior. A tape is made of this therapeutic process, which includes positive feedback to reinforce the client’s new symptom-free self-image. Positive feedback is important at all stages of therapy to ensure that the client takes credit for the fact that he is using his own natural healing potential to create change in himself. After the third session, therapist and client review progress and decide on the number of additional sessions needed. At the conclusion of therapy, a single review session is scheduled in four to six weeks to reinforce progress and change.The structure of S.A.T. is of great importance,but within the basic framework there is great scope for creativity in catering to the needs of each particular client. S.A.T. combines well with other approaches such as Gestalt, Transactional Analysis, and Psychodrama, and it can also be used effectively as a tool for self-help.
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