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Coherence Therapy

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Coherence Therapy
A Revolutionary Method to Quick,
Deep and Lasting Change

Coherence therapy was developed during the last 20 years by psychotherapists Bruce Ecker, LMFT and Laurel Hulley, MA.  They studied what created real, lasting change in therapy sessions and discovered certain key interventions and events that therapists can target in session with a client.  With these key targets in mind, deep therapy can move surprisingly quickly.  (In the past, it had been thought that deep work required many months or even years of work.  With coherence therapy, it is more likely to take weeks.) 

The Goal
Underlying Cause is Resolved, Not Just Symptoms
(unlike other types of therapy)

Coherence Therapy

The goal of coherence therapy is not just to reduce or manage symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, self-destructive behavior, or low self-worth, but to discover the root cause of the problem, so that the client can understand why the problem keeps reoccurring despite their best efforts.  Once this deeper understanding of the self is achieved, the client is able to resolve the underlying cause of the symptom in a way that makes the symptom no longer needed and the symptom vanishes. 

Many other currently popular methods of therapy focus only on treating the symptom.  For example, relaxation techniques, examining one’s thoughts for cognitive errors, or structuring behavioral changes (cognitive-behavioral therapy being the most prevalent of this type).  These types of therapy do offer some relief and are sometimes important tools to use as one processes and resolves the deeper cause of the symptom, but they do not resolve the underlying issue.  Thus, if only these types of therapy are used, the relief is often short-term and not lasting.  The symptom may be better managed, but it is still there. Or it may come back full force as one slips back into old habits of thought or behavior.

The “Emotional Truth” – what it is and how it works

Coherence therapy, in contrast to those other types of therapy, seeks to quickly discover and resolve the underlying cause of the anxiety, anger, depression, self-destructive behavior, or low self-worth.  Its methods allow the therapist to focus on crucial ideas / beliefs / motivations / understandings (called “schemas” here for shorthand) that are currently out of the client’s awareness.  With the therapist’s skilled guidance, the client is able to uncover these schemas.  Most clients know when they have made this discovery because the newly revealed schema resonates deeply for them.  In coherence therapy terms, this is referred to as finding the “emotional truth” of the symptom.

Coherence Therapy

One reason it is called the “emotional” truth is that the schema may not be something our logical brain would agree with, but it feels true in our gut and we unconsciously base our actions on it.  Furthermore, it is an “emotional” truth because while clients often have an intellectual understanding of their issue and even what causes it (to some extent), they still are unable to stop it from occurring.  This leaves one feeling powerless over the symptom.  Many people get stuck at this point, and this is where coherence therapy can help.  If this has happened to you, you are not a failure or a bad person – you simply have not discovered the real underlying cause of your symptom.

An Example to Illustrate

Once a client has awareness of the schemas causing the symptom, the client is able to resolve it.  For example, there was a client who would get to the brink of doing really well, then somehow always manage to fail.  With the guidance of coherence therapy, he discovered his “emotional truth” – when he was growing up, his father had given him the message through his behavior that the son should never exceed his father’s level of achievement. His father never came right out and said this, but the message was still clear to his son – if you want my love and support, don’t ever surpass me in anyway.  Whiling holding on to this schema, the son continued to sabotage himself because unconsciously he believed if he succeeded, his father would stop loving him, and that was worse than failing.  While this may not have made sense when examined rationally, it felt true in the client’s gut.  Once this schema became conscious, he was able to evaluate how much truth there was to the message and how to handle his relationship with his father, while no longer sabotaging himself.  The symptom – underachieving and self-sabotaging himself – went away.

Support from the Study of Neuroscience

Coherence Therapy

In 2000, there was a discovery in neuroscience that provides strong support for the methods of change used in coherence therapy.  The steps Ecker and Hulley identified for deep change match exactly the steps scientists identified in the brain for causing powerful synapse change.  It had been thought that certain types of deep conditioning were “hard-wired” into the brain and unchangeable.  Correspondingly, it was thought in the world of therapy and in the world of neuroscience that the only way to overcome such deep conditioning was to overtly counteract it with the conscious brain.  Many common approaches to therapy are based on this belief.  However, this newly discovered “neuroplasticity” shows that one can actually change the deep conditioning that is stored in the brain.  The old conditioning (the schema) can be replaced with a new understanding.  This fundamental change in how a person operates leads to lasting change.

For More Information

If you would like to learn more about Coherence Therapy, I invite you to visit the main website:  In addition, below is a link to a video of Bruce Ecker, one of the developers of Coherence Therapy, discussing the latest neuroscience on memory reconsolidation - a process which can be triggered in therapy (through coherence therapy and a few other approaches) to create lasting change.

MEMORY RECONSOLIDATION: Key To Transformational Change in Psychotherapy -- Bruce Ecker, LMFT

Coherence Therapy


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Susannah Muller, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #49050
San Diego Counseling & Therapy
5230 Carroll Canyon Rd., Suite 314, San Diego, CA 92121
(619) 787-2743

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