Since Freud, clinicians have understood that disturbing memories contribute to psychopathology and that new emotional experiences contribute to therapeutic change. Yet, controversy remains about what is truly essential to bring about psychotherapeutic change. Mounting evidence from empirical studies suggests that emotional arousal is a key ingredient in therapeutic change in many modalities. In addition, memory seems to play an important role but there is a lack of consensus on the role of understanding what happened in the past in bringing about (...) therapeutic change. The core idea of this paper is that therapeutic change in a variety of modalities, including behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotion-focused therapy, and psychodynamic psychotherapy, results from the updating of prior emotional memories through a process of reconsolidation that incorporates new emotional experiences. We present an integrated memory model with three interactive components – autobiographical memories, semantic structures, and emotional responses – supported by emerging evidence from cognitive neuroscience on implicit and explicit emotion, implicit and explicit memory, emotion-memory interactions, memory reconsolidation, and the relationship between autobiographical and semantic memory. We propose that the essential ingredients of therapeutic change include: reactivating old memories; engaging in new emotional experiences that are incorporated into these reactivated memories via the process of reconsolidation; and reinforcing the integrated memory structure by practicing a new way of behaving and experiencing the world in a variety of contexts. The implications of this new, neurobiologically grounded synthesis for research, clinical practice, and teaching are discussed. (shrink)
Although we agree that a constructivist approach to emotional experience makes sense, we propose that implicit (visceromotor and somatomotor) emotional processes are dissociable from explicit (attention and reflection) emotional processes, and that the conscious experience of emotion requires an integration of the two. Assessments of implicit emotion and emotional awareness can be helpful in the neuroscientific investigation of emotion.
The active inference framework offers an attractive starting point for understanding cultural cognition. Here, we argue that affective dynamics are essential to include when constructing this type of theory. We highlight ways in which interactions between emotional responses and the perception of those responses, both within and between individuals, can play central roles in both motivating and constraining sociocultural practices.
In this response to commentaries on our target article, we highlight and clarify a variety of issues and respond to several comments, challenges, and misconceptions. Topics covered include the mechanisms of enduring change, the nature of memory, the conditions in which memories are updated, the role of emotional arousal in change, and current limitations in our understanding of the neural basis of change in psychotherapy. It is our hope that through research stimulated by this exchange the latter may be advanced.