New scientific approach pushes people to take control of therapy sessions

Newswise – A new universal approach to mental health issues has been developed, used in outpatient departments, inpatient wards and high schools, and is being researched by an international team led by Curtin.

Published in psychological reviewthe science behind it leverages work on artificial intelligence, consciousness, cognition and mental health spanning 20 years of research.

Lead researcher Professor Warren Mansell of the Curtin School of Population Health said when people are in control of their therapy, their consciousness can work to resolve their difficulties.

“It’s like thinking of the mind as a car and consciousness as a mechanic. When the mechanic evaluates the car, sometimes the first idea of ​​what needs to be done doesn’t improve the car’s performance, so the mechanic keeps trying other things,” said Professor Mansell.

“Like this ‘mechanic,’ our consciousness depends on our brain constantly absorbing new information from our surroundings and from our own thoughts, memories and feelings to help us regain and improve control over our lives.”

The new therapeutic approach is about helping a person change their conscious awareness, explains Professor Mansell.

“By shifting awareness to the source of the problem as the person is describing it, and then becoming consciously aware of that problem, a trial-and-error change process called reorganization leads to a different perception of the problem,” Professor Mansell said.

“A person might argue about whether to spend an evening going out with a friend who is going out of town or whether to spend it finishing work before a deadline. Our conscious mind is drawn to such difficult decisions because its job is to help us decide.

“After thinking long enough consciously about the decision, a solution might be found, such as calling the friend instead, which also gives the person enough time to get their work done.”

Professor Mansell’s model is based on “perceptual control theory” but expanded to account for the mind’s continuous attempt to “integrate new information,” which accounts for learning, creativity, and problem-solving.

“This explains why people sometimes suffer from fatigue, poor concentration, fidgeting and daydreaming,” said Professor Mansell.

“Today’s society often sees being easily distracted as a problem, but this theory explains how it is an adaptive and inevitable trait of being human.”

With more than 20 years of experience in mental health, Professor Mansell, along with his team at Curtin University and an international network of colleagues, are currently conducting research studies to test the model.

The full paper entitled ‘An integrative control theory perspective on consciousness‘, is available here online.

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