A Second-Order Cybernetic Approach to Social Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
When reviewing the prospectus of mainstream universities that offer psychology majors, one would be hard-pressed to find any cybernetic approaches included in their course material. Most psychological problems arise in a relational context. Thus, the role of cybernetics in psychotherapy is invaluable. Family therapy, which is closer to cybernetic thinking, has had several facelifts since its boom back in the late 1960’s. The evolution of family therapy from the time of Bowen, Satir, Minuchin, Whitaker and the Milan Research Institute, laid the foundation for an exciting future in this paradigm. With second-order cybernetics the natural progression in this field, it is inconsistent that universities did not take advantage of this approach and offer it is an equal footing paradigm. One possible explanation rests on the premise that systems thinking and cybernetics underpins the connectedness of relationships, patterns of interaction and recursion. Western thought, however, idolises the individual and their empowerment in the controlling and manipulating of their environment. The explanation of causality and its reliance on the linear model is central in the Western mind. This attitude is common in many psychology theories and is put forward by many universities. Further, traditional positivistic research methodologies are also challenged when attempting to perform studies on the success of family/systemic therapies, which advocate a different approach to research. This makes it difficult to compare these different approaches.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has one of the best long-term success rates in dealing with psychological problems (Barlow & Durand, 2005; Lambert & Garfield, 2004), including success in treating depression that has a better prognosis than antidepressants (Butler et.al, 2005). Within the CBTs there is much diversity. However, there is unity in the core premise of CBT, including the belief that psychological distress is largely a function of disturbances in cognitive processes; that by changing cognitions to produce desired changes, preferred behaviour can be affected for the solution of problems in a time-constrained manner (Corey, 2005). The marrying of second-order cybernetics including the principles of wholeness, self-reference, autopoiesis, structural determinism, coupling, and non-purposeful drift into CBT poses several challenges. Further, the therapeutic posture commonly used in CBT would also need adjustment to embrace second-order cybernetics. Incorporating cybernetic principles to the leading therapy is an important step in the further adoption of second-order thinking into the psychologies. This paper presents a practical method of applying second-order cybernetics to CBT, while incorporating lessons learnt from family therapy.