How the Science of Memory Reconsolidation Advances the Effectiveness and Unification of Psychotherapy


Memory reconsolidation research by neuroscientists has demonstrated the erasure of emotional learnings. This article reviews these historic findings and how they translate directly into therapeutic application to provide the clinical field with an empirically confirmed process of transformational change. Psychotherapists’ early use of this new, transtheoretical knowledge indicates a strong potential for significant advances in both the effectiveness of psychotherapy and the unification of its many diverse systems. The erasure process consists of the creation of certain critical experiences required by the brain, and it neither dictates nor limits the experiential methods that therapists can use to facilitate the needed experiences. This article explains memory reconsolidation, delineates the empirically confirmed process, illustrates it in a case example of long-term depression, indicates the evidence supporting the hypothesis that this process is responsible for transformational change in any therapy sessions, describes the differing mechanisms underlying transformational change versus incremental change, and reports extensive clinical evidence that the basis and cause of most of the problems and symptoms presented by therapy clients are emotional learnings, that is, emotionally laden mental models, or schemas, in semantic memory.

Publication Title

Clinical Social Work Journal