Post-rational cognitive psychotherapy: what is it and how does it help patients?

Cognitive positional psychotherapy is a type of therapy developed in the 1990s by the Italian neuropsychiatrist Vittorio Guidano. It is part of a constructivist perspective, which understands that we construct reality in a unique and personal way.

Thus, there would be as many realities as there are people. This therapy also places great importance on personal identity and language. In this article, we’ll learn about its general characteristics, as well as Guidano’s ideas and some of the techniques he uses through his model.

    Post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy: features

    Post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy was created by Vittorio Guidano throughout his life; approximately, from the years 1970 to 1994. It is considered as a type of cognitive therapy but also constructivist, in which the therapeutic relationship is understood as “expert to expert”. Its main objective is that the person can build their own identity through different strategies that we will see below..

    This type of therapy is used as a psychological clinical intervention and in turn constitutes a theoretical school in psychology. This school follows a theoretical model which holds that human beings try to create some continuity in the sense of themselves and their personal history, through a coherent and flexible narrative identity. This identity can be seen reflected in the narrative elaborations developed by the patient.

    Vittorio Guidano’s ideas

    Vittorio Guidano was born in Rome in 1944 and died at the age of 55 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was a recognized neuropsychiatrist, and in addition to creating post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy, he also created the Systemic Procedural Cognitive Model.. Thus, its theoretical orientation was fundamentally cognitive and constructivist. However, unlike previous cognitivism, in Guidano’s theory, the same author advocates emotions above cognition.

    It should be mentioned, however, that the current of post-nationalism begins with the hand of V. Guidano alongside his colleague Giovanni Liotti, who published in 1983 the book “Cognitive processes and emotional disorders”. But what does post-nationalism mean?

    This current, created by Guidano, and where the post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy is located, he tries to go beyond the outside world, real and rational. Thus, this constructivist current is based on the idea that knowledge is created through the interpretation of reality, and a series of subjective aspects in the processing of information and the world around us.


    In Guidano’s post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy two high levels in which all human experience develops. The goal of this therapy, as well as that of the therapist, will be to work between these two levels (which involve experience and the explanation of experience).

    These levels “exist” or operate simultaneously and are as follows:

    1. First level

    The first level consists of the immediate experience that we have, and which is made up of a set of emotions, behaviors and sensations that flow unconsciously.

    2. Second level

    The second level of human experience is the explanation we give to immediate experience; in other words, how do we order, understand and conceive of this reality?


    On the other hand, post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy promotes a very specific working method, which emphasizes self-observation by the patient. Self-observation is a technique that allows a person to “see the outside” and reflect on their behavior, thoughts and attitudes.

    Outraged, this technique also makes it possible to discriminate two dimensions of oneself: On the one hand, the “I as immediate experience”, and on the other hand, the “I”, which is the explanation that the person develops about himself through language.

    In addition, self-observation, a central strategy of post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy, allows the person to explore their own experience, as well as construct alternative meanings to understand and name what they are feeling.

    The meanings that the person constructs in relation to his reality and his life experience, arise from the fact that the person in a certain way “orders” his reality. On the other hand, it will be convenient for him to experience reality as something continuous happening to him, consistent with itself.

    The self: personal identity

    Thus, in relation to the above and the process of self-observation, we find that V. Guidano in his Post-Nationalist Cognitive Psychotherapy gives a lot of importance to personal identity (The goal of therapy), which is the same as the concept of “self”, and which is understood as a complex cognitive-affective system, which allows the person to comprehensively assess (and re-evaluate) their experience.

    All this is done by the patient according to an image he has of himself (a conscious image), which he assimilates through language and experiences.

    Relationship with levels

    We can relate the concept of self (self) to the levels of human experience, discussed previously.. Thus, at the first level of immediate experience, one would find the concrete situations that the person goes through and that lives with an internal sense of continuity. All of this, as we have already seen, is experienced automatically and unconsciously.

    As for the second level, on the contrary (the level of explanation), we find the explanation that we give to the experience and the image that we have of ourselves. This image has been constructed by the person throughout their life. Therapy will also aim to make the person consistent with the person’s values ​​and consistent over time (so that the patient can form a vital “continuum”).

    Moviola technique

    On the other hand, self-observation develops thanks to another technique that is part of the very process of self-observation: the Moviola technique.

    The name of the technique alludes to the first machine that made it possible to edit films into film (moviola), and it is explained through a metaphor with this object. But how is the moviola technique applied?


    Let’s see how it is applied at each of its stages:

    1. Panoramic view

    First of all, the patient is trained to learn to divide a particular experience into a sequence of scenes, thereby obtaining a kind of panoramic vision.

    2. Reduction

    He is then helped to enrich each scene with details and various sensory and emotional aspects.

    3. Amplification

    Finally, the patient must reinsert the already enriched scene (s) into the sequence of his life history. In this way, when the patient sees himself, both subjectively and objectively, he can begin to construct new abstractions and alternative ideas about himself and his life experience.

    Structuring the emotional experience

    finally another component of post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy is the structuring of the emotional experience. To structure everything we go through, the use of language will be essential. This will allow us to order the experience and structure it in sequences, as we have already seen in the technique of the moviola.

    In addition, it will also help us to separate the different components of this experience (knowledge component, emotional component …). So, within post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy, the narrative structure of human experience is actually a web of experiences that we experience, assimilate, and interconnect with each other to eventually form a personal identity.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Feixas, G; Miró, T. (1993). Approaches to psychotherapy. An introduction to psychological treatments. Ed. Paidós. Barcelona.

    • Fernández, A; Rodriguez, B. (2001). The practice of psychotherapy. The construction of therapeutic narratives. Ed. Desclée de Brower. Bilbao.

    • Leon, A. and Tamayo, D. (2011). Post-nationalist cognitive psychotherapy: an intervention model centered on the process of identity construction. Katharsis, 12: 37-58.

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