Salter’s reflex therapy: what it is and how is it used

Generally speaking, we can say that assertiveness is the ability to say “no” to requests or favors that we do not want to do. This term was coined by J. Wolpe in 1958, although A. Salter had already used it in your reflex reflexology therapy.

Salter’s conditioned reflex therapy is a model of assertive therapy, which seeks to promote patient open expression, reduce inhibition, and promote action. The therapy mainly focuses on improving the emotional expression of the patient. Let’s see what it is.

    Preliminary concepts: assertiveness

    Assertiveness is a social skill that allows us defend their own rights, interests and ideas in a clear and honest manner, Without hurting or harming others.

    One of the first authors to speak of assertive training was A. Salter. In 1949, he published a book called Conditioned Reflex Therapy, which discussed the negative effects of emotional conditioning and not being assertive. It was his work that presented a model with different procedures to tackle the problems of assertiveness.

    For A. Salter, assertiveness refers to a person’s ability to express their emotions (exciting personality). Lack of assertiveness refers to inhibition or difficulty expressing emotions (Inhibitory personality).

    However, although Salter was one of the first to talk about assertiveness, it was only J. Wolpe who coined the term, basing the concept on Salter’s work. Wolpe first used the term in his 1958 book, Reciprocal Inhibition Psychotherapy.

      Conditioned reflex therapy Salter: features

      To develop Salter’s conditioned reflex therapy, this use Pavlov’s contributions on conditioned reflexes and the knowledge of the fundamental processes of higher nervous activity, that is, the processes of arousal and inhibition, as we mentioned above.

      Thus, Salter links mental disorders with inhibitory processes (inhibitory personality) and mental health with excitatory processes (excitatory personality).

      The role of the therapist in Salter therapy is that of promote in the patient the overcoming of his inhibitions. He will be sought after to be able to freely express his own feelings. Many times, patients have suffered from excessive inhibitory conditioning which has caused them suffering in earlier stages of their life. It happened because such inhibition exceeded the social demands of the person.

      On the other hand, Salter’s conditioned reflex therapy focuses on two fundamental ideas:

      1. The instruction offered to patients

      This will aim to that patients act more and think less. Salter (quoted in Balarezo, 2003) underlines in his work that “the healthy thinks without thinking and the patient thinks without acting”.

      2. Use of the 6 basic techniques in psychotherapy

      These 6 techniques are as follows:

      2.1. Externalization of feelings

      It is expected that the patient expresses his feelings and thoughts freely, without inhibitions.

      2.2. Facial expression of feelings

      It trains the patient to learn to identify and recognize their facial expressions and their relationship to emotions and expression.

      2.3. Contradiction and attack when you disagree about other people’s exhibits

      It is about training the patient to express disagreement with the opinions or points of view of others. This can be done verbally and / or behaviorally.

      2.4. Use the word “I” deliberately in most cases

      The goal is that the patient uses pronouns and words that refer to him (For example me, me, mine …), and to do it more often than it currently does.

      2.5. Acceptance and recognition of praise

      It is about the patient being able to recognize and accept praise, and that he does not use an attitude of false modesty when praised.

      2.6. Encourage the ability to improvise

      The patient will be trained so that he can improvise his behaviors and not over-plan them, so that they can arise spontaneously when the situation demands it.

      Other techniques used by Salter

      In Salter’s reflex conditioning therapy, special emphasis is placed on the patient by focusing their attention on the here and now i.e. who deals with their own present behaviors, feelings and thoughts.

      The therapeutic tasks employed by Salter focused on dealing with problematic situations of (live) reality. It could be seen in a way as a precedent for exposure techniques. He also used relaxation techniques and pleasurable images as tools to manage and reduce anxiety, as well as to improve appropriate or desired behaviors. These techniques could set a precedent for systematic desensitization.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Salter, A. (1949): Conditioned Reflex Therapy, New York.
      • Zaldívar, D. (1994). Affirmative therapy: a strategy for its use. Cuban Journal of Psychology, 11 (1), 53-64.
      • Balarezo, Lucio. (2003). Psychotherapy. Quito: Publications Center of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, 150-154.

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