The reassignment technique in psychotherapy: what it is and how it is used

Everything we do and what we don’t do has no effect on the world. We have a certain capacity for control over our actions: we choose what we want to do and what we do (although sometimes some people have to do it), which in the end it gives us the ability to run our own lives.

However, we must also keep in mind that our action and our intervention in the world are limited: many elements may or may not come together for a given situation to occur. In this sense, attributing causes to a particular event can be much more difficult than it seems. However, it is common for us on a mental level to try to quickly give you an explanation in which what is going on has one or a few factors that generate it.

In some cases, this attribution can be unrealistic and cause discomfort, and can even become a model in which the causes of positive and negative events are rigidly viewed and become a problem. Fortunately, through various techniques, we can modify this model. One of them is the reassignment technique, Widely used by psychologists, which we will talk about here.

    What is the reassignment technique?

    The reassignment technique is a psychological intervention technique frequently used in clinical practice, Either directly or as part of a more complex program or treatment (such as Beck’s cognitive therapy).

    This is a cognitive-type technique that seeks to work on attributing the causes of patients and is characterized by relying on patient assistance to assess what may be the causes of a situation. given in order to discuss and modify their beliefs about this causality, reorient patient allocation towards a more realistic, objective and functional perspective.

    Where are you going from?

    The reallocation technique is based on the idea of ​​locus of control, that is to say in fact that at the time of the analysis of a certain situation one generally grants to the existence of this situation concrete causes which can be either internal (ie the person himself is responsible for it) or external (the environment, other people or abstract elements such as chance), global or specific, stable (the cause is permanent) or unstable (the cause is variable).

    The realization of this attribution it allows us to try to give a cause to what is going onBut sometimes the result of this attribution is unrealistic and dysfunctional and can cause us anxiety, distress, sadness or discomfort among other possible effects. This is where the reallocation technique comes in handy.

      What is your objective?

      The main objective of the use of this reassignment technique is to help the patient to succeed in modifying his locus of control, that is, to be able to modify the attribution of causes that is done for them. positive and negative events. In this sense, we work by ensuring that the person assesses the different factors that can influence or participate in a given event, situation and problem.

      So what is expected is reduce or eliminate cognitive biases linked to a given attribution causes of a situation.

      This technique allows the person to gradually assess that there are a large number of factors that can influence the occurrence or resolution of certain situations or problems in a certain way, so that in the event of negative events, the subject does not exclusively attribute responsibility for the outcome and blame themselves for negative events, or attribute only success and positive results to luck.

      There are different variations of this technique, often specializing in different types of problems. To give an example, we can find Goldberg’s symptom reassignment technique, which focuses on attributing physical symptoms to psychic causes in cases of disorders such as somatization.

      What is it used for in therapy?

      The reassignment technique applies to many situations where the person tends to maintain a rigid locus of control, Unrealistic, biased or dysfunctional. In this sense, we can talk about both clinical and non-clinical issues, although it is much better known to use them in the former.

      Here are some of the problems in which it is generally used.

      1. Depression

      Among the various disorders in which it is commonly used stand out particularly mood disorders. One of the most common is major depression, in which one can usually find the presence of cognitive biases that make the interpretation of oneself, the world and the future negative and aversive.

      At the internal locus of control, stable and global negative events, while successes and positive events are often associated with external, non-specific and unstable causes (such as luck).

      2. Anxiety disorders

      Anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, are another type of problem that can be treated with the reassignment technique.

      Specifically, what can be treated this way is anticipating anxiety attacks and attributing certain symptoms to causes that are not necessarily dangerous. An example can be found in tachycardia and increased cardiorespiratory rate.

      Anxiety arising from generalized anxiety disorder can also benefit from the use of this technique by helping to objectify the possible causes of their discomfort and by trying to promote a more objective view of the situations experienced.

      3. Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder

      Besides mood disorders, another type of situation in which this type of technique can be useful is in the context of acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Although these disorders already have different methodologies for effectively treating them, variations of the reassignment technique can be considered. in the case of those convicted of the traumatic event In the question.

      This is the case with people who have the so-called “survivor syndrome”, people who have overcome an illness that ended many others and who feel guilty or undeserved, people who survive. a car accident in which either person has died, people who have experienced war conflict (both civil and military) or cases such as people who have suffered rape or sexual abuse and are responsible for it.

      4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder

      One of the main characteristics that many people with obsessive-compulsive disorder share is a very high level of doubt and a tendency to feel guilty about their obsessive thoughts, or anxiety about the responsibility they believe they have if the content of their thought comes true.

      For example, a person who has obsessive thoughts of contagion and rituals around cleaning because of them will tend to feel guilty if they do not perform the rituals and make sure everything is properly sanitized, or could get out of hand. feel responsible if someone around you is sick.

      In this sense, the reallocation technique can be useful to allow the subject to try to see the situation more objectively and to assess that there are several variables that could explain why the reason for his anxiety arises and not that it should have to do with their own performance. The aim would be to reduce the tendency to attribute responsibility or guilt to situations the evocation of which generates anxiety in them.

      5. Somatization disorder

      Somatization disorder, as well as other somatomorphic problemsOne of the disorders that can benefit from this type of technique. And in this case, is the technique reassignment can be used to help the patient identify possible psychic causes of the illness that he is noticing on the physical plane.

      6. Hypochondria

      Although the treatment of hypochondria requires more in-depth treatment, they can also use variations of the reassignment technique so that those who suffer from it can learn to value the possible causes of their discomfort. without associating them with a physical illness.

      However, care must be taken that the possible causes that the subject cites are not illnesses but the elements that make him feel sick and what factors may be involved.

      7. Adaptive disorder and other problems

      Dismissals, separations, divorces, marital or family problems, harassment at work or at school … all of this it can generate a high level of stress and discomfort that is beyond the person’s control and cause him great suffering, without being able to meet the criteria to consider that he suffers from depression or an anxiety disorder. These are cases in which symptoms specific to these two types of disorders may appear and which usually appear reactively in a situation (without which the symptoms would not be present).

      This is referred to as adaptive disorder, which can also benefit from the reassignment technique in cases where the problem raises or generates an interpretation or attribution of dysfunctional causes for the person.

      In addition to this, even if a disorder does not appear to be such, it is also possible to work with this technique preventively, especially with people with rigid beliefs, hypersponsibility or low self-esteem.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Beck AT, Rush AJ, Shaw BF and Emery, G. (1979) Cognitive therapy for depression. New York: Guilford Press.
      • Burns, DD (1990). Feel good. Barcelona: Paidós.
      • Guzmán, RE (2011). Somatization disorder: its approach in primary care. Clinical Journal of Family Medicine, 14 (3).

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