Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy was developed by psychologist Richard Wessler and focuses on the treatment of various personality disorders.
In this article, we’ll learn about its principles and some of its most important components, along with its guidelines for three different disorders: histrionic, narcissistic, and dependent personality.
Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy: Features
Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy consists of cognitive behavioral orientation therapy, aimed at treating personality disorders through an integrated approach.
This approach integrates three types of process: interpersonal, cognitive and affective. In other words, that is to say addresses cognitive aspects of oneself, others and situationsBecause he considers that cognitions play an essential role in the emotions and actions that we take. But it also goes the other way, meaning that emotions significantly influence our cognitions and thoughts (this idea comes from Aaron Beck’s cognitive model).
Specifically, therapy aims to provide the patient with introspection or self-knowledge that will help them feel better as a housekeeper to resolve their own difficulties on their own. Its procedure it is mainly based on the suggestion, encouragement and explanation of the patient’s actions.
Approach to psychotherapy
Wessler’s approach to cognitive assessment therapy, as we have seen, is integrative. In addition, the therapy is part of a motivational and it presupposes that the behavior is motivated by emotions.
The therapy is based on the theories of social learning and interpersonal therapy, as well as the inclusion of elements of constructivism. It is designed to treat different personality disorders in specific ways.
His techniques include components of client-centered therapy, gestalt therapy and Ellis TREC.
Some of the most important elements of Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy are:
1. The therapeutic relationship
this one it should be warm and welcoming, as well as include appropriate revelations by the therapist. Therapy gives it an essential value for the therapeutic change to occur.
2. Watch out for emotions
Wessler therapy attaches particular value to emotions; especially to shame and self-pity.
These emotions can be used by the patient himself to justify his actions, so it is important that the therapist provides adequate information about their nature, in order for the patient to take responsibility for his own actions.
3. Rules of personal life
This is an essential assumption in this therapy; these rules guide the person in his cognitive and social relations, his ethics and his morals, and therefore end up guiding his thoughts and actions as well.
Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy pays attention to the patient’s personal life rules, with the aim of identifying them and helping modify them in case they distort the patient’s reality, or make him suffer.
4. Safety research maneuvers
These are the actions that the patient develops and that produce certain emotions; these, in turn, end up leading him to feel a sense of security. They can be behavioral or interpersonal.
Therapy also focuses on them, as they provide many clues about how the patient looks, thinks and feels.
Personality disorders in which it is applied
As we have seen, Wessler’s Cognitive Assessment Therapy treats different personality disorders. Let’s see what their specific assumptions are in three different disorders:
1. Histrionic personality
Let’s look at some of the guidelines followed by therapy for these types of patients.
First of all, it is important that the therapist focuses on working with the patient without reinforcing their histrionic behavior; he can do this by showing attention and interest early in the therapeutic relationship, and once the connection is established (this being stronger), change the approach to a more empathetic approach.
This will be done by reflecting the feelings of the person, rather than the dramatic emotions that they “interpret” or pretend. On the other hand, the therapist will focus on helping the patient to remain calm, without getting carried away or “dragged” by the attractive stories the patient tells.
The main techniques that the therapist will use with the histrionic patient will be: self-disclosure, so that the patient does not lose contact with reality; reframing the patient’s verbalizations and using humor to deflate his melodramatic style.
2. Narcissistic personality
For this type of patient, it will be important to address the patient’s feeling of being able to demand what he wants from others, by self-revelation, With the aim of creating dissonances between the (private) version of the patient’s reality and the therapist’s version, considered socially appropriate.
This point will also be worked on, by encouraging the patient to feel responsible for his actions, by increasing his self-confidence and by promoting him to be able to achieve what he has set out to do without having to take advantage of others.
3. Dependent personality
In dependent personality disorder, Wessler’s cognitive assessment therapy focuses on encourage these patients to stop being passive as they focus on enjoying themselves, Instead of constantly trying to please and please others. Such goals can be set from the start.
Other techniques will consist of encouraging the patient to take risks outside of therapy, to defend their rights (strengthen their assertiveness) and to make decisions for themselves, without relying on the approval of others for the treatment. make.
In other words, the ultimate goal will be for the patient to learn to be independent; in this way, the therapist will try to make the patient “his own therapist”, increasing his autonomy and self-determination, and help set limits in their personal relationships.
- Cavall, V. (eds.), Description, evaluation and treatment of personality disorders, Madrid: Synthesis.
- Cavall, V. (2001). Cognitive-behavioral treatments for personality disorders. Behavioral Psychology, 9 (3), 579-605.
- Wessler, R. (1993). Cognitive approaches to personality disorders. Behavioral Psychology, 1, 35-50.