A (Very) Brief Introduction to Communication-FOcused Therapy® (CFT®)
Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D.
Communication-Focused Therapy® (CFT®) is a psychotherapy developed by the author, which has been described for a large number of mental health conditions. This article contains a brief introduction to CFT.
Keywords: communication-focused therapy, CFT, communication, psychotherapy, psychiatry
Communication is everywhere. Humans and all other organisms exchange meaningful messages all the time. Meaningful messages can bring about a change, which makes them meaningful. The universe is built on information, and the communication of that information. As the physical sciences are increasingly regarding information as basic ingredient of the world around us, psychotherapy should consider this perspective as well. The exchange of meaningful information brings about change in the external and internal world within a person. Any changes taking place in the world we share begin with the communication of meaningful information and are maintained and adjusted through communication. Meaningfulness in this context refers to the potential of a piece of information to induce change in the recipient or recipients, which depends on many factors. Improving an individual’s ability to form and modify effective communication patterns on the inside and with the outside world needs to be a prime objective in therapy.
Information can change internal and external states. On the internal side, sadness, grief and sorrow, as well as happiness, joy and contentment are parts of life. These emotions are important signals, meaningful internally communicated information, that has as its purpose to set change in motion (hence ‘e-motion’). Only if this information can be decoded and processed effectively, however, is it possible to communicate the information internally and externally that can bring about the change. If the communication patterns that are involved in extracting the message are ineffective, which may be experienced as a partial disconnect from the source, change will either be too little or maladaptive. Being able to take a test because of anxiety, paranoid depressed thoughts in relation to a partner, negative ruminations, having to touch a certain spot on the table at least six times every time one passes it or hearing voices clearly signal that some messages are being missed and that the quality of life is reduced. Although many people experience these symptoms, they can be addressed in psychotherapy.
Maladaptive external communication patterns can lead to various problems in work, in relationships and other areas. Since there is also a close connection between internal and external communication, as they reflect each other to an extent, important feedback paths cannot work well if internal or external communication patterns are missing, compromised or otherwise maladaptive. Because of this link one usually has to address both in therapy, the internal and external communication patterns.
Mental health symptoms usually arise when there is a disconnectedness with oneself and the world, when communication patterns are not working as effectively anymore to exchange meaningful information, which could bring about the necessary changes that resolve the underlying issues, such as being able to connect with the sadness about a lost relationship and the previous happiness about it behind it to dissolve symptoms of anxiety. Or by connecting with emotions or thoughts causing anxiety, OCD symptoms can often be reduced considerably.
Communication patterns also determine how people exchange meaningful information with one another. Observing and helping to create awareness for them in therapy can, for example, reduce anxiety or depressed thoughts that are connected with the pressure caused by too little effective communication in a difficult situation in work or at home. Since communication patterns are for the most part outside one’s focus and conscious awareness, a significant openness and flexibility is required for them to change. In anxiety and other conditions, a greater level of mental rigidity, however, makes this less likely. To escape this vicious cycle, one would need to become aware of it, which can be accomplished in therapy.
Relationships with people represent expectations, sometimes only hope, that a strand of meaningful communication will continue into the future. As long as helpful communication patterns are used, relationships can be a great benefit to the individual, but if they no longer work as well as they did in the past, maybe because of other changes that occurred, such as changes in the other person’s communication patterns, readjustment or the development of new ones is needed. Fears, anxiety, anger, hurt and other emotions can cause increased rigidity here, and often the internal communication patterns need to be strengthened first to connect with these emotions and resolve them.
Therapy is about insight into and experimentation with communication patterns. An awareness for them is usually the first step, followed by reflection and experimentation with adjustments or new patterns. Another important concept is resonance. For a meaningful message to actually lead to change requires that it can be processed in such a way within the context of the information that is already present triggers change. Resonance can change throughout life as an individual absorbs more meaningful information in the world. One important skill in life is to find and select the information in life that is most helpful, which also increases the resonance for even more helpful information. Whether it is information about relationships, interactions with family or on how to find professional information, we acquire them through communication and select them out via resonance, which is based on previous information.
CFT has been developed and described by the author for various mental health conditions (Haverkampf, 2010, 2017d, 2019, 2017c, 2017h, 2017a, 2017g, 2017b, 2017e, 2017f, 2018). The focus is on the communication patterns patients, which can be very entrenched and changing them may appear difficult. However, in the interaction between therapist and patient changes in communication can be tested, reflected upon and assessed. The objective is to give and help the patient develop enough tools to become his or her own therapist. These processes in which internal and external communication patterns rise to awareness and change are at the core of therapy. The change has very real effects on the person and the environment, since it is by communication that we bring about real changes in the world around us and in ourselves.
Dr Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, M.D. (Vienna) MLA (Harvard) LL.M. (ULaw) trained in medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy and works in private practice for psychotherapy, counselling and psychiatric medication in Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of over 200 articles and several books and the founder of Communication-Focused Therapy®. The author can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the websites www.jonathanhaverkampf.com and www.jonathanhaverkampf.ie.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2010). Communication and Therapy (3rd ed.). Dublin: Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication Publishing Ltd.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017a). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) (2nd ed.). Dublin: Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication Publishing Ltd.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017b). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for ADHD. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 110–115.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017c). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Anxiety and Panic Attacks. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 91–95.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017d). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Bipolar Disorder. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 125–129.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017e). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Depression. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 101–104.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017f). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for OCD. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 102–106.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017g). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Psychosis. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 116–119.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017h). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Social Anxiety and Shyness. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(4), 107–109.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2018). Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) – Specific Diagnoses (Vol II) (2nd ed.). Dublin: Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication Publishing Ltd.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2019). Communication-Focused Therapy® (CFT®) for Narcissism.
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