Communication Patterns to Change Communication Patterns
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. Ineffective and maladaptive communication patterns can be changed through communication.
Keywords: communication patterns, change, communication-focused therapy, CFT, communication, psychotherapy, psychiatry
Communication Patterns to Change Communication Patterns
Communication patterns are what determines the flow of information in an interaction. When communication patterns are changed, the flow of information also changes. It is important to keep in mind that communication adheres to laws that are fundamentally similar to physical laws. If we deconstruct communication into communication elements as one may isolate a process in physics, then both seem to adhere to rules that can be studied and identified. However, because an interaction with another human being is made up by so many processes internally and externally, one would need to compare it in physics to, for example, predicting the growth of a tree. We face the dilemma that we can either study the minute dynamics of individual communication elements or the sum of them macroscopically. In a therapeutic session, it is helpful to have some insight into the more elementary communication processes with their greater exactness and at the same time an appreciation for the complexity when they all come together dynamically in a human interaction, which can only be approached probabilistically or heuristically. How someone answers to a particular question needs to be judged heuristically (‘gut instinct’), while how a certain type of question is communicated in a pattern, the density of new information it transmits and the information it could resonate with in the other person, if it is received and decoded accurately, is quite exact. Communication patterns activate specific other communication patterns in a certain information environment (Haverkampf, 2010, 2018a, 2018b).
Since the world is built on information, and communication is needed for any success in the world, working well with information can be very important. As has been described by the author in more depth elsewhere (Haverkampf, 2018b), communication dynamics occur in patterns, which are heuristic constructs. Even though they are heuristic, they are based also in microscale communication laws. Communication patterns play a twofold role in therapy, it is important to be able to identify them and to use them to counter maladaptive communication patterns in the patient. Depending on the situation and other factors certain communication patterns emerge, which also depend on the internal dynamics and wishes. Questions are an example of a group of communication patterns, which can be powerful and work in many different situations (Haverkampf, 2017). Dynamically, a question triggers the release of more information from the other side, which can initiate a helpful interaction pattern. Other communication patterns may include imagining a slightly different version of the other person and communicating with that mental image. This usually means the patient has to adjust also slightly, which can then trigger communication patterns and information which can provide greater insight. Communication patterns may also be used to express emotions with other information. This can be helpful in many situations. When a therapist communicates an emotion to a patient, such as happiness or sadness, the other person will in most situations respond to that. The response can range from joining in to releasing a different emotion. As emotions are information as well, one emotional signal can trigger another one. Various levels of listening also distinct communication patterns, which express receptiveness to messages from the other person. Certain types of listening, as other communication patterns, can induce change, particularly if being listened to has not been a regular experience of the patient in the past.
New communication patterns usually bring about a change in the interaction and in the communication that are used by both. Reactively using communication patterns can work as long as the sight on the communication dynamics is not lost. However, stepping into the unknown by becoming more active can work if the patient is ready for it and on board as well and if one is open, flexible and very transparent. Whatever helps the patient to think about communication as it happens can lead to positive change. An important objective in therapy is to allow the patient to take a step back and to observe the information dynamics.
The own use of communication should increase the insight and understanding of the patient, allowing him or her to take a step back and observe what is happening. It should also give the patient a greater sense of efficacy in influencing his or her inner and outer worlds. Thus, another important objective is to let a patient experience the power of communication first-hand. The skillful use of communication and communication patterns can help the patient widen their horizon through new ways of communicating with themselves and with the world.
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 jo****************@gm***.com or on the websites www.jonathanhaverkampf.com and www.jonathanhaverkampf.ie.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2010). A Primer on Interpersonal Communication (3rd ed.). Dublin: Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication Publishing Ltd.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2017). Questions in Therapy. J Psychiatry Psychotherapy Communication, 6(1), 80–81.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2018a). A Primer on Communication Theory.
Haverkampf, C. J. (2018b). Communication Patterns and Structures.
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