Cognitive Processing and Integration (CPI) is an innovative therapeutic intervention that enables people to deal with and move forward from challenging, conflicting or traumatic life events or experiences. Most psychological symptoms and problems are underpinned and maintained by people’s limiting beliefs and unhelpful thinking styles. For some people, these unhelpful beliefs and ways of thinking have mostly arisen in response to specific conflicting or challenging events or experiences. Much of the time, people are able to recover from adverse life events naturally, as they interpret them in a way which is helpful and enables them to feel powerful. Indeed, often exposure to difficult life events ultimately helps people to thrive because they build their skills and resources and learn how to effectively deal with challenges. Most people have been exposed to some sort of adversity or trauma within their lifetime, which had the potential to impact upon them negatively (e.g. Joseph, Mynard, & Mayall, 2000; Norris, 1992; Ozer, Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003; Resnick, Kilpatrick, Dansky, Saunders, & Best, 1993), yet many of these individuals adapt successfully, highlighting that difficult circumstances do not automatically cause psychological problems.
Sometimes, though, we struggle to ‘get over’ and move on from difficult experiences. These experiences can then continue to have an impact upon the way we see ourselves and the world around us. We may feel powerless or unable to face up to the experience and, thus, try to avoid thinking about it. The experience then remains unresolved and conflicting. Sometimes people interpret adverse events in a way which ties in with their existing negative beliefs (for example, they use the experience to support their belief that they are ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘powerless’). They may use the experience as an unhelpful ‘landmark’ and relate other life events, experiences and expectations back to it. Berntsen, Willert and Rubin (2003), for example, found that individuals who developed PTSD after trauma exposure tended to dysfunctionally integrate the traumatic experience compared to those who did not develop PTSD. Those with PTSD tended to use the experience to define their identity and generate expectations for the future.
Cognitive Processing and Integration (CPI) allows people to revisit unresolved or unhelpfully processed challenging, conflicting or traumatic experiences, in a safe and non-judgemental atmosphere, and helps them to change their limiting beliefs and ways of thinking about them. CPI is based upon psychological research evidence and established clinical practice. It brings together insights from the Thrive Programme and research into the Cognitive Interview, Critical Incident Debriefing and cognitive behavioural approaches to treating those exposed to trauma. This integrative approach helps people in an effective and rapid manner.
Now, ‘Cognitive Processing and Integration’ does sound a little complicated, so what does it actually mean?
Cognitive – This refers to the fact the CPI focuses upon a people’s beliefs and ways of thinking in relation to the challenging experience.
Processing and Integrating – This refers to the fact that CPI enables people to gain clarity surrounding and understanding of an experience, helping them to make sense of it. CPI helps people to process and integrate experiences in a helpful and empowering way, such that the experience does not continue to negatively impact upon them.
CPI basically helps you to do the following:
1) Understand the beliefs and thoughts you have developed about yourself and the world around you in response to the conflicting experience(s)
2) Gain a different perspective on these thoughts and beliefs and put the experience(s) into context
3) Alter your thoughts and beliefs to helpful, empowering ones
4) Build the skills and resources to move forward and thrive.
What does Cognitive Processing and Integration involve?
CPI firstly involves you relaxing and taking your mind back to the conflicting experience(s). You will then be asked to engage in ‘cognitive free association’, which basically means that you verbalise all the thoughts, beliefs, images and sensations that come to mind. Verbalising your thoughts and recollections helps you to process the experience; it enables you to make sense of it and put it into context. Many people gradually and naturally restructure their experience(s) throughout the CPI process, as they are given a safe, non-judgemental space to constructively work through the experience. If necessary, your therapist/Thrive Consultant will help you to gain perspective and show you how to alter your beliefs and ways of thinking. By undertaking CPI you will learn the skills and resources you need to process and integrate challenging events in a helpful manner in the future.
CPI often only takes only one or two sessions, particularly if you want to process one recent traumatic or conflicting experience. Alternatively a longer therapy taking around 4 to 6 sessions can be helpful in processing and integrating more extensive or childhood experiences. CPI is often combined with the Thrive Programme to enable you to develop further self-understanding and the skills and resources you need to your life to the full. At your initial consultation you and your therapist/Thrive Consultant will discuss the best approach for you.
When could CPI help me?
CPI can assist people to helpfully process and ‘get over’ a wide range of conflicting, distressing or traumatic events and experiences. These experiences may have occurred in childhood or they may be recent challenging or traumatic experiences. Some such experiences include: the death of a loved one, accidents or severe illnesses, experiences of war or conflict, mugging, physical assault, sexual assault, childhood trauma or abuse, and natural disasters. A discussion with your therapist/Thrive Consultant will help you both to decide whether CPI would be the most suitable way forward for you.