Prediction Error Minimisation as a Therapeutic Tool

Prediction Error Minimisation as a Therapeutic Tool

After reading about Prediction Error Minimisation in Lisa Feldman Barrett’s How Emotions are Made, I have been finding it explains more and more, and have been using it effectively in a range of therapeutic scenarios. After sharing my take on PEM, I know it is also being used in therapeutic contexts around pain and sleep disturbance.

At the most simple, in a single session, I might lead a client through a simple exercise or two. I might, for example, ask them to imagine something they struggle with, then ask them to notice various aspects of their experience. The outcome that marks success is surprise. This quality of surprise suggests a simple prediction error event, which leads to a “shift” in experience. Clients I have worked with have reported simple shifts in experience due to this work. For example, one client reported that, after one session, she no-longer required 45 minutes of tossing and turning to get to sleep. We’re still early in developing this technique, but initial work suggests positive results.

But there’s a deeper level too. The exercises I use draw upon experience from my own meditation. As it were, I am using my own inner perspective to help another see aspects of their own experience differently. The deeper level involves going futher: helping the client to adjust their perspective such that they can do the work for themselves (or ultimately, there’s no work needing to be done). This latter work draws particularly on teachings drawn from religious traditions, but I am finding it delightful to find ways of expressing it that do not rely on any religious context or understanding. Delightfully, this is available to anyone who is interested.

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