[not on paper handout]Brewin, C.R. (1989) Cognitive change processes in psychotherapy. Psychological Review, 96, 379-394.
This reviews Cognitive-behavioural therapy methods and theory, noting that most accounts of cognitive therapy are silent on the issue of conscious vs nonconscious cognition.
Brewin’s model describes conscious and nonconscious processing of emotional stimuli. It distinguishes between verbally accessible knowledge, and that which can only be recovered by exposure to situational cues.
The model uses “Two cognitive systems”
One is for conscious experience and is under the control of the individual.
The other is for information processing that is not verbally accessible and is not under the control of the individual.
(This is similar to the ‘controlled and automatic’ distinction used by others. pp 380-381).
Brewin suggest that the nonconscious system is what underlies classical conditioning:
“Such a system would be able to account both for conditioning in animals and for the irrational nature of some human fears and phobias”. (p.381-2)
“Many emotions etc exhibited by psychiatric patients are inexplicable to and unwanted by them. Images, thoughts, feelings and compulsions that the patient knows to be irrational appear swiftly and overwhelmingly in certain situations. Conditioning theory currently offers a partial account of these phenomena, particularly when couched in terms of an information processing model.”
“There now appears to be widespread agreement that avoidance behaviour, both in animals and humans, is often meditated by nonconscious cognitive processes that reflect the influence of prior learning about stimulus-stimulus contingencies.” (p.391).
Brewin uses the term “situational memories” to refer to the contents of the nonconscious system”: i.e. he would call classically conditioned associations, resulting from learning about stimulus-stimulus contingencies, “situational memories”
“The failure of many studies to demonstrate any advantage for cognitive-behavioural over purely behavioural procedures may be illuminated by this account..........it will be necessary to state whether the therapeutic aims for each individual involved correcting misconceptions in novel situations, enhancing self-regulatory capacities, creating new situational memories or using cognitive discrimination training. Studies of specific phobias would be concerned primarily with creating new situational memories, and hence findings would be expected to favour straightforward exposure treatment.” p391
“[The model] offers an explanation of how underlying rules or assumptions that influence behaviour can be modified by verbal interventions. Rules are formulated in terms of two different types of cognition, situational memories that are neither modifiable nor directly accessible to consciousness and conscious reconstruction of experience that can be evaluated and modified.”