Last night I was involved in a discussion with a lady called Jude Seaward who has always been my 'go to' for more practical, empathetic approaches to helping my children, and particularly my PDA son. You can find out more about Jude here at her website, "SimplyMisunderstood".
She was asked by someone else in the group we belong to, what the difference was between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and why one might be more beneficial for children (and adults I guess) with Pathological Demand Avoidance, than the other.
I am going to copy and paste the discussion below as there is not much more I can add. Jude's summary was concise, comprehensive and easily understood.
Here you go!
"What I have found is that therapy alone doesn't work, or is very slow. I have found that it must be multi elemental so you look at the environmental changes, teaching a new skill in line with their development and broken into small steps, altering interaction and changing the persons approach.
That is where NLP is slightly better than CBT.
CBT is about challenging people's views and offering alternative thoughts. For example, my friend walked past me and ignored me; 1) because they didn't see me or 2) because they don't like me and are ignoring me. So, CBT would look at the evidence to support or disprove the persons thoughts.
This process, if you think about it, is quite directive, and in some ways challenging. This, in its own way, becomes a demand.
With NLP, it's about building a new thought process and skills, so if you see your friend and they are walking past, you can call them, tap them on the shoulder and so on. You have a shared experience in the process. Instead of being an exploration, you look at the positive thought patterns and plant ideas.
The more you practice them, the more your brain positively reacts to it.
So, instead of with CBT, saying, 'Why am I scared? What can I do about it?', with NLP you would look at, yes, it does worry me but I can do this. Do I need to ask for help, or do I have the skills?
This way it helps the child (or adult) develop coping skills that they can use, (rather than with CBT changing what they think) in a logical format. It is very subtle, the difference, but one is more structured and therapist led (CBT) rather than free-flowing and child-led (NLP).
This is why it works better for kids with PDA...it gives them some control and relationship with the therapist - it is more nurturing.
Also, NLP will take into account the preferred learning manner and get you to be more in touch with your body, helping you to realise what senses you use to take in information from the world.
It's used a lot hypnotherapy where a positive thought is 'planted' to be triggered. For example, I used it when studying and the thought was simple: I like to read and study. This was in line with my natural balance but I reinforced it and it made doing my masters a breeze as I enjoyed it even more! Even now I enjoy a book (but not always a reference book)!"
So, there you have it. The subtle and yet crucial difference between CBT and NLP.
After having this discussion with Jude I realised that, whilst I don't have the technical terms for what goes on in my own home, I am following NLP principles. We constantly build on what makes us happy and helps us to feel accomplished. We rarely talk about 'deficits' and 'struggles'.
All learning in my house, (social, emotional, physical, educational etc.) happens by building on strengths and focussing on positives. I do not ever begin an activity with my children based on the premise that they need to 'improve' or 'practice' as these in themselves devalue where their skill level is at this current time, which in itself can be discouraging (especially for a child with PDA who has massive anxiety about their performance to begin with).
I know I risk sounding like a broken record, but, the unstructured learning approach for kids with PDA is so very beneficial. It is also, slower and it is more bumpy and it is certainly requires a lot more faith, but, in the long run, it leads to better outcomes because ultimately, it is an internal change and not an external change.
If your child, whether they have the PDA part to their diagnosis or not, is anxious about failure and struggles to get motivated if the task is something that has been forced upon them, please consider how NLP and using different language might help.
Are you building on their passions? Are you harnessing their interests? Are you strengthening their confidence and self-esteem by using a 'can do' attitude?
I hope you have taken something from this short discussion that can be of use for your family.
Have a great day,