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Resistance to change in psychology

Resistance to change usually refers to all those responses of “non-acceptance”, conscious or not, given by the patient to the interventions proposed by the therapist. These verbal and non-verbal responses tend to somehow contrast the work with the psychotherapist and keep the complained problem unchanged as well as the balance-homeostasis that this problem ensures for the patient. However change is an inevitable part of life and growth, so we know better this phenomenon of resistance.

Resistance to change is a kind of reaction to change, it is the manifestation of how the human being tends to maintain a general homeostasis. The latter is the condition of internal stability of an animate or inanimate system that tends to remain so even in the presence of external perturbations. In fact, when an external agent moves its position, the system will operate to return to the original equilibrium point.The human being, as an active system, is basically in a condition of equilibrium that he obtains after a series of internal adjustments, but what happens when this balance is no longer functional and the need for change is stronger and stronger? The person will tend to boycott his own therapy because that homeostasis achieved, however dysfunctional, reassures him and, you know, it is not easy, it requires a great deal of energy. In part, therefore, it is natural that this is the case, precisely because every change implies the emotional experience of one’s conflicting feelings which is partly painful, fearful, or burdened with a sense of guilt.

However, it is also true that the patient who seeks help brings a share of resistance, but also a share of therapeutic alliance as he feels the need to change some things.

Resistance to Change: A Challenge to the Therapist

Identifying the type of resistance to change is absolutely important to the therapist in order to perform productive work. The therapist, to produce the change and circumvent the resistance, can focus on small seemingly simple changes in order not to make the patient feel subjected to exaggerated demands regarding the perception of his own personal resources. The action strategies selected by the therapist to circumvent resistance to change should be indirect or covered up to produce a much greater change than the patient might expect. Within a system, even the change of a small detail produces an imbalance and a change within the entire system. This means that minimal changes can trigger a chain reaction of modifications within the system that have the aim of rebalancing the system itself.To circumvent the resistance to change in psychotherapy, strategic communication techniques can be used effectively through which the therapist puts himself at stake to de-structure the dysfunctional vision of reality that creates the problem. Persuasive communication techniques help to circumvent resistance to change because they allow the patient to see and “feel” his problem in a different way.

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