Generalizing Therapy Treatment

There are a number of different strategies to promote generalization of treatment effects in therapy. One common method is to assign homework. Homework is used both for the client to practice therapy techniques as well as for the therapist to assess compliance with and understanding of treatment. As clients complete homework they learn to apply treatment skills to new situations outside of the therapy room; homework is key to CBT. Another method that can promote generalization is exposure (or desensitization), in vivo or imagined. Exposure techniques, especially when they are in vivo, allow for clients to learn how to apply skills they may have learned cognitively but not behaviorally. In vivo exposure provides a way for people to learn that they will live, they will survive, and be happy during and after the time they are facing feared objects or situations. As with any skill, perfection only comes with practice, so desensitization methods provide those opportunities to practice and learn application in multiple situations.

Cognitive restructuring (and flexibility) allows for generalization of therapeutic techniques. When people successfully learn to rethink their reactions to specific situations and events, they then can learn to apply this new way of thinking to multiple situations. This cognitive flexibility allows clients to adapt, progress, and generalize.

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