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Is the pattern of regular short sessions key to the success of therapy?

November 27, 2008

Interesting findings may provide retrospective validation of the regular, short-session model of psychotherapy.

Rather like a pond that soon returns to calm no matter the size of the stone you throw in it, psychological research has shown that people’s sense of happiness is stubbornly immovable, regardless of how good or bad the experiences one endures.

This capacity to adapt to life circumstances and return to baseline levels of happiness has been dubbed the “hedonic treadmill”, and while it is reassuring in the face of bad events, the implication for policy makers is that there is little they can do to improve the population’s happiness.

According to Daniel Mochon and colleagues, however, this is not the full story. Mochon’s team have tested the idea that whereas rare, massive events have no lasting effect on happiness, the cumulative effect of lots of little boosts may well have the power to influence happiness over the longer-term.

An initial study questioned the happiness of 2,095 participants as they were either entering or leaving a place of worship. Across 12 different religious denominations, the results were the same: those people questioned after a religious service were happier than those questioned before. Moreover, the more times a person said they’d attended a service in the last month the average was four times, the happier they tended to be.

A second study found similar results for people attending a gym or yoga class. Again, those questioned on leaving were happier than those questioned on arrival. Moreover, the more times someone reported going to the gym in the last month, the happier they were.

via BPS RESEARCH DIGEST: Rare, profound positive events won’t make you happy, but lots of little ones will


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