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The Neuroscience of Enduring Transformation

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Integrating Memory Reconsolidation in Developmental Coaching as Illustrated in Aletheia Coaching

Before 2004, the prevailing belief among neuroscientists was that the brain could not erase or edit existing emotional learnings. Based on this belief, many approaches to psychotherapy, coaching, and self-development attempt to create new responses that counteract and compete with existing learnings to develop new ways of being and establish new patterns of behavior. Such counteractive approaches rely on repeated practice to strengthen these new responses to make them more available than past responses.

In 2004, brain neuroplasticity researchers (Pedreira, Maldonado, Pérez-Cuesta, 2004) discovered a way to erase and/or edit emotional learning through a process called memory reconsolidation. And as early as 2006, this new understanding was being consciously applied in clinical psychotherapy with great results. Further research has demonstrated how the most effective styles of psychotherapy leverage memory reconsolidation as a core mechanism of transformation. No single psychotherapy approach owns the method of memory reconsolidation. Instead, memory reconsolidation is a universal process that leverages the brain’s built-in capacity for neuroplasticity (Ecker et al., 2012).

By contrast, counteractive approaches do not meet the brain’s requirements for erasing or editing existing emotional learning. They are marginally effective and are highly dependent on the client’s regularity and discipline with practice. In addition, because existing emotional learnings are not erased or edited, clients will experience relapses.

When the conditions for memory reconsolidation are met, existing emotional learnings can be either erased or edited. Memories of what happened don’t change, but the emotional meaning of what happened does change. When existing emotional responses are erased or edited, they can no longer be triggered leading to effortless and sustained transformation.

Despite the power of memory reconsolidation, many approaches to psychotherapy, coaching, and self-development have not yet integrated it into their methodologies. Given its effectiveness, I predict memory reconsolidation will play a significant role in the future of coaching. In this article, I will explore how memory reconsolidation can be integrated into developmental coaching. I will detail the three-step process for opening the memory reconsolidation window, a time when emotional memories shift into a malleable state where they can be erased or edited. I will illustrate how this process is integrated into Aletheia Coaching, a next-generation developmental coaching methodology that I originated. Lastly, I will offer an edited and annotated transcript of an actual coaching conversation to demonstrate memory reconsolidation in action within a developmental coaching context.

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