Coherence is a system of psychotherapy based in the theory that symptoms of mood, thought and behavior are produced coherently according to the person's current models of reality, most of which are implicit and unconscious. It was founded by Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley in the 1990s. It is currently considered among the most well respected postmodern/constructivist therapies.[1] Edit

The basis of coherence therapy is the principle of symptom coherence. This is the view that any response of the brain–mind–body system is an expression of coherent personal constructs or schemas, which are nonverbal, emotional, perceptual and somatic knowings, not verbal-cognitive propositions.[2] A therapy client's presenting symptoms are understood as an activation and enactment of specific constructs.[3] The principle of symptom coherence can be found in varying degrees, explicitly or implicitly, in the writings of a number of historical psychotherapy theorists, including Sigmund Freud (1923), Harry Stack Sullivan (1948), Carl Jung(1964), R. D. Laing (1967), Gregory Bateson (1972), Virginia Satir (1972), Paul Watzlawick (1974), Eugene Gendlin (1982), Les Greenberg (1993), Bessel van der Kolk (1994), Robert Kegan & Lisa Lahey (2001), Sue Johnson (2004), and others.[4]

The principle of symptom coherence maintains that an individual's seemingly irrational, out-of-control symptoms are actually sensible, cogent, orderly expressions of the person's existing constructions of self and world, rather than a disorder or pathology.[5] Even a person's "resistance" to change is seen as a result of the coherence of the person's mental constructions. Thus, coherence therapy, like some other postmodern therapies, approaches a person's "resistance" to change as an ally in psychotherapy and not an enemy.[6]


  1. Neimeyer & Bridges 2003, p. 290; Neimeyer 2009, p. 89
  2. See the theories of prominent cognitive scientists such as Philip Johnson-Laird and neurologists such asMarcus Raichle, as cited in Ecker & Hulley 2000, p. 66
  3. Ecker & Hulley 2000, pp. 64–66
  4. Ecker & Hulley 2000, p. 83; Ecker, Ticic & Hulley 2012, p. 45
  5. Ecker, Bruce; Hulley, Laurel (2000). "The order in clinical 'disorder': symptom coherence in depth-oriented brief therapy". In Neimeyer, Robert A; Raskin, Jonathan D.Constructions of disorder: meaning-making frameworks for psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. pp. 63–89. ISBN 9781557986290.OCLC 42009389.
  6. Frankel, Ze'ev; Levitt, Heidi M (September 2006). "Postmodern strategies for working with resistance: problem resolution or self-revolution?" (PDF). Journal of Constructivist Psychology 19 (3): 219–250. doi:10.1080/13854040600689141.

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