The Learning, Philosophizing, and Action (LPA) Technique
Over the past 25 years, Dr. London has developed and refined a therapeutic approach that's highly effective for solving many types of mental health problems. Called the Learning, Philosophizing, and Action (LPA) Technique, it takes people through a three-stage process using a short-term cognitive-behavioral approach to problem solving that's interactive and dynamic. LPA is designed to get successful results in a short time frame—several weeks or months. The traditional approach, on the other hand, is more open-ended; the therapist essentially serves as a sounding board, allowing the patient's realizations to unfold slowly, over many months and, usually, years, offering interpretations that are based on one or a number of theoretical constructs of symbolic perceptions. In contrast, the LPA therapist focuses on targeted problem resolution.
The Learning Phase
In the first session or two, a discussion is begun about the patient’s problem—how the behavior in question may have been learned, with the aim to recall actual memories. For example, someone who is suffering from low self-esteem may remember that she was repeatedly told directly, or it was inferred, by parents or other family members that her grades weren't that good or that success for her would be unrealistic because of her attitude or lack of talent. Or perhaps she picked up on the message that her family is not a successful family and she is part of that legacy, and thus became resigned to low expectations. Over time, after being bombarded with these messages and learning them as if they were absolute truth, they became her belief system, the very fabric of who she thinks she really is. She could no longer defend herself from these internalized beliefs, even if many of them were faulty from the get go. (I'm really not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. What's the point in even trying?)
The Philosophizing Phase
In the philosophizing phase, the patient is asked to extrapolate what she has learned—moving from specific memories to a more global view and recognition of the origins of her low self-esteem. If this is what went on, let's look at how these faulty family messages and faulty beliefs might have affected you. How did you defend yourself emotionally from the barrage of belittling? What kinds of behaviors might such negativity lead to? How might years of confusing or negative messages affect your decisions now, as an adult? We do this rapidly, over a few sessions, so the person comes to understand how her present-day actions and thoughts are formed by her faulty learned attitudes, and how her behaviors have reinforced the faulty learning that originated from a faulty belief system. Through this learning approach and acknowledging the impact of that learned behavior, the patient now begins to understand where her present-day behavior comes from.
The Action Phase
In the action phase, we unlearn those behaviors through a structured thinking process, otherwise known as cognition. Unlike the traditional approach, which features endless questions and endless digging that centers on how you feel/felt about certain events or why you are minimizing this or that, in the LPA model, based on a cognitive-behavioral approach, we ask, What are you doing to overcome this? The action phase uses various types of practical behavior modification techniques and cognitive strategies designed to give the person a new set of perspectives on an old set of beliefs and problems. It also gives the person a chance to succeed by applying a new set of thoughts and beliefs—whether it's getting over a phobia, giving up a self-destructive habit, or changing a troubling personality style. As opposed to going through a symbolic struggle on the couch, here the patient participates in well-thought-out activities—inside the therapist's office as well as in the outside world. These new, conscious behaviors produce a very positive personal reward: success in areas that previously were not working well. Basic learning prevails when a person does something successfully a number of times. In other words, the success-producing behaviors become more and more a part of who they are, and turn their thought and behavior patterns in a positive, productive direction.