In case you are not familiar with the concept of videotaped confrontation, it refers to recording sessions during which the therapist prods the psyche of the patient in an attempt to trigger a defensive response. The recording is utilized over the course of the follow-up meetings in order to demonstrate he is in denial of his addiction.
A bit of insight on videotaped confrontational therapy
I’ve seen this method of treatment first hand during one of my rehab group sessions. Truth be told, I was feeling quite uncomfortable with the whole thing, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t the subject of the exercise. Later on, I found out that this form of treatment is rather controversial in the medical community and that the last studies on its efficacy were conducted back in the 50s.
The term used to describe the therapy was “cinematographic psychoshock”, but I feel that even this name doesn’t do it justice, because it’s literally an emotional attack on the patient’s psyche designed to trigger a brutal awakening and sudden realization of his problems. In my opinion, and I say this after having been through numerous types of psychotherapy during my struggle with alcoholism, videotaped confrontation is one of the most potentially dangerous types of treatment. Let me tell why.
As I previously mentioned, I had the misfortune to participate in a support group formed mostly of people who had relapsed numerous times due to various reasons, myself included. I like to believe that at that point I had accepted that I had a serious drinking problem and was doing my best to eliminate it, but I can’t say the same about Jennifer – or Jen, as most of us called her – a middle aged stay at home mother of three.
You see, Jen was always telling everyone how much she enjoys being a full time mom and how great it is to never miss a moment of your kids’ life due to work. However, every once in a while she would unconsciously divulge a random thought about the career she had to renounce after the twins were born or the friends with whom she no longer has the time or energy to hang out. Jen was secretly depressed, but she never confronted her feelings and always defended her alcoholism as a way to cope with the stress of parenthood.
Due to her obvious state of denial, Jen was chosen to participate in the video confrontation and she agreed to it, even though it was to prove everyone wrong. She got a lot more than she bargained for, as our group’s therapist began poking and prodding her behavior, dissecting it bit by bit and shattering illusion after illusion in front of everyone. And everything was on tape. By the time he got through with Jen, she was left speechless and in tears.
Yes, Jen realized that she was living a lie on that day, but we never saw her at the meetings after that. I later found out that she almost committed suicide after she got home by swallowing a whole bunch of prescription antidepressants and drowned them in two bottles of wine. Luckily her oldest son came home from soccer practice early and called an ambulance just in time to save his mother’s life.
I firmly believe there are several much safer methods to make a patient understand that denial is unhealthy than a direct and brutal confrontation with the all the harsh realities of his life.