Going up a level

Welcome to this new blog where I will be sharing news and updates on the Next Level study, a research trial evaluating Method of Levels therapy for people experiencing a first episode of psychosis. The study is being carried out by researchers at the University of Manchester. If you would like to know more about the study, please have a look at the About section of this website.

As well as news about the trial, I’ll also be sharing more general information about MOL and Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), the theory upon which MOL is based. I hope you will find the blog interesting and useful. Please do get in touch if you can think of ways to improve the blog or if there are specific topics you would like to see covered.

This is probably a good point for me to say a bit more about what MOL actually is. If you want to understand MOL, however, you really need to know something about the theory which underpins the therapy: Perceptual Control Theory (PCT). One of the strengths of MOL is that it directly applies this robust theory of human behaviour to the practice of psychotherapy. This means that what an MOL therapist does in a session is guided by the theoretical principles of PCT.

PCT was developed by William T. Powers, a scientist and engineer who spent his life studying control systems.  The fundamental principle of PCT can be stated very simply: behaviour is the control of perception. This short statement actually has big implications for our understanding of  human behaviour. Rather than controlling their actions, what people are actually doing is controlling their perceptions of the world in order to try and keep them within certain parameters.

To take an example that is very relevant to life in Manchester, if you put your umbrella up on a rainy day, what you’re likely to be controlling is how wet and cold it’s okay for you to feel. To take another example, if you accept the offer to ‘supersize’ your meal at a fast food restaurant, you’re probably controlling your level of hunger. Just like Goldilocks, who didn’t want her porridge to be too hot or too cold, all of us are trying to keep our perceptions within ‘just right’ zones.

Where things get more difficult is when our ‘just rights’ conflict with each other. What if we want to supersize that meal, but we also want to lose weight? What if we want to put the umbrella up on a stormy day, but we don’t want the umbrella to get damaged. Mostly, we’re able to resolve these dilemmas without too much difficulty. However, sometimes we have a conflict that we struggle to resolve. From a PCT-perspective, it is these ongoing, unresolved conflicts that create psychological distress. MOL therapists help people to become aware of these inner struggles; to notice when they find themselves being pulled in different directions. One of the great things about MOL is that it aims to enable people to resolve these problems for themselves, allowing people to lead the life they want.



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