You’ve noticed a new type of therapy being offered by psychotherapists, counsellors, clinical hypnotherapists, and coaches. But what is brain working recursive therapy? And is it right for you?

What is BWRT?

Brain working recursive therapy (BWRT) is a short-term therapy designed to quickly and permanently change the way your brain reacts to certain stressors. The aim is to reduce or end to the anxiety, habit, or phobia the stressor usually led to.

Created by established British clinical hypnotherapist Terence Watts, BWRT could be classified as one of the new types of brain training therapies, such as EMDR and clinical hypnotherapy. (In fact many therapists who offer it are also trained hypnotherapists).

Brain training therapies aim to create fast change, not by examining or endlessly going over your past or your issues, but by using neuroscience to change the way you respond to them in the first place.

Is BWRT for me?

BWRT is perfect for people who want to work on an issue, but are really nervous to talk about their past. Or simply can’t, as it’s far too upsetting for them.

The great thing about BWRT is that you can work on a difficult past experience without ever having to talk much about it, or even tell your therapist about it. They only need to know what it is you want to work on, such as, “I feel anxious all the time”.

During the session you can work on a past experience without telling the therapist any of the details, and this in no way affects the results of the therapy.

Brain working recursive therapy is also useful if you do want to commit to a certain type of long-term talk therapy, but need to reduce your anxiety or stress response first, so that the therapy doesn’t end up making you feel worse.

What issues can BWRT help with?

Brain working recursive therapy is still rather a new therapy, currently being researched by the NHS here in the UK as a treatment for non-complex trauma.

So while not yet considered evidence-based, it could be helpful for:

According to the official site of BWRT, it’s being used in the South African police force to help officers with PTSD, as well as in correction facilities, hospitals, and schools.

But what is the actual science behind it?

We like to think that when faced with a decision we mull over available choices, then consciously pick one.

BWRT is based on research that shows that actually, a decision is made before we even mentally know about it, is an unconscious process, and is based on previous experiences over the current situation.

Our early brain, colloquially called the ‘Reptilian brain’, is programmed to protect us. And this early brain, when faced with a stressful situation, seems to rapidly 'pattern match' to find a response. It scans all our previous experiences and simply picks the best match for the current situation.

But before we consciously register this choice, there is a tiny pause, or a ‘cognitive gap’. BWRT uses this gap to 'reroute' your brain and change your response pattern. Terrence Watts explains:

"Many ‘symptoms’ are the result of a behaviour or thought pattern ‘firing up’ that has been activated before. It might actually have been suitable or effective at one time but the fact that it isn’t now is of no consequence to the non-reasoning part of the brain. BWRT makes it possible, via a simple technique, to create a new response pattern to any stimulus so that the action the brain triggers is one that we want."

Quick questions about BWRT

1. Do I have to talk about the past?

No. BWRT is not content based, it's more of a brain training process. So you can choose how much or little you want to share with your therapist.

2. Do I lose consciousness during the BWRT process?

No. You are fully conscious and aware during sessions.

3. Is it the same as hypnotherapy?

No. A trained hypnotherapist might also be interested in and offer BWRT, given that they both aim to retrain your mind.

But hypnotherapy puts you into a deeply relaxed state so your unconscious becomes accessible. BWRT doesn't hypnotise or aim to relax you, it induces a mental 'freeze state' (distracting you temporarily from conscious thought) to reprogram your 'Reptilian brain' patterns.

4. What is a session actually like?

You briefly tell the therapist what it is you want to work on. You will then be asked to close your eyes and the therapist will talk you through different visualising and sensing processes, and you simply follow their voice and instructions as best you can.

You might, for example, be asked to picture the situation that upset you, the way you would have liked the situation to go, your self in an ideal future, or different parts of your brain lighting up, amongst other things. (It might sound and indeed feel strange, but there is an exact order and speed to all of it that gets below conscious thought).

5. Is it dangerous?

No. You might feel giggly, floaty, or sleepy for a few hours afterwards, much like after a session of hypnotherapy or EMDR. But that's about it.

Want to give BWRT a try and feel less stressed and anxious? Book a therapist offering brain working recursive therapy now.

Andrea M. Darcy is a health researcher and writer with training in coaching and counselling who first tried and then trained in BWRT.

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