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The Clinical Implications and Neurophysiological Background of Useing Self-Mirroring Technique to Enhance the Identification of Emotional Experiences: An Example with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy


Many patients have difficulty recognizing their own emotions. The aim of the ABC framework of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is to help patients identify the emotions (the C) connected to dysfunctional thoughts (B) in critical situations and inferences (the A). Today, new audiovisual recording techniques can provide patients with a “mirror”, where they can view their own emotions and way of thinking. A videotape of a patient’s face during the session and the subsequent analysis of emotional sequences can help patients gain awareness of their emotions. In this case, they do not use their self-reflective abilities, related to the limbic system, that are frequently impaired in patients affected by psychopathologies. Instead, patients use their automatic and intuitive abilities related to the Mirror Neurons system that are usually used to understand the thoughts and emotions of others. In this paper, we describe the application to the ABC framework of REBT to a new video-based protocol based on this theoretical perspective: the self-mirroring technique. We record patients while they are recalling an emotionally significant episode of their life. Immediately after, we record their faces while they are looking at their own image on the screen. Then, we show them the effects of seeing their own emotions in action. The aim is to improve patients’ ability to recognize their own emotions.

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    Following the embodied simulation theory, the view of a movement induces an automatic micro-contraction of the same muscles of the body of the observer, that simulate the observed action. The brain of the observer “reads” the movements of these own muscles to understand the meaning of the observed movement. More usual are for the observer these movements, more he will be able in reading the intentions of the person he is observing. (Gallese 2013).


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Vinai, P., Speciale, M., Vinai, L. et al. The Clinical Implications and Neurophysiological Background of Useing Self-Mirroring Technique to Enhance the Identification of Emotional Experiences: An Example with Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther 33, 115–133 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-015-0205-z

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  • Rational emotive behavioral therapy
  • Mirror neurons
  • Alexithymia
  • Video feedback
  • Self-mirroring technique