BrainWorking Recursive Therapy® – BWRT® – was created in 2012 by Terence Watts, a therapist, author of many books and training courses and principal of the Essex Institute in Essex, UK. 

What is BrainWorking Recursive® Therapy

BrainWorking Recursive®Therapy is an innovative new concept of psychotherapy; completely unlike anything that has been done before it. It presents an entirely new view of the subconscious mind. It is unique and inspired by the research of Benjamin Libet. In 1983 Benjamin Libet (2003 winner of the Virtual Nobel Prize in Psychology from the University of Klagenfurt), Professor at University of California ran a series of experiments that proved that we do not have free will in the way we think of it, which is precisely why we all encounter so many “Why on earth did I do/say that?” or “Why do I have to feel like this?” moments.

What is BWRT?

BWRT was created by Terence Watt, a therapist for more than 30 years who applied hypnotherapy, as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Emotional Freedom Technique, amongst other therapies, but he always thought the therapies fell short of something. He realised to really hardwire a new way of thinking, most therapies require repeated sessions and activities that the patient needs to keep doing for them to be effective. Watt always thought that existing therapies fall short of something.

The brain is an amazing organ, computing a stream of input from all your senses, while referencing memories and automatically making decisions as you go about your day, trying to make sense of everything it hears and sees. Terence Watts argued there’s no such thing as free will in the typical sense and for many of our thoughts, behaviours and habits, there’s a response to a situation or emotion formed before you even realise.

How does Brain Working Recursive Therapy® work?

BWRT® enables you to create a different neural pathway response – in other words a different mental reaction – before you react to something. ‘The change can be so natural that the client doesn’t even notice the subtle switch.

BWRT® has been designed to remove emotive responses from memories that are deeply troubling and create new, adaptive neural pathways that do not have the old undesirable emotional responses attached to it.  The therapy extends the neural pathways so that the client/patient’s brain knows the new patterns to use in future. Every new experience creates a new template. In fact, immediately after the therapy is finished, the client no longer feel any negative responses to the usual trigger for their presenting symptom, no matter how hard they try to ‘fire it up’.

Your lizard brain controls ‘fight or flight’

These automatic responses come from your limbic cortex, otherwise known as your ‘lizard brain’ called like this, because way back at the start of evolution it was one of the first parts of the brain to form.

The lizard brain controls things that don’t require conscious thought, such as breathing, perspiration, organ function and the hormone system. It also controls our fight-or-flight mode, which is the physical and emotional response we feel when confronted with something your brain perceives as stressful or dangerous. This means some negative, automatic actions or reactions – such as a fear of flying, or reaching for a sugary snack if you feel low, could emanate from misinterpreted or outdated information that our brain has stored from a past situation. The information doesn’t have to be the distant past. As ones situation changes in life such as your kids moving away, you retire or it could be something bigger like a health change it can subconsciously affect you.

You might find yourself suddenly devoid of a plan, or lacking focus or confidence. Your lizard brain learns patterns associated with these feelings, such as a release of the stress hormone cortisol and you feeling the jitters when you go to sign up for that new fitness class. It will automatically continue that reaction each time the issue comes up, without you even stopping to realise that’s what is going on.

The amazing thing is, your lizard brain doesn’t differentiate between reality and imagination and the new insight is that the reaction can be “recorded over”,

Once the brain has created an automatic response pattern to specific emotions, it can become so automatic that it would be really difficult not to do them. We do not consciously think of it but when we experience from, underlying guilt, panic attacks, anger outbursts and depression. The reaction happens in the same way.  Before we can think, we do something that we’d rather not, or that prevents us from doing something we wanted to do. This is exactly where using BWRT a therapist can help you break that loop so that you can start to do the thing you want to do, instead of what you don’t want to do, but can’t help doing or feeling.

The name for the process that takes place is ‘preconscious,’ ‘subconscious’ or ‘unconscious’ and all has to do with the speed of the nerve paths in the brain being much faster than we can consciously think.  The process is all about speed you do not control or problematic reactions called instincts or reflexes.  These are done by the brain in a split second choosing what action to take and start to trigger it.  What actually happens when you have panic attacks, anxiety, road rage or guilt feelings is that the brain reacts in the way it has somehow learnt fits with whatever is going on. It doesn’t matter what you consciously want, because by the time you actually starts to think about it, the speedy part of your brain has already made up its mind, and that’s why it is so difficult to deal with these kinds of problems on your own.

What happens in a BWRT® session?

If you’ve had any kind of counselling or therapy you will know that it can sometimes be frustrating, awkward, or even traumatic, as your brain mulls over problems, past and present. But with Brain Working Recursive Therapy®, you don’t even need to discuss the cause or root of the problem, making the concept of treating it feel a lot more comfortable.

In a BWRT® session, which usually takes around an hour, the therapist will ask you to target the thing you don’t like about how you are behaving and feeling, and ask you to focus on how you would rather behave and feel.

Essentially you freeze the response before it goes past your lizard brain – just before the action (behaviour) or emotion (feeling) form. This is how it differs from therapies such as CBT, which looks to change your response or reaction once the troubling emotion has already formed. The new response pattern is inserted into the brain in the ‘Freeze’ moment of a traumatic memory. If no new information is given, the old software will just start running again. In BWRT® the exact moment of the original traumatic event was frozen again is now used to re-freeze the exact moment of creating a specific set of important circumstances in the limbic system. We recreate what often happens during a moment of trauma that is ‘Freeze’ and at that exact moment when the previous neuropath started we insert the new software, thus creating a new neuropath while the brain while waiting for further information. We have a fixed point that we can link forward to the present and hence to a fixed future point. This allows us to create a huge recursive loop that spans only 1/5th of a second in ‘Brain Time’ but several weeks, months, or even years in chronological time. What we are essentially doing, is storing new software in the pattern recognition matrix. We’re uploading a new preferred response in the preconscious part of the brain. In essence, we’re over-writing the bad software with better software. We also imagine and install a better future memory. Using particular techniques to lock it into place, we create a memory of something that hasn’t happened yet, but you will remember it as if it has already happened. This is possible because your brain creates new nerve pathways every time you think of something. Indeed, the brain is a river, not a rock. As much as 70% of your synaptic connections change each day. BWRT® zooms in on and changes those synaptic connections that you want to change.

What we are essentially doing, is storing new software in the pattern recognition matrix. We’re uploading a new preferred response in the preconscious part of the brain. To change unwanted automatic reactions, all we have to do is get as far back along that signal path as possible so that we can persuade your brain that a new behaviour is more suitable than the old one. The term neuroplasticity refers to the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experience. New Experience   Old experience   Freeze moment  

‘In essence it is a natural and practical form of therapy, and the best thing is, the change comes completely from within you’ says Terence Watts.

The neuroscience behind BWRT®

According to research there are at least ten billion neurons in the human brain, which by seven years of age is almost fully grown and thereafter its complexity is the result not of the growth of more cells but of connections between cells. There are between ten trillion and one hundred trillion such connections.

Each neuron may be linked to an electric generator. Some neurons are running constantly while others fire intermittently as they receive messages from other neurons. Each of the nerve cells produces about 20 millivolts of power. Information is coded by the frequency of the impulses. It is this electricity that we see on electroencephalographic tracings.  The sending wire of one cell does not touch the receiving wires of other cells. They lie on the other skit of a chasm that is a millionth of an inch wide. The message must “jump” the gap, called the Synapse. The next cell repeats the process. Brain messages can perform this “leap” 500 to 1 000 times per second but the average speed or frequency of firing is 100 times per second.

The neuron consists of three parts: cell body, which contains the nucleus;dendrites, which form the branches or “receiving wires” that picks up messages from other neurons; andaxon, or “sending wire” through which messages are passed on after being evaluated by the nucleus.  

There is no actual electrical connection or any passage of electric current between one neuron and the next. The sending wire of the cell ends in little protein vesicles called boutons. The actual transmission of the message across the synapse is a chemical reaction. Chemicals produced by boutons “squirt” the message across, like popcorn being able to pop and hop when heated. When an action is repeated, stimulating cells at frequent intervals, boutons at the synapse increase both in size and number, shortening the span over which the message must jump. The more boutons, the less energy is needed for actions to occur andhabits are formed. The more often we perform the act, the more firmly the habit.

We cannot destroy the old boutons but we can grow new ones and build new neural pathways around the old ones (like bypass heart surgery). The most important element in building new habits is not time, but energy.

Energy builds new habit pathways. It does not matter what kind of energy the body feels (emotional, physical, and sexual) but we do know positive emotional energy such as enthusiasm or visions of glory produces maximum energy. The best way to create a new pathway is to regularly repeat the action.  In time, results will show and new habits being build.