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.


So many of the people I treat in my practice come to therapy because their relationships are suffering, and so they are suffering. It could be a teenage boy whose severe social anxiety prevents him from spending time with his friends, a woman with depression makes it hard to be the partner she wants to be, a father whose expressions of anger have put distance between him and his kids, or the college student whose alcohol-fuelled behaviour has alienated her friends. It’s hard for our relationships to thrive when we’re hurting.

The following 8 underlying devils cause relationship problems and are difficult to fix on one’s own:

  1. Greater presence.
Our presence in a relationship proves to be one very important factor since we cannot really “relate” to someone who is not there. One of the biggest complaints about partners that I hear in my practice is that s/he is not there for me. Sometimes the person means quite literally that their partner is absent—always travelling for work, for example. Just as often the problem is that even when the person is there in body, his or her mind is elsewhere. Next time when your partner talks to you about something, bring your full attention to “presence” to what is said. Practice to see the person as though for the first time and really focus on them and what they’re saying.
  • Less anxiety
When we are overwhelmed by anxiety, we cannot be our best selves. It is therefore understandable that untreated anxiety disorders take a toll on our closest relationships. For example, the need for a “safety companion/supporting partner” when a person panic or fear to drive a vehicle lead to strain as the supporting partner has to adjust his or her travel route or time schedule to accommodate the other person’s travel needs. Similarly the chronic worry in generalised anxiety to tension and irritability, causing conflict between partners not doing what you actually want but to constantly make adjustments to suit the partner’s needs. It is not always what one partner does but an underlying cause. The best way to overcome this challenge is to get professional help.
  • Improved mood.
As with anxiety, untreated depression creates intense fatigue and irritability in a relationship.  It is a struggle to be the partner we are able to be when we have no energy, no sex drive, little enthusiasm and other symptoms even for activities we would normally enjoy.   After a typical therapy course of 5-6 sessions for mild depression the average person will not only feel substantially better but will be able to function much more effectively. It is true that happier individuals make happier couples.
  • Healthier Thought Patterns.
Even if we’re not dealing with a diagnosable condition like anxiety, depression, insomnia, or a substance abuse disorder professional support can have powerful effects on relationships. Most of the successful help is based on an understanding of the connections among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  When our thought patterns are aligned with reality, they generally lead to positive feelings and behaviors. However, when our thoughts become distorted in some way, they start to work against us, including influencing our relationships. For example, we might notice that our partner left his clothes on the floor and think, “He expects me to pick up after him. He thinks I’m his maid.” The result might include a fight driven by resentment and defensiveness. Or we could think that our partner seems distant and tell ourselves, “She’s unhappy with me and our relationship,” leading us to withdraw in turn. Most of the therapy used would focus on one’s behaviour and encourage us first of all to notice the thoughts we are telling ourselves; oftentimes they happen so quickly and automatically that we don’t even recognize the story our mind is creating. Once we are able to identify the thoughts we can test them out to see if they’re accurate. Maybe our partner’s clothes on the floor say nothing about his view of us or expectations. And perhaps our partner’s preoccupation has nothing to do with our relationship and everything to do with her worries about her boss at work. With practice we can replace distorted and destructive thoughts with more accurate and constructive ones.  Importantly, cognitive techniques are not about fooling ourselves or pretending things are better than they are. It would be important to know if our thoughts are actually valid so we can deal with the situation directly.
  • Happier kids.
When a child is struggling with intense fears (e.g., phobias) it can lead to tremendous stress for the family. Parents inevitably feel the strain when a child is refusing to go to school, struggling socially, or having problems at bedtime. As the saying goes, “You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” Furthermore, most couples have somewhat different parenting styles with one partner more lenient and the other more of the disciplinarian parent. A child’s intense struggles will tend to amplify these differences, leading to conflict between the parents. At the end of the night when the kids are finally in bed and both parents just want to unwind, they may instead find themselves arguing about how best to help their child. Thus they may feel like their reserves are exhausted, with little left to give their child or each other. There are several illnesses and reasons such as bedwetting that could put enormous stress on a family and they all require professions intervention, usually the sooner the better. Challenging children could push an already vulnerable partner relationship over the edge.  
  • Better sleep.
As many as 23% adults suffer from bad sleep. When we do not sleep well we tend to be irritable and impatient which is definitely not a recipe for the best interactions with the people who love us. Furthermore a condition such as insomnia can turn the bed into a place of worry and stress which interferes with a relaxed night’s sleep beside our partner. Professional treatment is typically 4 to 6 sessions and is the best way to cure insomnia. The therapy would help the person to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.  Better sleep helps with pretty much everything.
  • Healthier relationship with alcohol.
Problematic drinking can kill a relationship. Alcohol abuse is tied to higher divorce rates, greater intimate partner violence, lower relationship satisfaction and a host of other problems.   Professional interventions can effectively change the thoughts and behaviors that maintain problems with alcohol, and replace drinking with healthier ways of coping. Interestingly, the treatment with the strongest research evidence is with both the patient and his or her partner actively involved in the treatment. For many individuals with an alcohol use disorder, lifelong abstinence is necessary. However, there is now “modest support” as a treatment program that includes the possibility of moderate alcohol consumption for some people.
  • Greater being our best significant other. 
All of us want to be the best significant other we can be. We want to be attentive, supportive, generous and more tolerant. And like anything else, the road to impoverished relationships is paved with the best of intentions.  If we’re not deliberate about living out our values, we risk leaving them in the abstract and intentions we are not able to live out. For example, we might tell ourselves, “My family matters to me more than anything,” and then live as though family is our last priority. We might idealise presence in our relationship yet attend more to our phone than to those around us. We might plan for instance, to turn off our phone during dinner and focus on our conversation. The goals and activities can be anything that’s important to us in our relationship we wish to do. It can be very beneficial to collaborate with our partner in the process by asking what they need more from us. This is not as simple to improve as it seems and skilled professional help would assist us in being our best significant other.  Our partner and family deserve to be with the best “me” possible. Try it: Can you have a conversation with your partner this week about your relationship and who you want to be for your partner? From there, make a specific plan to move toward your goals. Check how successfully you are able to implement what you have discussed and agreed upon.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy that emphasises the importance of ‘thinking’ in how we feel and what we do. Simply put, the cognitive – the thinking part of our experience – very much affects the behavioural – the action part of our experience. Indeed there is a causal relationship between our thinking and our feelings and behaviours. It is possible, in a practical and constructive way, to change the way we think in order to feel and behave more comfortably and acceptably, even if the situation has not changed. It is a logical and practical approach to help people with their emotional problems; as such it can be extremely empowering and can bring lasting relief after short term treatment.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a short-term form of psychotherapy directed at present-time issues and based on the idea that the way an individual thinks and feels affects the way he or she behaves.  A CBT approach can be applied to a wide range of mental health issues and conditions. The focus is on problem solving, and the goal is to change patients thought patterns in order to change their responses to difficult situations.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one of the most established and researched psychological therapies for emotional, psychological and psychiatric dysfunction. For some problems, such as anxiety and depression, CBT is as effective as medication and can also enhance the effects of medication. The results of CBT are long-term, and you can keep using what you have learned in therapy to approach other problems in your life… The application of CBT varies according to the problem being addressed, but is essentially a collaborative and individualised program that helps individuals to identify unhelpful thoughts and behaviours and learn or relearn healthier skills and habits. Research shows considerable evidence that cognitive behaviour therapy provides effective relief across the lifespan for many anxieties, depressive and behavioural difficulties. Research also indicates that for some problems it is actually the treatment of choice. In practice, the cognitive behaviour therapist helps the client identify thoughts and beliefs that lead to distress, then explores and re-evaluates those thoughts, before helping the client develop more constructive and helpful emotions and behaviour.

When Is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) Used?

CBT has been extensively investigated in rigorous clinical trials and has empirical support.CBT is structured; goal oriented, and focuses on immediate difficulties as well as long term strategies and requires active involvement by the client.CBT is flexible, individualised, and can be adapted to a wide range of individuals and a variety of settings.

What can I expect from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)?

In a broad sense, as its name suggests, CBT involves both ‘cognitive therapy’ and ‘behaviour therapy’. Cognitive therapy focuses on an individual’s pattern of thinking while behaviour therapy looks at associated actions. When combined skilfully, these two approaches provide a very powerful method to help overcome a wide range of emotional and behavioural problems in children, adolescents and adults. Depending on the problem, CBT may involve a mix of both therapeutic modalities, so some issues are better treated with more behavioural methods and some with more cognitive methods. One of the strengths of CBT is that it aims not just to help people overcome the symptoms that they are currently experiencing, but it also aims to teach the person new skills and strategies that they can apply to future problems. It focuses on the ‘here and now’ whilst developing an understanding of past styles of thinking and behaviour that have developed over time.

CBT examines all elements that maintain a problem, including our thoughts (cognitions), feelings, behaviour and the environment. It is a structured therapy, which involves a partnership between you and your therapist. You are fully involved in planning your treatment and the therapist will always let you know what is happening. Usually you will have a thorough assessment in the first session or two. Each session will involve discussion, explanation and practice of skills and techniques. Often you will be required to practice those techniques in between sessions.

In CBT you will first learn to identify painful and upsetting thoughts you have about current problems and to determine whether or not these thoughts are realistic. If these thoughts are deemed unrealistic, you will learn skills that help you change your thinking patterns so they are more accurate with respect to a given situation. Once your perspective is more realistic, the therapist can help you determine an appropriate course of action. You will probably get “homework” to do between sessions. That work may include exercises that will help you learn to apply the skills and solutions you come up with in therapy to the way you think and act in your day-to-day life.

How does Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) Work?

  • CBT is appropriate for children, adolescents, and adults and for individuals, families, and couples. CBT has an educational focus. CBT therapists focus on teaching self-counselling skills. When people understand what the thought processes are that are leading to their current situation, they are in a better position to effectively control them. Understanding how and why they are behaving a certain way means they can begin to effect change and progressively have an impact on their own growth and psychological health.
  CBT integrates behavioural theories and cognitive theories to conclude that the way people perceive a situation determines their reaction more than the actual reality of the situation does. When a person is distressed or discouraged, his or her view of an experience may not be realistic. Changing the way clients think and see the world can change their responses to circumstances.
  • CBT is rooted in the present, so the therapist will initially ask clients what is going on in their mind at that moment, so as to identify distressing thoughts and feelings. The therapist will then explore whether or not these thoughts and feelings are productive or even valid. The goal of CBT is to get clients actively involved in their own treatment plan so they understand that the way to improve their lives is to adjust their thinking and their approach to everyday situations.
  • While CBT is a relatively new form of therapy, early philosophers such as Socrates and Epictetus first documented principles on which it is based, centuries ago. Epictetus said “It is not the things of this world that hurt us but what we think about them.” In other words, we can have a powerful effect on our own lives by learning to understand and control our thinking patterns.

Does Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) work?

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has In particular demonstrated effectiveness with individuals experiencing the following problems:

  • Generalised Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Brain Injury
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Couples/Marital problems
  • Social Anxiety
  • Anger & Stress Management
  • Child Anxiety Disorders and Child Depression
  • Child Behaviour Problems

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is particularly useful in treating the problems listed above where you request a practical method of treatment for a specific problem rather than “wanting to understand yourself better”; are able to consider psychological causes of problems; and are able to be actively involved in the therapy process and will practice skills between sessions.

CBT has been extensively investigated in rigorous clinical trials and has empirical support. Broadly, CBT has evidenced the following outcomes:

  • CBT is compatible with a range other treatments that you might receive such as medication or supportive counselling.
  • Because the individual is actively involved in their treatment they are more likely to stick with it.
  • Because CBT is flexible and individualised, it can be adapted to a wide range of individuals and a variety of settings.
  • The client can keep using what they have learned in therapy to approach other problems in life.

What can I expect at my first session?

In the first session, your cognitive behaviour therapist should:

  • Undertake a thorough assessment – you will be asked about past experiences and treatment to better understand the nature of the difficulties for which treatment is being sought.
  • Give you an opportunity to tell them anything you think is relevant to your issue.
  • Explain the basis of cognitive behaviour therapy and how it works
  • Explain what you can expect from therapy
  • Give you an idea of how long you will need to see them – the number of sessions varies with the type of difficulties being treated.
  • Discuss the treatment plan with you including goals and ways to monitor progress.

What can I expect in future sessions?

CBT is a well-planned therapy focused on outcomes. There are a range of techniques and styles in CBT, but regardless of their approach, each session your therapist should:

Give you an opportunity to tell them what has happened since you last saw them   Explain what will happen during that session   Measure and keep you informed about your progress   Give you time to practise any new skills and ask any questions during the session.  

What can I expect in between sessions?

CBT is an active therapy – sometimes described as a ‘doing therapy’ rather than a ‘talking therapy’. So, individuals will be expected to be active participants in their own therapy. This means that you can expect to be fully involved in your sessions and to develop with your therapist some tasks to practice in between sessions. Sometimes these tasks are called ‘homework’

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Mindfulness Strategies

The application of mindfulness concepts in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy started in 1970 when Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn, to teach patients with chronic medical conditions how to live fuller, healthier more adaptive lives and to cope with stress, pain and illness. Mindfulness is defined as moment-to-moment non-judgemental awareness. For those of us who meditate, this definition sounds familiar, and indeed a theme that is found throughout many of the Eastern philosophies.

The practice of mindfulness begins with considering the following:

  • Anxiety, tension, and stress arise from worrying about the future. Similarly, guilt, regret, resentment, sadness, and bitterness arise from focusing on the past.
  • Mindfulness strategies combined with CBT provide a powerful therapeutic tool that enables us to reside fully in the present and to live our lives in a satisfying and productive way.
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an effective form of treatment for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and panic disorders, agoraphobia, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

A basic example of CBT in action

Let us assume we look at the way you act when a friend says they ‘cannot go out with you because they are busy’. You might think they actually don’t like you and that’s the real reason they always say no to you lately, which leads to the more negative thought that ‘people almost never like me’, which leads to you feeling sad and a bit tired and paranoid or anxious. The result is you don’t go out at all and spend another Friday night in feeling bad about yourself.

  • CBT would encourage you to not accept this negative thought pattern, but to look at the ways your friend really might be busy, and to then identify the people who do like you. The idea is to question all negative assumptions. You might remember that the last time you went out with your colleagues from the office everyone said they enjoyed your company. This might make you feel more energetic, so you call up a workmate and go out with them, or bravely go to an open social gathering and meet new friends entirely. So by changing your thought to one of possibilities, you changed your feelings and physical energy for the better, and this changed your actions and thus your mood.
CBT aims to help you begin to think in open-minded over negative thought loops more and more, until it becomes habitual to think with a wider and more positive perspective over always thinking the worst, or always indulging in the extremes of ‘black and white thinking’.