No items found.

Coherence Therapy

Explore Coherence Therapy and how you can apply this in clinical work in processing emotional truths and symptoms with clients.

By Gale Alagos on Jun 16, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

Get Carepatron Free
Coherence Therapy

What is Coherence Therapy?

Coherence Therapy, originally called Depth-Oriented Brief Therapy (DOBT), is a constructivist psychotherapy that focuses on resolving the emotional roots of psychological symptoms. Psychotherapists Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley developed this approach to therapy. It is based on the principle that both functional and functionless symptoms arise from coherent sources within a person's existing constructions and emotional truth (Ecker & Hulley, 2000).

Functional symptoms refer to symptoms that serve a purpose or crucial function in the individual's life, such as providing a sense of safety or control. These symptoms may have originally developed as adaptive responses to past experiences, but they may no longer be serving a helpful purpose.

On the other hand, functionless symptoms are those that do not serve a clear adaptive purpose in the individual's life. Many symptoms may be seen as remnants of past experiences that continue to persist without serving a useful function in the present.

The goal of Coherence Therapy is not merely symptom relief but a profound shift in the individual's sense of self and identity. It seeks to identify and transform the unresolved emotional concerns and fragmented aspects of the self that give rise to a client's presenting symptoms.

Unlike traditional therapies that view symptoms as problematic, Coherence Therapy recognizes that symptoms, however unwanted, arise from adaptive learnings intended to protect or resolve internal conflicts. Rather than pathologizing these symptoms, Coherence Therapy aims to understand and integrate the emotional truths underlying them. This is how a coherence therapist promotes profound change.

Techniques of Coherence Therapy

Coherence Therapy employs several key techniques to help individuals achieve a more coherent and integrated sense of self. These techniques include:

Symptom coherence analysis

Symptom coherence analysis is a crucial technique used in Coherence Therapy. It involves exploring a particular symptom in depth, identifying the underlying emotional and cognitive processes that give rise to it, and understanding the adaptive function it serves.

Depth-oriented brief therapy (DOBT)

DOBT is a time-limited approach within Coherence Therapy that focuses on helping clients access and resolve the unconscious learnings that underlie their symptoms (Ecker & Hulley, 2000). It aims to bring awareness about the root causes of psychological and emotional distress rather than solely managing surface-level symptoms.

Emotional awareness and expression

Coherence Therapy places a strong emphasis on conscious awareness and expression in the therapeutic process. This involves creating a safe and supportive environment where clients can access, explore, and express their emotions without judgment.

Cognitive reappraisal

In addition to emotional exploration, Coherence Therapy involves helping clients reappraise their thoughts and beliefs about themselves and their experiences. This process involves identifying and challenging limiting beliefs, negative self-perceptions, and distorted cognitive patterns that also extend to behavioral symptoms.

Narrative interventions

Coherence Therapy employs narrative interventions to help clients create a more coherent and integrated sense of self. This involves identifying and challenging the narratives that underlie their symptoms and creating new, more adaptive narratives that support their well-being.

Through these techniques, Coherence Therapy guides clients in accessing and transforming emotional schemas and psychological concepts. This allows them to reflect on the factors that perpetuate their particular symptoms or emotional symptoms. Resolving these unresolved emotional experiences helps clients develop a more coherent, integrated sense of self and improved emotional coherence.

What conditions can Coherence Therapy help with?

Coherence Therapy is a versatile approach designed to address a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues. Although it is not limited to specific diagnoses, it has been found particularly helpful in addressing the following:

  • Trauma and PTSD: Individuals with PTSD or trauma-related issues can benefit from Coherence Therapy as it enables them to disentangle from the emotional learnings ingrained by traumatic events. The approach is sensitive to the challenges present in working with trauma, focusing on altering the emotional learning that locks the traumatic response in place.
  • Anxiety disorders: People experiencing anxiety disorders often find Coherence Therapy enlightening as it helps them explore and transform the implicit emotional learnings that generate anxious responses. This therapy facilitates an understanding of anxiety as a learned protective mechanism, leading to the alleviation of symptoms.
  • Depression: Coherence Therapy offers a pathway to uncover the underlying, self-validating emotional themes contributing to their depressive state. Addressing these themes directly can often result in significant symptom relief.
  • Personality disorders: Coherence Therapy can be beneficial for individuals with personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder. It helps individuals integrate fragmented aspects of their self-concept, emotions, and experiences, leading to a more coherent and stable sense of identity.
  • Relationship difficulties: Relationship difficulties can also be explored within the framework of Coherence Therapy. By uncovering the implicit assumptions and emotional patterns driving conflict or dissatisfaction, individuals and couples can develop a more harmonious way of relating.

Benefits of Coherence Therapy

Coherence Therapy has gained recognition for its distinctive approach to achieving symptom relief and emotional change. The following are some of the key advantages of this therapeutic approach:

Rapid transformation

One of the hallmarks of Coherence Therapy is its focus on achieving lasting positive change in a relatively short timeframe compared to some traditional therapies. This can be particularly appealing to clients seeking swift relief from their struggles.

Addressing root causes

Unlike therapies that primarily manage symptoms, Coherence Therapy delves deeper to identify and dismantle the underlying beliefs driving a person's issues. This can lead to more enduring improvements in emotional well-being.

Emotional resilience

Coherence Therapy helps individuals develop emotional resilience by equipping them with tools to manage difficult emotions more effectively. This can lead to a greater capacity to cope with stress using their own resources and navigate life's challenges with greater ease.

Wide range of applications

Coherence Therapy has shown promise in addressing a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, trauma, relationship issues, and low self-esteem. This versatility makes it a potentially valuable tool for a broad range of clients.

Limitations of Coherence Therapy

While Coherence Therapy offers significant benefits, acknowledging its limitations is crucial for a balanced understanding and application. This approach, like any therapeutic model, may not be universally effective for all clients or suitable for every condition.

Limited research

Coherence Therapy is a relatively new approach compared to some traditional therapies. While research is ongoing, there's a smaller body of evidence to support its long-term effectiveness for various conditions.

Therapist expertise

The success of Coherence Therapy hinges heavily on the therapist's skill and experience. Therapists must be well-trained in the specific techniques and possess the ability to guide clients effectively through the process of uncovering and transforming unconscious beliefs.

Cultural considerations

Coherence Therapy was developed primarily in Western cultural contexts, and its applicability and acceptance may vary across different cultural backgrounds and belief systems. Cultural adaptations and further research may be necessary to ensure its effectiveness in diverse populations.

Suitability for complex issues

Individuals with severe mental health conditions or complex trauma may require a more comprehensive treatment approach that combines Coherence Therapy with other modalities or additional support.

How effective is Coherence Therapy?

Coherence Therapy has been shown to be an effective form of psychotherapy for a wide range of psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship problems (Ecker & Hulley, 2000; Ecker, Ticic, & Hulley, 2012).

Research has shown that Coherence Therapy can lead to significant reductions in symptoms and improvements in well-being, with some studies reporting effect sizes comparable to or even larger than those found in traditional forms of therapy (Ecker et al., 2012). For example, a study of 12 clients with anxiety disorders found that Coherence Therapy led to significant reductions in anxiety symptoms, with an average effect size of 1.5 (Ecker & Hulley, 2000).

A study by Rice and colleagues (2017) aimed to compare the effectiveness of Coherence Therapy with a self-help, bibliotherapy intervention for individuals dealing with procrastination and perfectionism issues. A total of 37 adults participated in the study, with the Coherence Therapy group showing better results in reducing maladaptive perfectionism compared to the bibliotherapy group.

Ecker and Bridges (2020) also looked into the effectiveness of coherence therapy by reviewing memory reconsolidation research, which has shown the erasure of emotional learning. It highlights how these findings directly translate into therapeutic applications, offering the clinical field an empirically confirmed process for transformational change.


Ecker, B., & Hulley, L. (2000). The order in clinical. In R. A. Neimeyer & J. D. Raskin (Eds.), Constructions of disorder: Meaning-making frameworks for psychotherapy (pp. 63–89). American Psychological Association.

Ecker, B., Ticic, R., & Hulley, L. (2012). Unlocking the emotional brain: Eliminating symptoms at their roots using memory reconsolidation. Routledge.

Ecker, B., & Bridges, S. K. (2020). How the science of memory reconsolidation advances the effectiveness and unification of psychotherapy. Clinical Social Work Journal, 48(3), 287–300.

Rice, K. G., Neimeyer, G. J., & Taylor, J. M. (2011). Efficacy of coherence therapy in the treatment of procrastination and perfectionism. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 2(2), 126–136.

Why use Carepatron as your therapy software?

Carepatron stands out as a practice management software designed with the needs of healthcare practitioners, including therapists, in mind. Here are some of the reasons why it is a valuable asset for your practice:

  • Centralized patient management: Carepatron offers an integrated system to manage patient records, appointments, and other critical information. We provide an organized database that is both accessible and secure, simplifying the management of clinical and administrative data.
  • Privacy and compliance: Patient confidentiality is paramount in therapy. We ensure privacy measures and forms compliant with health regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), helping to protect sensitive patient information and to keep the practice within legal boundaries.
  • Scheduling and appointment reminders: Automated scheduling and reminders can significantly reduce no-shows and cancellations. Carepatron provides tools that allow both practitioners and patients to keep track of appointments efficiently, sending reminders to help ensure patients attend their sessions.
  • Telehealth functionality: In an increasingly virtual world, having reliable telehealth capabilities is essential. Carepatron offers integrated video features that allow for secure and convenient online therapy sessions, expanding the reach of your practice.
  • Billing and invoicing: Therapists can streamline the billing process with Carepatron. It supports the creation and management of invoices, processes payments, and tracks financial reporting, which can save time and reduce administrative burdens.

Ready to make a change in how you run your practice? Sign up for Carepatron and start your free trial today!

Therapy Software

Commonly asked questions

How does Coherence Therapy work?

The process involves three primary stages: discovery, integration, and transformation. Therapists guide clients to uncover the emotional truths behind their symptoms, accept these truths, and then deeply process them to facilitate change, self-preservation, and symptom relief.

Is Coherence Therapy evidence-based?

Coherence Therapy is supported by clinical experience and a growing body of research aligning with its principles, particularly the neuroscience of memory reconsolidation. However, it is considered an emerging method, with recent developments and ongoing research to further establish its efficacy.

How is Coherence Therapy different from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)?

Unlike CBT, which focuses on changing patterns of thought and behavior, Coherent Therapy aims to uncover and transform the emotional basis of symptoms. It delves into emotional memory and its role in symptoms rather than primarily focusing on cognition and behavior modification.

Join 10,000+ teams using Carepatron to be more productive

One app for all your healthcare work