Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Quinsey had experienced his ‘cardiac neurosis’ for some three years before he was sent to Felicity. Consequently, information alone was not about to correct the fear – nor did it. Felicity suggested that Quinsey and he undertake a programme of systematic anxiety desensitization using Wolpe’s reciprocal inhibition therapy (RIT) method. He agreed. The thirty sessions were difficult for both Quinsey and Felicity. Quinsey learned to relax quite well. But he was prone for quite a time to bursts of rapid chest breathing. Felicity has always tried to talk on the patient’s out-breath during relaxation instructions and imagery presentations – in order to help the person maintain and deepen relaxation. So Quinsey’s unexpected bursts of chest breathing meant that Felicity had to remain vigilant and to change his own breathing patterns from time to time to suit Quinsey’s. This meant that Felicity couldn’t relax himself during the process of the treatment while both Quinsey and he were imagining the same presentations.

What happened was that Quinsey lost his cardiac neurosis, and Felicity picked up the lost neurosis for himself. That’s right, Felicity developed the fear that at every moment he was dying of a heart attack. And his panic grew every day.

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