Psychotherapy Out of Bounds

PSYCHOTHERAPY Out of Bounds, continued
A Tubal Trouble
The state of the body is not only understood by looking at its outside. It can often be experienced from the inside. Of course, sometimes the inside condition can’t be experienced directly. Phoebe was such a person. She was referred to Felicity by her obstetrician and gynaecologist. Phoebe and her husband wanted to have a baby. But there was something wrong. It was discovered that Phoebe’s tubes were too tight to permit an ovum to pass through into the uterus. While air pressure could be used to demonstrate the tubal constriction, and also to create temporary expansion of the tubes, it did not help to keep the tubes open. The physician thought it possible that some hidden conflict in Phoebe’s unconscious might be causing Phoebe to tighten her tubes. Perhaps Felicity could unburden Phoebe of this conflict.
Felicity thought it was an interesting challenge. He had (and has) no idea how the tubes might get tightened up, and he was far too impatient to wait through years of psychotherapy for the patient to be unable to unravel the mystery for him. So he decided on the basis of the psychological tests that the problem was merely that Phoebe was too anxious and uptight, and that uptightness for her had a visceral target. Perhaps reducing her anxiety arousal generally might turn the trick.
He selected Quirk’s stimulus conditioned autonomic response suppression (SCARS, described in other stories) as the method of choice for the desensitization. There was nothing clever about this decision. He simply reasoned that using the galvanic skin resistance (GSR) as the response through which to train anxiety reduction would be more relevant to how the insides of the body functioned than using relaxation training of the skeletal muscles (as in Wolpe’s RIT method). Since Eysenck’s Extraversion score suggested that she conditioned at an average rate, he set out to do thirty-three half-hour sessions (the average number) of SCARS.
Now Phoebe and her husband had been trying to get her pregnant for about six years without success. The 33 sessions took about eighteen weeks to complete. By session twenty she reported that her period was late. By the time they had finished the treatment programme, her pregnancy was confirmed and she was well on her way to having the hoped for baby. She phoned Felicity as soon as the baby was born. He was in good health and she was ecstatic. Who knows what happened? Felicity doesn’t.

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