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Knowing our ‘ABCs’: self-reflection using cognitive-behavioural formulation of client–therapist interaction in work with a survivor of torture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2015

Faith Martin*
Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, UK
Sobia Khan
Freedom from Torture West Midlands, Unit 5 Caroline Point, Birmingham, UK
*Author for correspondence: Dr F. Martin, Department of Clinical Psychology, 6 West, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK (email:


Self-reflection can aid therapist development, particularly interpersonal skills. It can be achieved through using cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques, for example, formulations of the therapist's cognitions and behaviours have been used to aid self-reflection. As interpersonal skills may be an area that benefits from self-reflection, an approach to formulating the interaction between client and therapist may be beneficial. This study reports the use of simple ‘antecedent-belief-consequence’ (ABC) formulations for the client and therapist to conceptualize their interaction. This description of a treatment failure focuses on cross-cultural work with a survivor of torture, where self-reflection may be particularly indicated to promote cultural competence and address the impact of the content on the therapist. ABC formulations for the client and therapist were completed and through this structured self-reflection, the therapist was able to identify the impact of her own beliefs on the process of therapy. This method identified areas for further development and generated hypotheses for how to continue therapy with this client. Using ABC formulations then may provide a useful and structured way to conduct self-reflection with explicit focus on the interaction between client and therapist.

Practice article
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2015 

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