Sean Heneghan BSc Hons, LicAc, MBAcC, HPD, DipCHyp, MBACP

Counsellor, Acupuncturist
& Cognitive Hypnotherapist

With extensive training and a range of
therapeutic experience, I can help
people with a range of physical and
emotional problems.

Counselling in Berkhamsted: How Depression manifests in the language we use and how counselling can help

An interesting article in The Independent this week detailed some recent research into how technology is being used to detect the language patterns of people suffering from depression. The study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, detailed how computerised text analysis show specific grammatical patterns correlate highly with a depressed state. Some of these patterns have to do with sentence construction and pronoun use and others have to do with the frequency with which specific words or classes or words are repeated. One of the findings the research illustrated was a much higher use of the words, 'always', 'nothing' and 'completely' in people dealing with depression. These absolutist words were found in internet forums for anxiety 50% more often than average. In forums for suicidal thinking, the frequency of those words occurred 80% more than average.

While the research is only looking at a small subset of words and their usage it points to some essential things about the connection between emotion and language. Secondarily, it illustrates how and why counselling and therapy helps.

We use language unconsciously and we don’t think about sentence construction, it just flows out of us automatically. The language we use is an indicator of how we construct our internal world. Take two of those words mentioned in the research - 'always' and 'completely'. In cognitive hypnotherapy these words are called universal quantifiers, in everyday language they might be called the ‘sweeping generalisation’. The problem with a universal quantifier is it makes no space for complexity, variability or multiple factors. Universal quantifier use implies that somebody experiences something or themselves as all one way and not another. Take for example the following hypothetical statement:


"I made a terrible mistake at work on Monday and ruined this job completely. I always do this. Nothing I do works, I’m sick of always making mistakes."


The statement at a linguistic level tells you about the interior experience of the person and their model for themselves and their world. ‘I always do this’ is indicative of the experience that the person experiences themselves, in all circumstances, all the time and without exception doing nothing other than making mistakes and ruining things ‘completely’. The language used is an expression of the experience of being wholly a failure. Such a model of the world inevitably produces low self-esteem because in the experience there is never any sort of success. Or any kind of success that does or has occurred is blotted out of awareness. Everything about the person and their abilities are wholly terrible. It isn’t possible to be such a total failure just like it isn’t possible to be totally anything, ‘I contain multitudes’ as Walt Whitman said. Experience constructed in such a way makes the owner of the statement blind to any good qualities they have about themselves and their abilities, depression is an inevitable result because the experience of possessing any quality cannot exist. What happens in therapy is peoples model of the world comes out into the open via the language they speak. All of the assumptions and perspectives about the nature of who you are can become conscious, whereas before they were unconscious. In doing so the model of the world can be seen for the biased always partial construction it is - a fabrication of who you are, not actually who you are. The more this is perceived, the more such ‘faulty’ models have the chance of falling away. It isn’t possible to have any self-esteem within a world model which only perceives anything you’ve ever done as a complete failure, but any model is always a model, not the thing itself but a representation of the thing. Counselling and therapy are about exploring your model of yourself and your world and experiencing these kinds of misperceptions you’ve arrived at about who you are. When such misperceptions fall away something new and powerful becomes available. 

If you’re looking for either counselling or cognitive hypnotherapy in Berkhamsted feel free to get in contact with any questions you might have.

The article and the research I referred to can be found here:









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