7 Key Questions That Lead To Discovery With Your Therapy Clients


In this post, I will take you through the 7 key questions from Mary and Bob Goulding. The Gouldings operated in the 70s and 80s. They created a type of psychotherapy which they called Redecision Therapy.

Their book, Changing Lives Through Redicision Therapy, is still available and is an interesting read.

They pose 7 key questions that might be helpful to you when building the process that leads to memory reconsolidation.

In this article we will cover:

  • The road map for change
  • Identifying the problem
  • Discovering the core prediction

The road map for change

When working towards Memory Reconsolidation, your aim is to discover the core learning that is generating the problem (I always think of them as predictions).

You will then find or generate some experience that will produce a prediction error.

You will then repeat the reactivation of the old with the new experience.

However, you can’t really come up with a prediction error unless you accurately identify the prediction.

There are 3 basic steps to help guide us towards memory reconsolidation. Memory reconsolidation, of course, is the brain mechanism that removes trauma completely.

The 3 preparation steps that Bruce Ecker identified are:

A. identify the problem.

B. identify what that core prediction is. (Ecker calls this the target learning, ie the old learning that, when removed, also removes the problem.)

C. Once we know what the core prediction is, we can find and generate mismatch information.

We can then use this mismatch information to create an experience that causes a prediction error.

These three steps are your roadmap.

The Gouldings’ 7 questions relate to the first two of these steps: identify the problem and discover the core prediction that keeps the problem alive.

Identifying the problem

The first 3 of their 7 questions can be used to help you identify the problem.

You can simply borrow these and use them with your own clients.

So here’s the first question:

What do you want to change today?

Here, they are asking the client: what is the problem that you’ve come in with that you wish you no longer had.

Here’s the second question:

Give an example.

I talk about this a lot when teaching memory reconsolidation work. It helps to make the problem situational. It makes it experiential and tangible, rather than abstract.

It also gives us a clue as to what situations will be showing up differently once the work has been successful.

Here’s the third question:

What do you want instead?

This is a great question. Check the diagram below that I often use.

In this diagram, you see the client with their problem. You see what they want instead. Something happens for them along the way to getting it that grinds them to a halt.

Exploring what they want instead evokes this “STOP!” mechanism.

So these are the three core questions to identify the client’s problem:

  1. What do you want to change today?
  2. Give an example.
  3. What do you want instead?

Discovering the core prediction

The next 4 questions help us to understand the core prediction that is blocking them.

Here is the first question:

What’s getting in the way of you getting it?

Of course, there are lots of ways that you can discover the core prediction. I’ve talked about others before, like the single sentence technique amongst others.

Yet all are seeking to answer this key question. Often, the thing getting in the way is some kind of scare.

So that leads to the next question:

What do you tell yourself that scares you?

Notice the agency in that question.

A key concept in this work is that the problem makes sense. It has a function.

So, while the problem appears to happen to us, these questions uncover the functional reason why it is compelling for us to maintain it.

Here’s the next question:

What do you do to cope with that scare?

This is a great question because it gets to the heart of why the client’s problem still exists.

Typically, what they’re doing to cope with that scare Is maintaining the problem that they want to change.

It gets to the heart of the dilemma. “I keep this problem to cope with that bigger scare.”

When the client comes into the therapy room, they don’t come alone but with their “Invisible Twin”.

So while the client is saying “I want to change this”, the Invisible Twin is saying “Well I don’t want to change that.”

The Invisible Twin is worried about a bigger scare, and the current problem protects them from it.

Here’s the final question:

What is the decision that you made back then that is being obeyed here?

Again, this takes the stance that the decision makes sense. You can see from this question why they named their approach Redecision Therapy.

Let’s give an example. Let’s say your client has always wanted to be on the stage. They have talent but they don’t pursue this deep desire. This is the problem they want to change.

Yet back when they were younger, they were actively discouraged from being “big” or expressive. Instead, they would be slapped back down with critical comments.

In this environment, they made a decision to stay small and hidden in order to avoid disapproval. Given the environment, it was a sensible decision back then and was protective. That decision is still being obeyed here.


Hopefully, these 7 questions will help you identify the problem and discover the core prediction that stops them from letting go of it.

Here are those 7 questions again:

  1. What do you want to change today?
  2. Give an example
  3. What do you want instead?
  4. What’s getting in the way of you getting it?
  5. What do you tell yourself that scares you?
  6. What do you do to cope with that scare?
  7. What is the decision that you made back then that is being obeyed here?

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