Seven Ways to Become a Better You

How to self apply Multimodal CBT for personal improvement

Posted Feb 16, 2014

Professor Arnold A. Lazarus, a pioneering figure in the field of CBT, hypothesized that most psychological problems are multifaceted and that comprehensive therapy calls for a careful assessment of seven dimensions or “modalities” in which individuals operate - Behavior, Affect (essentially emotion), Sensation, Imagery, Cognition, Interpersonal relationships and Biological processes. Given that the most common biological intervention is the use of psychotropic drugs, the first letters from the seven modalities can produce the convenient acronym “BASIC I.D.” although it must be underscored that the “D” modality actually represents a complete range of physiological, health and biological factors beyond the use of substances, prescribed or otherwise. Lazarus termed this approach to assessment and therapy Multimodal Therapy (MMT) which is arguably the most comprehensive yet elegant approach to psychological therapy ever conceived.

Thus, the BASIC I.D. is a useful acronym that stands for the seven dimensions of human personality and the fundamental zones of psychological functioning.  As important, however, it also reflects the uniqueness of every person.  That is, despite all people having all seven modalities of the BASIC I.D., no two people are alike in how they experience their psychological life. Indeed, just as all musical compositions can be reduced to the seven notes in the musucal scale, no two musical works are exactly the same in spite of them being based on the same fundamental notes.  Similarly, while all people have a BASIC I.D., no two people are the same.  In this way, the BASIC I.D. can be thought of as a person's unique, "basic identity" in addition to the fundamental dimensions of his or her psychological make up.

Simply put, one of the major objectives of therapy is to help a person become more of an ideal self.  That is, to move from one’s current self a step or few closer toward one’s ideal self. Now, of course, one might never actualize his or her full potential, but the self-application of the BASIC I.D. model can help in pinpointing important areas for modification that when changed will have one a lot closer to one’s ideal self. 

One can apply Lazarus’s MMT and BASIC I.D. approach by simply answering the following seven questions:

Behavior:  What specific action do you want to do more of or less of?

Affect:  What emotion would you like to increase or decrease?

Sensation:  What sensation would you like to have more often or experience less frequently?

Imagery:  What mental picture would you like “see” more often or less often in your “mind’s eye?"

Cognition:  What specific thought would you like to increase or decrease; start or stop?

Interpersonal relationships:  What specific social change would you like to make?

Drugs/Health/ Biology:  What specific change in a health habit or physical issue would you like to make?

To illustrate, here is a typical example that someone might come up with:

Behavior:  Take more walks after dinner instead of watching TV

Affect:  Reduce stress and anxiety

Sensation:  Experience less muscle tension

Imagery:  Visualize more success

Cognition:  Reduce self-criticism and increase self-affirmations

Interpersonal:  Spend more time with friends

Drugs/Health:  Eat more vegetables and less processed food

Here is another example:

Behavior:  Stop procrastinating

Affect:  Reduce anger outbursts

Sensation:  Reduce tension headaches

Imagery:  Visualize less conflict and hassles

Cognition:  Stop “catastrophizing”

Interpersonal:  Spend more time with family

Drugs/Health:  Exercise more

Naturally, some of these goals are easier to achieve than others and some changes might require professional help (e.g., reducing stress and anxiety, or learning to manage anger).  Nevertheless, if someone makes just a single positive change in only one BASIC I.D. modality, he or she will have taken an important step on the road toward self-improvement.  Obviously, the more the better.  If several changes across several modalities can be made and sustained, the person will have moved significantly closer to his or her ideal self.  His or her "basic identity" will be closer to his or her ideal.

Interested readers might want to peruse Arnold Lazarus’s classic 1997 book on MMT and the BASIC I.D., “Brief But Comprehensive Psychotherapy: The Multimodal Way.”

Remember:  Think well, act well, feel well, be well!

Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

About the Authors

Arnold Lazarus

Arnold A. Lazarus is a professor of psychology, therapist, author, lecturer, and clinical innovator.

Donna Astor-Lazarus

Donna Astor-Lazarus is the Co-Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute.

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