Practice – Once we have learned a new defusion technique it is vital to spend time practicing. Because old mental habits are so strong, it is likely to take many months or years to become proficient at recognizing fusion and using defusion techniques promptly and effectively whenever they will be helpful. Make sure to regularly set homework assignments involving practice of new techniques.
Quick reminders – Once a client is fully familiar with the concept of defusion and understands the core principles, we don’t need to spend a lot of time going over these ideas in more detail. Often it is sufficient to provide a quick reminder whenever you notice fusion.
“That’s an interesting thought” – Harris (2009) uses this phrase when a client says something that triggers a strong reaction and he does not know what else to say. It reminds him and the client that no matter what was said, they are just dealing with a thought (p127).
Moments of irony – When your client expresses a particularly negative, critical or unhelpful thought you can respond with short phrases such as “Nice one”, “Lovely”, “Neat”, or “Very creative” using a nonchalant humorous openness. Provided there is a strong therapeutic rapport and is familiar with defusion there is no chance he will feel belittled or invalidated (Harris, 2009; p127).
There are endless possibilities for creating your own defusion techniques. “You can do anything that puts the thought into a new context, where you can see it for what it is: nothing more or less than words or pictures; nothing you need to fight with, cling to, or run from” (Harris, 2009; p118).
There are a number of misconceptions about defusion that can arise from time to time. These need to be addressed and the purpose clarified. These can manifest as perceptions that:
Defusion is working – after a client has been able to defuse from a painful thought, they sometimes report that the thought has disappeared, that it is not bothering them any more or that they feel better. When this happens it is important to clarify that (i) this is a bonus, but it is not the purpose of defusion, and (ii) it won’t always happen so don’t expect it. If this misconception is not corrected clients will start using defusion to try and control and eliminate painful thoughts. Harris (2009; p116) provides some text illustrating how to talk about this.
Defusion is NOT working – sometimes clients will report that defusion is not working and when asked to explain what they mean will say that they have tried the techniques but still feel the same painful feelings such as anxiety or sadness. This may happen if the client is using defusion as a method to control painful feelings. This is not the purpose of defusion.