Talking in Circles

Conversing with the Altered – “Looping”

Looping in the participantʼs train of thought and speech is quite common. They are processing a set of considerations linearly, but the complexity of the processing leads them to take repeated “passes” through the set of considerations, and so they end up saying the same thing over and over (and over again).

Do not be surprised, nor distressed, that the conversation is looping – this is actually a powerful advantage when you notice it. It allows you “rehearsal” time internally – when you see the same thread coming around again, you can reflect on other ways to respond to it, and keep trying variations in your approach till you find one that helps.

Also, the length and complexity of the loop can give you indications of the direction their mental integration is proceeding: if they are losing the capacity to communicate, their cycles will become shorter, tighter, and more urgent; if they are gaining mental and expressive capacity, their cycles will become longer and contain more complex material. In the former case, be prepared to escalate their level of care; in the latter, you have the opportunity to help them find perspectives that lead them back to reintegration.