The study of neuroscience in psychotherapy has been widely researched and though it is not the only approach recognised within the work we do, it holds great value in forming a knowledge base that integrates science with relational aspects of the work. Remember that all therapists’ work is unique and different theories and beliefs are integrated into the work, each one being valuable and helpful in its own way. It is therefore dependant on what YOU may feel is important and trusting which therapist you choose, should you ever begin the journey!
There are different branches of neuroscience, however the ones I outline in this blog are; the neurochemicals related to the hormone secreted by the brain with neurotransmitters that influence growth through the process of neuroplasticity. Also, affective neuroscience which is the study of neurology of personality, emotion and mood.
Understanding the impact that trauma, depression and anxiety can have on our physiology and neurochemical responses, along with our bodily responses to these, are all important factors.
Brain chemicals are effective for a number of functions, including sleep regulation, appetite, arousal, soothing, mood, depression, anxiety etc. Negative experiences can, for either short or long periods of time, cause a chemical imbalance. This can exacerbate or heighten particular areas of the brain that are linked to our stress responses and produce triggers in the future, or certain response to a similar threat. This can cause confusion, perhaps even unsettle our level of resilience for a period of time, unknown to the individual with what or why this may be happening.
This is not the case for all people and this can just play a factor in why we may experience negative or difficult changes, as the result of our neurochemicals responding to particular situations. Psychotherapy can be a gentle process in helping to regulate some of the imbalances through new relational perspectives, and by increasing access to the less accessible areas of the brain through particular techniques and interventions.
It is important to mention here that Psychotherapists cannot increase brain chemicals, or offer a notion that we can achieve what other forms of scientific interventions can… the reality is that we can’t! This is a supportive and gentle process in helping to gain perspective, gain new experiences and gain insight in to ways of self-support and self-regulation.
There are particular brain areas related to emotion, including the amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, plus more. These are just a few of the brain structures involved in our response to external stimuli, and our modes of survival with anything threatening. This a conditioned response, whether this is through a traumatic event either growing up or later in life, or exposed to high levels of extreme pressure or stress for a period of time.
Our brain structures can be organised as a result of our experiences and our emotional responses to external factors, which are an internal representation of our experiences.
A psychotherapist who uses neuroscience to inform some of their understanding of the work may:
- Help you to understand the nature of the issue.
- Provide interventions with informative and structured insights that have not been provided or addressed previously.
- Provide knowledge to heighten awareness of unconscious processes and to exert more power and control over responses.
- Help you to become an active part of the process towards growth and healing.
It’s important to remember that our reflections, thoughts, beliefs and values are intricately woven within the therapeutic relationship, which is just as an important factor as the theoretical knowledge base. We can go far as to say that both client and therapist learn and reflect as a result of their interaction with one another. The curiosity of the mind, the structure of the mind and its influence is a significant aspect, along with the human-to-human relational connection.
The mirror of our minds are relationally interwoven!