Neuroplasticity- Biology of Psychotherapy
Neuroplasticity refers to neuroscience discoveries that the brain makes durable changes in its own internal biology as part of any learning experience. Chemical agents are not the only path to correcting biology defects in the brain. Revealed in a landmark project in UCLA Psychiatry department. More
Neuroplasticity refers to recent discoveries in brain science about an unusual capacity of our brain; it makes durable changes in its own internal biology as part of any learning experience. The spin-off from these discoveries is immense, disrupting decades of accepted wisdom that has dominated understanding of brain biology as well as beliefs about mental illness and how it is best treated. The book is addressed to professionals, as well as to the many consumers who seek help in coping with distressing symptoms of thinking, behavior and emotions.
For as long as we have known that there is a brain, people have been learning about how the brain influences biological processes in other body systems. What is new is discovery that 1) the brain makes durable changes in its own internal biology with every learning experience and 2) that changes involved in some learning experiences , will correct brain defects implicated in some psychiatric disorders. You will read about a landmark project in the UCLA Department of Psychiatry that demonstrated these effects. You will gain understanding of how all psychotherapy includes a learning core that empowers a client to think and behave in ways that fit the design purposes of our brain system. Yes, approaching the brain as a system is another novelty, as scientists reap the advantages offered by brain imaging technology.General Systems Theory has been influencing advances in science,engineering and other areas for more than six decades. Somehow, treatment interventions for both physical and mental health have proceeded as if the elegant set of integrated systems in the human body was irrelevant. There are notable exceptions. The UCLA group is one such exception. Some folks have complained that our health care systems are too focused on illness, rather than on health promotion. They are wrong. Treatment and research for mental illness has been dominated by millions of scripts and billions of dollars for products and protocols to alleviate distressing symptoms. Diagnoses of illness is often reduced to a technical label for a cluster of symptoms. A central principle of systems theory is that all systems are designed to achieve specific goals. Different systems will exhibit different goals. However, fixing an identified symptom that is involved in a system, is certain disaster, if treated as an independent factor. This is why a chemical to simply reduce anxiety comes with a bucket of “side effects” and financial costs headed to the stratosphere.The UCLA team considered symptoms as signs of brain system disruption. Focus of treatment was identifying the biology malfunction and what was causing it, then practice with skills that normalized activity levels in the brain system. Observed symptom remissions coincided with (f)MRI images of brain changes. The UCLA project unhinged the longstanding de facto division of labor, which was separation of “talk therapies,” offered by Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers and related professionals, from Medical treatments with drugs or other chemicals. The former conventionally seen as helping clients learn how to think and behave in ways that meet their needs more effectively. Medicines are proposed to correct biological problems in the brain. The UCLA project means discarding the rationale for the division of labor. So-called talk therapies are more realistically termed “learning therapies.” Even more telling is that the project team actually relied on imaging to demonstrate healthy brain changes. So far as I know, the FDA requirement for evidence of benefit when approving a medication, such as an antidepressant, is some degree of remission of symptoms per the DSM, not evidence for correcting a brain malfunction.
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