Irene MacDonald MSc
BACP Accred Counsellor and Psychotherapist

Neurobiological Therapies I #01

The development of Psychotherapy

This is a very exciting time in the development of psychotherapy. It is a very young field, really only starting at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. The founders of various approaches developed theories about what worked, and built their careers around this. Sometimes approaches were built around what worked, but human nature tends to institutionalise ideas and stop their growth, make something fixed, and therapists develop an allegiance to a particular therapy rather than a quest to find out what works best. Now scientists are able to see the brain actually functioning, and how it responds to brain based therapies.

There are three methods working explicitly with the neurobiology of the brain
One is ancient Mindfulness and its practice alters the structure and functioning of the human brain. It has been brought from the East to the Western world in the last 15 years, and now is well established in mainstream mental health. It develops brain control, emotional stability, detached observation rather than reactive arousal, and acceptance of what is.
EMDR is a modern but well researched therapy which works with the neurobiology of the brain, although it was not clearly understood exactly how it achieved the healing that it produced. It was discovered by accident 15 years ago (Francine Shapiro) by the noticing of eye movements, and developed into a refined 8 stage protocol for trauma healing. It was further developed for more complex and earlier trauma by subsequent practitioners, and I have experienced amazing results with it.
Brainspotting is a further and more recent development from the eye movements which originated in EMDR therapy. David Grand Phd noticed that there were glitches or blinks in the eye as it tracked from side to side, and from this he found that these brain spots held significant information – they were either trauma hot spots or resource spots in the brain’s structure. This is like the Laser which finds the cluster of brain cells with which we want to work – without flooding or connecting with lots of other traumatic material. this approach worked well for adult traumas, but something more was needed for complex childhood trauma and dissociative conditions. This was developed by Lisa Schwarz into the CRM or Comprehensive Resource Model, which is now a very gentle stand alone therapy

So how does this this affect what is possible in therapy?

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