Integrating neurobiological findings into psychodynamic psychotherapy training and practice

Moore, Mary Sue and Divino, Cynthia L (2010) Integrating neurobiological findings into psychodynamic psychotherapy training and practice. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 20 (3). pp. 337-355. ISSN 1940-9222 (electronic) 1048-1885 (paper)

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New knowledge regarding the neurobiology of human development has enormous implications for the field of psychotherapy. Recent discoveries confirm the existence of mirror neurons, explain the intersubjective neurobiology of affect regulation, highlight the role of implicit/procedural memory in attachment processes, and document the fact that gene-environment interactions structurally change the brain throughout life. Addressing the fact that psychotherapeutic techniques have lagged behind in incorporating these findings, this paper describes one method of integrating these neuroscience findings and their implications for treatment into a graduate psychotherapy training course. Basic principles of attachment theory and psychodynamic psychotherapy are evaluated in light of these new neuroscience data. In addition, interpersonal dynamics in the classroom can trigger instinctive neurological processes, especially when the subject matter is the impact of trauma in human lives. The students' potential for neurobiologically co-constructed learning experiences inform the lecturers' presentations of content and clinical material. For example, when employing photographic, auditory or video training materials involving trauma, the authors discuss techniques designed to help students maintain a self-regulatory state that keeps their prefrontal lobes and self-reflective capacities active despite the potential of traumatic material to trigger nonconscious, affective responses that can block thought. The authors' interactions with the students and with each other in the context of the course, contribute to students' nonconscious procedural knowledge, hopefully enriching the conscious, verbal, left hemisphere-dominant learning that is also taking place. In today's psychotherapy training program, the content and the context and the intersubjective experience are the message.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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