Brain-Based Approaches: Neuropsychotherapy
Neuropsychotherapy takes a holistic approach to mental health by considering biological, psychological, and social factors. It acknowledges that mental health struggles are not solely caused by brain structure or function, but are also influenced by personal experiences, relationships, and environmental factors. By understanding the interplay between these factors, neuropsychotherapists can design treatment plans that address the underlying causes of psychological distress and promote recovery.
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Neuropsychotherapy and brain-based modalities are talk-based forms of support based on the assumption that our brains and neural connections are plastic and thus, can be changed during the psychotherapeutic or coaching process. Often, losses, emotional wounds, and traumas are stored in our bodies and brains leading us to maintain difficult patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings that keep us stuck, leading to depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering.
In comprehending how and why psychotherapy works, it is important to understand the brain mechanisms that ground our psychic processes, and know how our nervous system reacts to our internal narratives and external stressors.
Neuropsychotherapy is based on the idea that our brain's are plastic and as such our automatic thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, which may be unhelpful in our lives, can be changed to help us move toward improved physical and psychological health.
Because of brain plasticity, changing your mind can change your brain as you change your life. Neuropsychotherapy changes your brain. It does not change our brain directly, but indirectly via talk therapy and other modalities, such as mindfulness, coping skills, stress reduction activities, and reflective self-exploration, to name only a few. It is possible to:
Change you Mind, Change your Brain, and Change your Life, One Session at a Time!
Trauma, Anxiety, and the Brain
In comprehending how and why neuropsychotherapy works and how it can help with trauma and stress, as well as anxiety and depression, it is important to understand the brain mechanisms that ground our psychic processes and know how our nervous system reacts to our internal narratives and external stressors.
Our biological brains evolved to allow us to adapt and change for survival, and what we might call "symptoms" (of depression/anxiety) is our mind and body's way of adapting to and coping with stressful environments. The new knowledge about the brain and nervous system structure and function of our minds necessitates integrating brain-based techniques in the psychotherapeutic process. For example, when stressed, we may notice our memory and thinking processes are affected. These skills emerge from our prefrontal cortex. We may forget things, feel we cannot think clearly, or feel we cannot focus. There is a real chemical and biological reason for this: cortisol increases in our body when stressed. This chemical prevents our prefrontal cortex from working as well as it should, and the emotional centres (amygdala) of our brain take over. When stressed, we may feel more emotionally dysregulated primarily because our prefrontal cortex is bathed in cortisol and cannot work properly.
Normally, our brain has moderate amounts of chemical messengers that lead the prefrontal cortex to take charge and perform high-level thinking (above left) and balance our emotions. But with stress or anxiety, cortisol, among other chemicals, can flood the brain and activate our emotional centres involved in sensing and responding to threats (above right). We may feel scared of everything, and our cognitive processes cannot help us think our way out of our emotions.
Moreover, when we feel stressed, anxious, depressed, or traumatized, we may start to ask ourselves, "Am I safe"? When stressed or anxious, our nervous system triggers our fight-or-flight response. When cortisol floods our brain, our survival instincts kick in, and we may also ask, "Am I loved"? During stress and emotional dysregulation, we may feel isolated, alone, and unloved in those moments.
Thus, an integrative approach is needed to consider the dynamic interaction between the mind, brain, and nervous system. Brain-based psychotherapy and counselling aim to change brain functioning not directly but indirectly through time with talk therapy, new lived experiences, and the new thoughts, feelings, and insights that emerge in talk therapy. But more importantly, this type of therapy can help you regain control over your nervous system and your emotions. The goal of Neuropsychotherapy is to strengthen your executive functioning in your prefrontal cortex. In so doing, I provide you with skills to calm your nervous system, educate you in brain/body interactions, and help you feel safer in your life and relationships.
You will learn skills, work through and process trauma and family-of-origin issues, and/or become more aware of your own emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses. In neuropsychotherapy, we deal with each of these types of responses while working in a safe therapeutic environment.
Being trained in Contemporary Relational Psychoanalysis, Psychodynamic psychotherapy, and Neuropsychotherapy, I offer a framework for you to explore your emotional needs, attachment styles, and any struggles rooted in interpersonal connections due to trauma or early family of origin issues that current realities have triggered. After the pandemic hit many client's realised that the new stress and anxiety they were feeling were really triggering past family of origin stressors. For some, they realized they grew up with adversity during their childhood.
Early childhood trauma, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), relating to childhood issues, abuse, neglect, or feelings of abandonment can leave us struggling in our current relationships. These early experiences can affect both our physical and mental health. I can help you to work through some of these family of origin issues so your current life and relationships can be more peaceful, meaningful, and empowering.
I am trained in doing ACE assessments and can to help you understand how your early experiences might be playing out today in your personal and professional relationships. Moreover, I can provide you with a brain-based form of therapy that will facilitate the development of personal insight and self-understanding.
A Note on Anxiety
The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased sources of stress for many, along with changes in the ways we connect with others — from trying to stay clear of COVID-19 to spending less in-person time with loved ones and colleagues. Now that restrictions are easing up, and more office workers are returning to the workforce in person, there is less virtual socialization and more face-to-face interactions. While some have been anticipating this and looking forward to a “return to normal,” others have preferred the more isolated lifestyle experienced during the pandemic. Those who deal with social anxiety have found remote learning, work, and socialization to be ideal. Some people who have never experienced anxiety in the past may go through re-entry anxiety — an uneasiness about returning to the old normal of schools and offices, hugs and handshakes, and social gatherings large and small.
Re-entry may be a challenge for you. The last three years allowed us to avoid the everyday tasks that come along with socialization which may have been challenging prior to Covid. Some may have felt their anxiety significantly decrease during this period of time, but it’s likely their anxieties did not go away. They have been paused due to the pandemic, and anxiety may have returned.
That said, Covid is not the only reason you may be dealing with anxiety - it is just the most recent phenomenon where we have seen a large increase in the number of people needing support. We can work together to explore your anxiety, no matter what the cause