Neuropsychobiology

Neuropsychobiology – a big word, but an important one. The recent research in this field, especially the infant-caretaker dyad work, is making it clear how the caretaker and the infant each use their own brain/nervous system to co-regulate each other’s nervous system and state of arousal. This occurs via eye-gazing, touch, voice/hearing, and what appears to be subtle nervous system energy. It appears that the infant’s brain, which is in a high state of growth at this time, is forming neural pathways according to this attunement and co-regulation, in other words. In a sense, it can be helpful to think of the caretaker’s system as a programming medium for the infant’s system.

Why is this important to psychotherapy with adult clients? Although the research is not in, yet, with adults, it is being hypothesized by these researchers (such as Allan Shore) that this same mechanism of attunement and co-regulation may be the primary means by which therapy works. In other words, this may be a major component of how healing actually takes place during psychotherapy.

I find this area exciting, because it is beginning to give the theoretical underpinnings for attachment theory, for why somatic psychotherapy is so powerful, and for why the client-therapist relationship is so important to a positive psychotherapy outcome.

Looking at therapy through this lens, then healing of some of the developmental arrests typical in childhood can be seen to be related to the brain actually creating new neuronal pathways in the presence of a safe attachment figure (the therapist) – pathways that simply were not needed in the absence of loving caregivers. The brain is still plastic for us adults! It just takes longer for our brains to change than when we were a child.