How counselling and psychotherapy change behaviour
According to the neuropsychotherapy (Laaksonen & Ranta, 2013, pp1-2), our brain is a network of processes between neurons and synapses (Grawe, 2007, p. 31,40). As the person seeks to satisfy their basic needs, every sensory experience has a meaning and will be stored in the memory system, creating a pattern of behaviour in the brain (Grawe, 2007, p. 5). According to Grawe, the four basic human needs are orientation and control, attachment, pleasure maximisation and distress avoidance, self-esteem enhancement and self-esteem protection (Grawe, 2007, p. 171). These needs can only be satisfied through a mental process called consistency regulation, by developing, from childhood, motivational schemes and goals of approach or avoidance (Grawe, 2007, p. 168).
A baby who has their needs satisfied by their mother, experiences positive emotions, which are stored in the baby's memory system, activating patterns of approach schemes and goals, secure control expectancy, as well as develop a secure attachment relationship (Grawe, 2007, p. 175). If the baby does not have their needs satisfied, but instead, is constantly rejected or neglected, fear response (or stress response) is activated in the brain (Grawe, 2007, p. 175). Approach schemes and goals are inhibited and they will develop an insecure avoidance attachment (Grawe, 2007, p. 175). They will avoid intimacy, with no signs of distress (Grawe, 2007, p. 175). When the mother attends the child's needs erratically, they will develop an insecure ambivalent attachment (Grawe, 2007, pp. 175-176). The approach and avoidance schemas and goals are concurrently activated (Grawe, 2007, pp. 175-176). The child will seek closeness, but have no secure control expectancy, resulting in them being stressed by constantly being concerned about losing intimacy with the loved object (Grawe, 2007, pp. 175-176). When the baby is rejected and abused, the attachment will be insecure and disorganised, causing bizarre behaviour (Grawe, 2007, p. 176).
Throughout life, every person experiences stressful moments (Grawe, 2007, pp. 218). When a threatening situation arises, a signal is sent to the limbic system via sensory experiences (Grawe, 2007, pp. 220). This increases the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, initiating the fight-or-flight response to threat and regulating the body's response to stress and danger (Grawe, 2007, pp. 220). However, long term stress exposure increases the production of stress hormones, damaging several neural areas, producing symptoms of anxiety or panic, as well as increasing the risk of physical and psychological disorders (Grawe, 2007, pp. 220-224). Due to the plasticity of the brain, where synapse connections are modified by experience, the network of neurons is continually changing (Grawe, 2007, p.8). One of Grawe's most important findings is that psychotherapy (or talking therapy) can change this neural brain activity, thus changing behaviour (Draguns, 2007).
PACFA Reg. Provisional 25212
Draguns, J. G., (2007). Review of Neuropsychotherapy: How the Neurosciences Inform Effective Psychotherapy and neuropsychotherapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Vol 44(1), 118-120. doi: 10.1037/0033-318.104.22.168.
Grawe, K. (2007). Neuropsychotherapy. How The Neuroscience Inform Effective Psychotherapy. New York-USA: Taylor and Francis Group.
Laaksonen, R., & Ranta, M. (2013). Introduction to Neuropsychotherapy: Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Patients Through the Lifespan. New York-USA: Psychology Press.