Norman Doidge is a psychiatrist and author of The Brain That Changes Itself, a New York Times bestseller that describes the brain’s astonishing capacity for change. In the Networker Webcast series Why Brain Science Matters, Norman explains the real-life, practical therapeutic implications for neuroplasticity. Here's an excerpt from his interview:
If a client has a behavior that’s not serving her well right now and another one that’s underdeveloped, you can promote change by putting a kind of a cast on that problematic habitual behavior and helping the client exercise the one that’s harder to do. But first she has to understand that change is possible and have a sense of how much effort is going to be required. She also has to know that she needs to pay attention while she’s engaging in the new behavior or thought pattern because the best and the quickest way to get neuroplastic change is to pay close attention. I’ve seen people defeat bad habits, severe anxiety issues, and obsessive-compulsive disorder by understanding that they can drive brain change in a positive direction using their own minds.
Of course, I don’t believe that the discovery of neuroplasticity somehow replaces all of our other therapeutic skills. Nevertheless, the understanding of neuroplasticity makes you realize that talk therapy is more than just talk. In fact, the right kind of therapeutic talk can be seen as just as much of a biological intervention as medication. When you get people to focus on their key issues, those parts of the brain that are involved in the conflicts or difficulties are being triggered as they talk about them.
In fact, I think a lot of the newer methods in our field—like recent developments in hypnosis, hypnoanalysis, brainspotting, and EMDR—are good at helping people get into different states quickly. When that happens, rather than reinforcing the problem or inadvertently retraumatizing people, it’s amazing how fast certain aspects of change can occur. But we need to bear in mind that the brain isn’t a machine and can’t be changed by just moving a couple of wires around. Neuroplasticity teaches that change is something we need to grow into.
Why Brain Science Matters
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