Therapy is sometimes referred to as a science. And with the growing popularity of neuroscience in therapy circles, it's easy to see why—learning about how the brain functions and using that knowledge to heal lends credibility to a field where day-to-day client progress is sometimes tough to measure.
But according to acclaimed psychiatrist Dan Siegel, a professor at UCLA's School of Medicine, director of the Mindsight Institute, and author of The Developing Mind, a distinction needs to be made between the work of brain scientists and psychotherapists. The difference, he says, is that while therapists can be knowledgeable about the workings of the brain, their work deals primarily with the mind.
"Almost every mental health problem—anxiety, depression, eating disorders, personality disorders, thinking disorders—are issues of self-regulation," says Siegel. "Ultimately the goal of therapy is to optimize the coordinated flow of energy and information."
So what does this mean for therapy practice? In the video clip below, Siegel explains his concept of the mind, as well as how to assess whether your client's mind is healthy or in need of what he refers to as regulation.
Daniel Siegel, MD, is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, and the author of numerous books, including Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation.
As Siegel explains, knowing how the mind functions is key to helping your clients tap into a fuller sense of themselves and how they relate to others. What's more, Siegel says, how therapy unfolds between your client and yourself can tell you about your own relational mind, and reveal hidden elements in your client's mood, hopes, dreams, longings, and intentions.
"The past 40 years have given us a view of the mind that encompasses an emergent, self-organizing, embodied, and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information," Siegel says. "Now, more than ever, we as mental health practitioners need to be aware of the crucial importance of integration in human functioning and find ways to harness the power of psychotherapy to create a kinder, more compassionate, and integrated world."
Want to help your clients rewire their brains in ways that lead to more flexibility, vitality, and intimacy in their lives? Check out some of Siegel's other articles, such as his reflection on therapists' role in helping stem climate change, "Healing and Hope in the Human Age," or his look back at the impact of neuroscience on therapy in "Neuroscience and Therapy: The Craft of Rewiring the Brain."
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