The Neurobiology of Psychotherapy

A recent Institute of Medicine report acknowledges the efficacy of a broad range of psychosocial interventions.1 It challenges us to “identify key elements that drive an intervention’s effect.” The report describes key clinical tasks such as the therapist’s ability to engage with a patient, understand the patient’s worldview, and help the patient manage his or her emotional responses. The psychiatric community should also look into the neurobiological changes that accompany and may be responsible for an intervention’s effect. Although early psychoanalysts made little effort to connect functions of the mind to definable portions of the brain, from the beginning there was a belief that such a relationship may exist. Freud confidently predicted that one day there would be a neurological understanding of the work he initiated. The deficiencies in our…


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