Neuropsychotherapy: How it can help anxiety and depression

Neuropsychotherapy is an approach to mental health counselling that considers the relationship between the mind, brain, body, environment, social interaction, and well-being. Neuropsychotherapy theorises that the best way to improve the health of the brain is to ensure that a person’s basic needs that are embedded within brain structures are fully satisfied. Our life experiences shape these needs.

Every single person sees the world and experiences life differently; the same events that one person may not think a whole lot about can trigger anxiety and depression in another.

Neuropsychotherapy does not directly target the brain, but tather focuses on the life experience of a person and how these experiences are interpreted by the brain. In other words, neuropsychotherapy can help you process your life experiences and reframe how you see them.

Whether you are dealing with physical or psychological health concerns, there is never a one-size-fits-all treatment. In fact, there is sometimes more than one approach to treatment that can produce beneficial results, so it’s important to remember that treatment should always be in the best interest of the individual seeking a positive outcome.

An effective way to approach treatment of depression and/or anxiety is to become aware and informed as possible about the different treatment options available to you, and to work with a trusted mental health professional to advise which options will best suit your needs. Neuropsychotherapy can be one of the options you consider exploring.

What is neuropsychotherapy?

According to The Science of Psychotherapy Magazine, neuropsychotherapy is defined as

…a neurobiologically informed framework for psychotherapy that conceptualises thought and behaviour as emerging from the influence of motivational schemata developed to preserve or enhance basic psychological needs.

In simple terms, neuropsychotherapy integrates psychotherapy and neurobiology and research can explore how neurosciences inform effective psychotherapy.

Our brain controls important functions of our body. From birth, neurons within the brain structures serve to protect us from danger by providing us with the analytical ability to assess danger and avoid it.

Your brain may signal fear or danger to your senses based on your past life experiences. For example, if you had a bad experience with a dog jumping on you as a kid, you may associate a dog with fear and anxiety. Thereafter, your brain may trigger a signal to stay away from dogs to avoid repeating that past negative experience. On the neurobiology level, you have developed a memory loop that clearly associates dogs with danger.

Neuropsychotherapy breaks your memory loop so that you are no longer have the same fears that induce anxiety. A professional strives to shift the brain into a state that enables these basic needs that are embedded in our brain structures to be fully satisfied. Neuropsychotherapy is a simple orientation to psychotherapy that takes neuroscience into account.

It was believed that our brains are hard-wired. Over time, research has proved that our brains have plasticity which means we can undo the entrenched neural wiring caused by our life experiences provided we get the right treatment.

Neuropsychotherapy is different from other therapy models as it is focused on neural processes that are dependent on human thoughts, emotions, memories, processing of life experiences, behaviour, and sensations. To deal with anxiety and depression, a neuropsychotherapist utilises cognitive, emotional, and environmental information to enhance treatment.

How does it compare to other types of psychotherapy?

Traditional psychotherapy

Traditional psychotherapy encompasses interpersonal therapy, cognitive therapy, and behavioural therapy. All of these therapies focus on how your own thought process and behaviour can contribute & lead to the feeling of depression.

Out of several psychotherapies, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular approaches and works to replace negative thoughts with positive ones by reframing the way we view our life experiences. We learn to see events and triggers that may seem daunting or overwhelming in a more positive way. It can also involve examining the underlying thought processes that trigger our emotions in depression and anxiety.

Interpersonal therapy is another widely-used type of psychotherapy. Their main objective is to identify how your personal relationships play a role in contributing to depression and anxiety and resolve these issues with practice and patience.

Basic techniques that these traditional psychotherapy methods use to help you deal with anxiety and depression include:

  • Hobbies that build up self-confidence and reframe your mind onto positive thinking
  • Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises to keep your brain in a state of calm even in difficult situations.
  • Open conversation with friends and family members to explain your mental and emotional state and resolve relationship issues that contribute to your anxiety and depression
  • Regular exercise to boost your mood, help you stay active, and reduce symptoms of depression

Neuropsychotherapy

Neuropsychotherapy can be considered an integrated model where the techniques of neuroscience are applied. There are four main pillars:

Neuroscience knowledge

It considers neuroscience knowledge which involves the concepts of neurotransmitters, neurons, memory, neuroplasticity, and the brain.

Relationship with the therapist

Neuropsychotherapy also places a lot of importance on the patient’s relationship with the therapist. It is based on the theory that life experiences are meaningful with regard to the needs embedded within the brain structures of each human being because the brain specialises in the processing of life experiences.

Integration of the brain’s two hemispheres

This involves mind-body integration and being fully present in your body while heightening one’s awareness. This can incorporate practices such as yoga and other mindfulness-based practices. Research has shown that this can help many patients deal with psychological issues and symptoms of depression and anxiety and these mindfulness practices have an effect on brain tissue and the processing of sensory information and internal bodily sensations by the brain.

Improving resilience

The fourth pillar of psychotherapy involves building up resilience to help patients manage their emotions. Foundations of resilience include the following:

  • Interpersonal competence so a person can ask for help
  • Cognitive competence so a person can plan, read and build self-efficacy
  • Emotional competence so a person can be better at regulating their emotions, maintaining self-esteem, employ creativity and humour in a positive way and delay gratification
  • Physical health and a good temperament
  • Secure attachment and basic trust in others
  • Contributing to others
  • Having the faith that your life is meaningful and your life matters

Psychotherapy seeks to ensure basic need satisfaction as a way of improving the health of the brain.

Why go for neuropsychotherapy?

Neuropsychotherapy is just one of the many options you can consider depending on your needs and your comfort level. It can be the best method for improving brain health and symptoms of anxiety and depression for some people.

In neuropsychotherapy, a professional works at the microscopic as well as the macroscopic level where they get insight into a particular neural activity that affects an individual and generates fear. This method also considers the overall view of the interpersonal relationship and the environmental effect on the individual. It gives them a thorough grasp of the overall situation of the individual based on which they plan the treatment.

Mind, environment, and our surroundings have a large impact on our thought process & behaviour. With the knowledge that there is a strong confluence between all of them, a neuropsychotherapy professional may choose different therapeutic practices to meet your objectives.

A neuropsychotherapy professional uses a holistic and multidisciplinary approach while dealing with anxiety and depression. Neuropsychotherapy aims to change the way you perceive your experiences.

Your neuropsychotherapy specialist can help you to learn new ways to react to certain situations and challenge your perceptions. They may start by defining small term goals with you with problem-solving techniques in different situations. Ultimately, neuropsychotherapy is another option that seeks to help you manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, ease your stress, reframe your mind for a more positive mindset, and builds up your self-esteem.

About the editor, Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

I am a Registered Psychologist with AHPRA’s Psychology Board of Australia and a Chartered Counselling Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, UK. My formal training began with a B.A. in Psychology and Welfare at Charles Sturt University, and B.A. (Hons) Psychology from the University of Wollongong. I then progressed to the M.A. (Hons) Clinical Psychology at the same university before moving to the UK to undertake a PhD in Psychology from City, University of London.

Find out more about Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross

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