Neuropsychotherapy Defined

Definition:

Neuropsychotherapy is 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. Therapeutic processes start from the development of a safe and enriched environment to activate positive approach motivational schemata utilising a bottom-up neurological approach, and proceed from a top-down approach to facilitate long-term change in neural architecture (Dahlitz, 2015).

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Discussion:

Neuropsychotherapy (NPT) is a “meta-framework” rather than a discrete therapeutic technique. Granted there are therapeutic techniques that are favoured by NPT at certain times and circumstances in psychotherapy, informed by the underpinning neurobiology of the client. Given that NPT is not a discrete protocol nor is it a new “therapy”, it is best understood as a perspective that considers how the brain functions on a number of biological and social levels and how that understanding informs effective clinical practice (what actual techniques will be helpful and why).

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As the above definition suggests, the neurobiology is framed in a theory of psychological needs called the consistency theory. This theory, refined by Klaus Grawe and more recently by Pieter Rossouw, suggest that behaviour is driven by motivational schemata established to protect and/or enhance basic psychological needs in a neurological environment that requires consistency. For more on this see Consistency Theory.

In an attempt to broaden neuropsychotherapy from an understanding of discrete brain functions to a broader approach based on the consistency theory, Grawe offers the following: “Neuropsychotherapy aims to change the brain, but it does not directly target primarily the brain but focuses on the life experiences encountered by the person. The brain specializes in the processing of life experiences. Life experiences are meaningful with regard to the needs that are embedded within the brain structures of each human being. Neuropsychotherapy strives to shift the brain into a state that enables these basic needs to be fully satisfied. The best method for improving the health of the brain, then, is to ensure basic need satisfaction.” (Grawe, 2007, p. 424)

References

Dahlitz, M. J. (2015). Neuropsychotherapy: Defining the emerging paradigm of neurobiologically informed psychotherapy. International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy, 3(1), 47–69. doi: 10.12744/ijnpt.2015.0047-0069

Grawe, K. (2007). Neuropsychotherapy: How the Neurosciences Inform Effective Psychotherapy. New York, Psychology Press.