Why Therapy Works

Louis Cozolino

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If necessity is the mother of invention, then what necessities gave rise to the invention of psychotherapy? The answer to this question lies in our evolutionary history and how it is expressed in our biology, relationships, and day-to-day experiences. While evolution is a process of adaptation, each adaptation leads to new challenges for which new adaptations need to arise. As most of us have experienced, things that seemed like a good idea initially can have unforeseen consequences and prove to be problematic down the road…

In this article Louis Cozolino talks about why therapy works by looking at three fundamental mechanisms of brain, mind, and relationships:

1. The brain is a social organ of adaptation, shaped by evolution to connect with and change through interactions with others. Psychotherapy leverages the ability of brains to attune and learn from one another in the service of adaptive change. This intimate interaction between human connection and learning has been forged over the eons in the crucible of social evolution.
2. Change depends upon the activation of neurplastic processes. For any change to occur, our brains have to undergo structural changes that will be reflected in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Thus, the success of psychotherapy depends upon the therapist’s ability to stimulate neuroplasticity in the brains of clients—to make new connections, inhibit others, and link previously dissociated neural networks.
3. Together, we co-create narratives that support neural and psychic integration while creating a template to guide experience into the future. Through the co-construction of coherent self-stories, we are able to enhance our self-reflective capacity, creativity, and maturation. It is especially valuable in coming to understand our past, for the consolidation of identity, and to heal from trauma.