H A R P E R  Psychology

Click here to edit subtitle

What is Neuropsychotherapy?

Neuropsychotherapy is my primary approach and the basis that most of my tools and techniques rest upon.

        Neuropsychotherapy is unique and different from any other psychotherapeutic model (Rossouw, 2013) as it focuses on the way the brain and its specific processes direct our responses: the way we remember things and store and retrieve memories, the way trauma can interrupt or distort our memories, thinking and our development, how we process emotion (or attempt to suppress it), how we interact with others and our environment and how our senses function and influence our perception of the world and ourselves (Grawe, 2007).

        I often talk to my clients about the brain and how we can change it through the application of brain based therapies (e.g. Cognitive Behaviour 

Therapy - CBT, or Mindfulness Based CBT) or techniques and the development in particular, of the therapeutic relationship, that has its underpinnings in a safe and non judgemental environment (often called 'the therapeutic alliance' e.g. their relationship with me).

       Clients often present in very high states of anxiety and exhaustion due to all the 'noise' (constant thinking) their mind is relentlessly and seemingly uncontrollably determined to do, and they can feel helpless and completely controlled by these never ending and unhelpful thought processes. Fear, apprehension and dread occur and the whole experience can be very distressing. To quote the following excerpt from the National Institute of Mental Health, this is what your brain is doing:

"Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety… scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

       The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.

The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories."

       So, in order for an anxious brain to be able to understand and absorb new information (therapeutic strategies) and to try new things (change behaviour), the emotional centre of the brain (the Limbic System where the amygdala and the hippocampus reside) needs to be trained to fire differently (in other words - calmed down or 'down regulated') in order for the client to feel calm enough and safe enough to attempt new behaviours. Without helping the brain to calm down first (called a bottom up approach) it is much more difficult for the client to take a risk (trying something new or changing their behaviour) as this will only add to the anxiety. Hence, safety and trust first in the therapeutic alliance in conjunction with strategies such as sound therapy, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation, breathing techniques and activities that promote the production of oxytocin (cuddles, self care) and then on to more challenging methods that will eventually see the reduction of anxiety and an increase the clients wellbeing, are all part of the neuropsychotherapeutic approach.

Note: Anxiety has been used as an example of how neuropsychotherapy can work but its applications are unique and may be utilised across a broad and diverse spectrum of mental health issues.

Rossouw, Pieter., J. (2013) cited in Rossouw, Pieter., J. (2014). Neuropsychotherapy: Theoretical Underpinnings and Clinical Applications. Brisbane and Sydney: Mediros Pty Ltd.

Grawe, K (2007). Neuropsychotherapy: How the neurosciences inform effective psychotherapy. New York:Taylor and Francis.

National Institute of Mental Health:

(Accessed 26/2/2014).

Journal of Neuropsychotherapy