4 MIN READ | Psychotherapy

Brain-Based Psychotherapy Integration: Clinical Biopsychology (Part 1)

Robert Moss, Ph.D., ABN, ABPP

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Robert Moss, Ph.D., ABN, ABPP, (2016, September 20). Brain-Based Psychotherapy Integration: Clinical Biopsychology (Part 1). Psychreg on Psychotherapy. https://www.psychreg.org/brain-based-psychotherapy-integration-clinical-biopsychology-part-1/
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There has been an increasing interest in psychotherapy integration over the past 30 years and my experience is that most therapists now tend to use the label of “eclectic” when asked about their orientation. More recently there have been discussions of neuroscience in relation to psychological treatment, although most times this has involved simply naming brain structures (e.g., amygdala) or using vague statements (e.g., “experience transforms the brain”) related to concepts and treatments that have been in existence for decades. However, I believe it is a reasonable conclusion that a brain-based approach is the only avenue that will allow true psychotherapy integration since the brain is responsible for all behaviours, whether those are functional or maladaptive.

I was trained in a Lurian approach in neuropsychological assessment. While teaching a graduate course on neuropsychology in 1984, I developed a theoretical explanation of Alexander Luria’s views of cortical processing based on the cortical column as the binary unit (bit) that operated in circuits. (For the purposes of this article simply think of a cortical column as a few thousand neurons operating in synchrony.) However, there was not sufficient evidence at that time to support a publication on the model that was called “speculative” and “untestable” by peer reviewers. With technological advances leading to an explosion of neuroscience research since that time, there was sufficient support that allowed the first peer reviewed article (Moss, 2006) on this theoretical view I called the Dimensional Systems Model to be published in 2006. Based on that theory, I published the first article on a psychotherapy approach referred to as the Clinical Biopsychological Model the following year (Moss, 2007). The following is a brief description of the viewpoint of the Clinical Biopsychological Model:

We each have a brain. We each have two minds, as does everyone with whom we have a relationship. We verbally think and form verbal memories. We emotionally think and form emotional memories. Verbal and emotional processing occurs independently, but each can influence the other internally, and by controlling the external world perceived by the brain. It is possible to use a brain model to guide assessment, conceptualisation and treatment with clients/patients.

There are a large number of interesting aspects tied to these new theories. I will briefly discuss two. These are: (1) providing an explanation for the “unconscious”; and (2) explaining the basis for “giver” (Type-G) and “taker” (Type-T) interpersonal behaviour patterns. However, I want to first provide a brief overview of how the brain processes information since that is necessary to understand those three points.

The cerebral cortex is the outmost portion of the brain that controls our human cognitive abilities, such as language and problem solving. The right and left cortices are considered to be semi-independent functioning minds. Within the suggested parallel processing design, the side that can best respond to an ongoing situation is the one that assumes control of the ensuing response. Both hemispheres receive similar sensory input (e.g., vision and hearing). The posterior lobes (i.e., parietal, temporal and occipital) are involved with processing and memory storage tied to incoming sensory information, while the frontal lobes are involved with analysis, planning, and response initiation, as well as associated memories of such activities. The left cortex processes sensory information in a detailed manner, resulting in its being slower than the right. The right cortex processes the information much faster, but in a global, less-detailed manner. There is exchange of information between the sides, although this exchange can be both excitatory and inhibitory. From a developmental perspective, there is initially only very limited information exchange between lobes within each side, and between the hemispheres. This allows each cortical area to develop fully its memories and associated processing prior to influence from other areas. Additionally, left hemisphere functions (e.g., receptive and expressive speech) will develop slower than those of the right hemisphere (e.g., non-verbal emotional analyses and responses) since there are a greater number of information units (i.e., cortical columns) and interconnections in the circuits associated with left hemisphere processing. A final point is that the right hemisphere’s global processing allows for faster responses if confronted with outside danger; thus, this side is best designed biologically (i.e., for survival) to respond and assume behavioural control while in a negative emotional state.

The left cortex primarily handles language functions since this is highly detailed. Thus, the left posterior cortex is involved in comprehending (including memory storage) both spoken and written language, while the left frontal lobe controls spoken language, including the motor memories of language. In contrast, the right cortex is involved in many less detailed, global functions, including non-verbal emotional analyses and responses. The right posterior areas are involved in comprehending (including memory storage) non-detailed emotional behaviours shown by others, as well as storage of external (e.g., sight and sound) and internal (e.g., visceral responses) sensory memories tied to emotions. The right frontal lobe is involved in emotional expressions involving prosody and body language, including the motor memories of such expressions.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series. You can read Part 2 here

Dr Robert Moss, a former associate professor in clinical psychology, is currently with North Mississippi Medical Centre’s Regional Pain Consultants. He is the founding editor-in-chief of AIMS Neuroscience. He originated the Clinical Biopsychological Model of psychotherapy integration. He is board certified in clinical psychology (ABPP) and neuropsychology (ABN). You can engage with him on Twitter @drbobmoss



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