Volume 6 Issue 3 (March 2018)
Never before has there been so much discussion, and research, about the effectiveness of therapy, the comparative effectiveness between therapies, and our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin therapeutic approaches. This month we feature articles about what may prove to be the most important aspect of psychotherapeutic practice—play, creativity, and curiosity. We feature an excerpt from Play and Creativity in Psychotherapy, a new book in the Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, edited by Terry Marks-Tarlow, Marion Solomon, and Dan Siegel (2017). We are confident that Terry’s chapter will bring new insights on the effectiveness of play and creativity in psychotherapy. It is still important to explore the science, but reinvesting both the subjective and relational experience into therapy is, perhaps, the beginning of a new way of “doing” science. With that in mind, it seemed timely to add my speculations on a new “neuroscience of curiosity”, which will appear as an Appendix in my new book. I would be very interested in your comments and suggestions in relation to my assessment and conclusions. Another important aspect of life that is very difficult to be objective, is sexual interaction. Our Spotlight shines on Alexandra Katehakis, Clinical Director of the Los Angeles-based Center for Healthy Sex. I hope to be able to publish more from Alexandra in future issues. Her work is quite fascinating. Remaining with the theme of phenomenology, we received, with many thanks, a book review from subscriber Gunnel Minett, from the United Kingdom. Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions are Made (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), is not without controversy and Gunnel’s insights are helpful in opening our minds to Barrett’s book.
There are, of course, the usual intriguing snippets of recent research that, hopefully, become fragments for ideas that truly move us forward in our efforts to both survive and thrive. So many fascinating people around the globe are developing wonderful ideas and making insightful conclusions that have a foundation and support in reliable science. We at The Neuropsycotherapist are always excited to see and, whenever possible, publish new work. How does the neuroscience help us understand how to be human? A friend recently reminded me of the quote from Nassim Taleb in his book, The Bed of Procrustes: “Studying neurobiology to understand humans is like studying ink to understand literature”. This is a very interesting and important burr in our side. To what degree is he correct? In what context is he correct? In what context is this statement very wrong? These are the questions we are being challenged with now as we seek to bring psychotherapy, science, and neuroscience into a workable form that will enlighten and enrich us.
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Play and Creativity in Psychotherapy
A reminder of the importance of both play and intuition in psychotherapy, Terry Marks-Tarlow beautifully details the “dance” that is the art of psychotherapy. Illustrated with her own drawings, Terry emphasises the important role of imagination and play in therapy, while calling us to be intuitive and authentic, as vital aspects of the therapeutic alliance.
The Nuntius Nuclei: A New Neuroscience For Curiosity
Richard Hill describes what he has called the nuntius nuclei—a collection of brain nuclei that form an integrated system that produce and distribute neurotransmitters throughout the brain and form what has been described as the “chemical balance” of the brain. Richard suggests that curiosity activates all the nuntius nuclei and produces the most beneficial brain state for therapeutic change and learning—a “curious” state of mind that is beneficial for health and well-being.
The Nuntius Nucleï: thank you for the interesting article! I can see how helping clients to become more curious in a playful way could help them on a path to recovery. Although I also see clients who are constantly seeking, not from playfulness but out of fear. They are constantly over analyzing everything they do, think and feel. The seeking becomes obsessive and brings them further down. How to change that into a playful state is a challenge. If you have any ideas on this I would love to know.
Sorry to have missed your post. You are so right, we are so often driven by fear – to be ok, to not be wrong, to not be guilty, to not be criticised. such a difficult world we live in. It is very difficult, if not impossible to be curious when gripped by fear BUT, it is equally very difficult to be fearful when we are curious. Figuring out how to ignite curiosity in an individual is difficult to say, as we are all different, but I often just use the words “That’s interesting” and “I wonder if..” to try and shift the mentalizing of the client away from fear and personal threat toward exploring and imagining other possibilities. Sometimes, just talking about options and possibilities can open up their curiosity. If you suggest something that they disagree with, then you have the opening to explore what seems more sensible and in doing that, they have moved into being creative about possibilities and, hopefully, into curiosity. There are other ways. I wonder what might emerge out of your creative skills? 🙂