The Neuropsychotherapist

The Neuropsychotherapist December 2017

The Neuropsychotherapist is the quintessential publication bridging the gap between science and the practice of psychotherapy for mental health professionals.

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6 min
on time

Endings of all sorts, whether of sessions, days, or decades, are a natural time for reflection. As the end of 2017 approaches, I find myself pondering the nature of time broadly. How it etches itself into this stage of my family’s life. How it courses through the feel of my daily existence. How it marks the beat of my professional life. As a longtime student of neurobiology, I remain fascinated by Benjamin Libet’s research on mind time versus brain time. In a series of experiments, he demonstrated that certain areas of the brain activate a split second before other areas of the brain signal conscious awareness of an act of volition, such as raising a finger. From this perspective, it appears we are literally moved by the power of our unconscious…

2 min
conversation: counselling people with dementia

Student: I’ve just found out that my training placement will be in a centre that deals with clients who have dementia. What are the important things for counsellors to remember when working with people who have dementia. Counsellor: For one thing, it is important to remember that symptoms can range from very mild to severe. Consequently, no single recipe for counselling is possible, and interventions must be customized to individual needs and capacities, just as they are for clients without dementia. Even those with significant impairment may retain some cognitive capacity and strengths. For example, clients with advanced dementia may still be able to express themselves with music or art. So, put priority on finding and using strengths, including areas of the brain that have not been damaged. Student: What else? Counsellor: Although…

11 min
understanding pans & pandas

Insomnia, out-of-control tantrums, separation anxiety, rage, obsessions, disordered eating, paranoia, motor and vocal tics. As a therapist or parent, have you come across a child exhibiting any of these behaviours and wondered if there was more to it than psychosocial, developmental or family dynamic issues at play? Have you known a child who used to be a great student but is now barely coping with school work because they can’t focus, and has difficulty processing or remembering what they have learnt? Have you been left frustrated at the poor response to treatment? If so, you may have met or know a child who has paediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) or paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal disease (PANDAS). Unfortunately, most children with PANS/PANDAS are misdiagnosed as having psychiatric illness, behaviour problems,…

3 min
conversation: male and female brains

Counsellor: Are there inherent differences between the brains of men and women? Neuroscientist: The short answer is yes. In an article, psychologist Gregory Jantz, Ph.D. (2014) summarized a number of variances. He noted that differences in the relative proportion of gray and white matter in male versus female brains leave women (in general) more adept at multi-tasking, while men do better with highly task-focused work. Although males and females have the same brain parts and neurotransmitters, the evidence is that they utilize them differently, leading to a tendency for men to be more impulsive. Women utilize more oxytocin, the bonding chemical. Research supports the conclusion that men are more interested in technical details and they are better at the exact sciences such as mathematics. Women are better with social sciences. But,…

3 min
no one expects the smiling inquisition!

Despite the title above debasing the infamous line from Monty Python, the research examined the principle that the more people smile, the happier they will be. This concept was given weight by the work of Addelmann and Zajonc (1989) where they showed that smiling, even involuntary lifting of the mouth by producing smile-like sounds, improved mood. However, their work did not show that this resolved a negative mood—only that it tended to lift a neutral mood. There is also some support for the idea that afferently stimulating the seventh cranial nerve by smiling (the cranial nerve controls muscles used for facial expressions like smiling) can stimulate elements of the social engagement system and interpersonal relating (Porges, 2013; Siegel, 2009). But is there a proviso? Addelmann and Zajonc (1989) found that if…

2 min
from the editor

In what seems like a flash, I find I am introducing my second issue of The Neuropsychotherapist—and, I can confess, I am loving every moment. As I take over the reins of content management, I look forward to receiving your submissions and suggestions for upcoming issues—an article, something short and fascinating, a book review, or perhaps a person who you believe deserves a spotlight. In this issue, we continue to cover the serious problem of PANDAS. Micaela Monteiro-Haig helps us understand the neurobiological details, and she also covers treatments that, among other things, include recommendations for following an anti-inflammatory diet and guidelines for maintaining gut health. Micaela’s view as a naturopath widens our perspective. We have so much to learn about how to recognise and treat this difficult paediatric condition.…