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  • Charlotte Pater

Can talk therapy really change the brain?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

neurons and the brain

Now when we start talking about the brain it can become a complicated subject. Firstly, our conscious brain, the forebrain, is where we can rationalise things, it almost acts as a filter, stops us from saying things we shouldn’t, stops us acting on thoughts, just to mention a couple of examples. Now our subconscious brain (which has no rational thought by the way, everything is either safe or unsafe, there is no good or bad, there is no opinion, there is no judgement) pulls upon already created neural pathways that we have learnt through our entire lifetime and even continue to develop new ones every time we come across a new situation in any part of our daily life. Then when we are faced with something the subconscious finds familiar it does one of 3 things. 1. If it recognises most of what is happening in front of us it will go through the mountains of stored data and pull a response from what kept us safe last time or 2. If it only recognises part of what is unfolding, it will hold fire until it receives more information or 3. If the subconscious does not recognise anything at all it will create a new response entirely. So, we cannot control its responses, or can we?

The subconscious brain is the driver behind anything and everything we think, the way we behave and how we react or respond to situations as learned from the above paragraph. To give a couple of examples, you are in the kitchen and open the cupboard and a cup falls out, instinctively you either try to jump out of the way before it hits you or you try to catch it, now think about it closely. You react before you are even aware of what’s happening right? That’s because the subconscious brain is so quick. It works in milliseconds. Now a completely different example, you are out with friends having a drink or some food and all of a sudden you have a wave of anxiety or dread, maybe you have the feeling like you need to get out of the situation or place or conversation, like you want to flee or hide away but your conscious brain cannot work out what’s going on because there is nothing going on that threatens our survival, yet our body is almost prepared to fight or flee (Fight, flight or freeze response).

So, you can see how we can consciously change our thought but cannot change the initial thought and feeling that has arises. This goes back to the question of can talk therapy really change the brain. The answer in short is yes. The type of therapy I use is called BrainWorking recursive therapy (BWRT for short) a modern form of Psychotherapy which uses quick short loops repeated multiple times and works quickly to bypass the conscious brain to work directly with your subconscious, we are essentially rewiring the brain, changing neural pathways and patterns in the brain to create new ones. So, what happens when you are faced with situations in the future that used to cause you discomfort? Well, this is essentially gone, we have got rid of the old response (neural pathway) and created a new one that carries a more positive/neutral response, so no more will you get those uncomfortable feelings that hold you back.

The good thing about this therapy is most of the time it is content free, and we do not need to spend loads of time digging around the depths of your past looking for hidden or buried memories, you are completely awake and aware of what is happening throughout the whole session. As long as you know how you would prefer to feel or react instead of how you already do then the change work has already begun.

‘The hardest part of therapy is admitting there is a problem and the need for help/change in the first place’.

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