How Therapy Can Rewire Your Brain

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an approach used by many psychologists to help their patients deal with a variety of mental and emotional challenges.

It’s a problem-focused, action-orientated talking therapy that has proven to be extremely beneficial in the treatment of depression and anxiety. 

And the principle that underlies the therapy is that if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we feel…

By training ourselves to identify negative, dysfunctional and destructive thoughts (a less intuitive task than you may think), we can then begin to work on replacing them with healthy ones. 

And the benefits of CBT have been championed by psychologists for decades.

But now, new research suggests that CBT can not only change our thought patterns, it can literally rewire our brains! 

In a study conducted by psychologists at Kings College London, CBT seemed to affect actual neurological patterns in the brain…

Observable brain responses that reflected the positive changes in emotional response by the patients.

The patients in question were suffering from psychosis — a symptom of mental illness that often involves a disconnect from reality and paranoid thoughts.

Throughout the study, the patients were shown images of faces with a variety of different expressions.

After CBT, there was a marked increase in brain activity, and certain important healthy regions of the brain showed signs of strengthened connections.

Specifically, the scans showed strengthened connections between the amygdala — the region involved with fear and threat processing — and the prefrontal cortex — the region responsible for rational thinking and reasoning.

This suggests that the patient’s ability to distinguish between actual and perceived threats was also strengthened, thus improving their connection with reality and minimising their paranoia.

So what exactly do these findings mean? 

Well what psychologists already knew, basically…

That psychotherapy works! 

Psychologists have researched and testified to the success of treatments like CBT for decades, by talking with and observing the progress of their patients.

But neurological studies like this offer further testaments to the efficacy of therapy, by showing that it can have a physically identifiable, observable impact on the functioning of our brain.

This study is all the more powerful because it marks the first time that brain scans have suggested that therapy can have long-term results.

So it’s a wonderful testament to what we’re all about here at Melbourne Child Psychology…

Not just helping our patients through challenges in the present, but teaching them the skills they need to continue overcoming them — independently — well into their future. 

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