The Effects of Psychological Therapy on the Brain


Psychological therapy can have a profound effect on the brain, influencing its physiological and psychological functioning. Research has shown that different types of psychotherapy can lead to changes in cognition, emotion regulation, and mental health symptoms.

Understand the neurology of psychological therapy.

To understand the effects of psychotherapy, it’s important to first look at the neurology behind it, or how different areas of the brain are activated during psychological therapy. Research has consistently found that cognitive therapy, specifically, activates frontal and temporal lobes in the brain, resulting in improved cognitive functioning such as memory and regulation of emotion.

Assess the impact that learning can have on mental health.

Psychological therapy, such as cognitive therapy and other forms of psychotherapy, serves to not only improve mental wellness but also can lead to changes in learning. Most notably, research has found that psychological therapy influences both the speed and the accuracy of a person’s ability to comprehend information. Thus, learning and reinforcing new coping strategies is one way in which psychotherapy can positively impact mental health over time.

Explore how to create long-term changes in behavior through therapy.

One of the primary ways psychological therapy can improve mental wellbeing is through behavior change. This occurs when a person learns how to manage their emotions and challenges by creating positive coping skills. Through consistent practice of these new skills, a person can create long-term changes in how they respond to challenges and even start to create healthier habits around sleep, diet, and stress management.

Learn about the effects of different kinds of psychological therapies, including CBT and psychodynamic approaches.

Different types of psychological therapies have different effects on the brain. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to teach people how to shift their thought patterns to be more positive, improving their ability to cope with difficult situations. Meanwhile, psychodynamic therapy seeks to uncover repressed memories and underlying emotions that can lead to mental health issues. Research has shown that both of these approaches can positively affect the brain in different ways, leading to changes in cognition and behavior.

Evaluate evidence of positive outcomes for various types of therapeutic interventions.

Multiple studies have investigated the long-term effects of various kinds of therapeutic interventions on the brain. Longitudinal research has identified potential benefits from therapies such as CBT, psychodynamic therapy, and meditation. The evidence suggests that these treatments can have beneficial effects on both physical and mental health, including changes in neurons, synapses, emotion regulation, and cognitive processes. These findings emphasize the importance of psychological therapy when it comes to promoting positive outcomes for individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Psychotherapy and bipolar disorder

Through a systematic review and network meta-analysis, this study aimed to compare the association between manualized psychotherapies and therapy components with reducing recurrences and stabilizing symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder. The findings suggest that outpatient treatment combining pharmacotherapy with skill-based psychosocial interventions may be beneficial for individuals with this condition. It’s important to note, however, that there were variations in study populations, treatment durations, and follow-up periods which limit the certainty of these conclusions. Source: Adjunctive Psychotherapy for Bipolar Disorder: A Systematic Review and Component Network Meta-analysis