When asked what I do for a living I often respond with “I read people.” As psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, addictionologists etc.. is this not what so many of us do? In expanding my interest in Neuropsychotherapy – the clinical practice of using what we know today about the brain and the nervous system and how this knowledge can be applied to better helping our patients in psychotherapy, I have been reading more on Mirror Neurons.

The mirror neuron system was discovered in the mid 1990’s as a result of experiments with monkeys resulting in observation that when one monkey engaged in a goal-oriented motor action another observing monkey could perform the same action simply by having it modeled. The mirror neuron system is defined as premotor neurons that fire during an action that has a goal.This demonstrated that an action did not need to be performed to be understood. An action could be understood simply through observation. Further studies demonstrated that humans have similar mirror neuron systems that allow us to understand the intention behind another person’s actions or behaviors.

Louis Cozolino and Eric Kandel have studied and written about the significance of the mirror neuron system in humans understanding interconnectedness is integral for our emotional, mental, and physical health. Dr. Eric Kandel is a neuropsychiatrist who received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on memory storage in neurons. Dr. Louis Cozolino is a psychologist and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and also holds degrees in philosophy, theology, and clinical psychology. (Wow!) The mirror neuron system is considered the core of understanding intention in another and the ability for empathy.

Dr. Dan Siegel, M.D. a neurobiologist has written about how whenever one is socially engaging with another our internal states will resonate with one another. We effect each others minds through social connection. Is this not what we do in our therapy rooms, offices, with our patients, our colleagues, staff, and in our homes with our personal and family connections?

This further validates the importance of neuroplasticity and utilizing the fact that the brain can change itself in working with our patients. Interpersonal connection as a result of the firing of mirror neurons can positively impact the state of well being in another. Quite simply put, the more positive, uplifting, congruent, trusting connections we have with others the more positive, uplifting, congruent, and trusting we become.

Empathy, compassion, and nurturing heal. Kindness, Kindness, Kindness!

©Nancy Jarrell O’Donnell   ©The Sabino Model: Neuroscience Based Addiction and Trauma Treatment™

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