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  • Writer's pictureJulie Best

How therapy can rebuild your brain

We know incredible things about how our brains work. Research has now proved that we can change how our brain works by learning different ways of doing things.

I think of it like this.

Imagine you are standing on one side of a field. The grass might be tall as you so you can’t see over it. Perhaps there are trees in the way. There might be rocks or boggy ground somewhere on the field that make it difficult to cross.

The first time you cross the field it’s quite difficult. You will probably make slow progress as you push through the grass or round the trees. You might need to detour round a rock, or jump over a stream. Eventually you make it to the other side.

The next day you need to cross the field again. You can see the path you made the day before. It’s much quicker and easier to follow the same path again, rather than push through all that grass. The next day, following your old path is easier still.

After a few days you won’t even think about it. You’ll follow that well-worn path.

What if you didn’t choose the easiest path that first time? Perhaps there’s another way that’s more direct, or avoids the stream, or has a prettier view? You won’t know about alternatives, because you’re automatically following the same path that you’ve already made.

This is what happens in our brains. We learn a way of doing things, perhaps a way of looking at problems, or a way of reacting to situations. Our brains make pathways, literally linking nerves together, so that the more we do something the easier it becomes. After a while, we don’t consider other options, we just automatically respond the way we always have. The more times we choose the same response, the stronger that response gets because more and more nerves are using that same path (a bit like turning our path across the field into a road, then a motorway!)

What we do in therapy is to help you see the places where the old path that you chose might not be the best route any more. We can work together to see if there is a different path that might work better for you now, and support you whilst you try that new path. It will work in the same way as choosing the original path: to begin with it might feel a struggle, but the more times you use the new path, the easier it becomes.

The amazing thing is, brain scans now show that regardless of our age, we can build new pathways linking different bits of our brain so that we can do things differently. Choosing a different path gets you different results.

So if there is something in your life that you’d like to be doing differently, remember, therapy can literally change your brain!

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