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A New Perspective - Current Trends in Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has always offered a new perspective on life to those who undertake it. As the understanding of human behavior has grown in recent years the underlying paradigms of psychotherapy have changed, and psychotherapy has improved. The new perspectives it offers now are more helpful than ever, and people are finding new paradigms for their lives. Several trends contribute to this.


Trend #1: Attachment as organizing principle

Attachment has been an important principle in psychology for years. However, in recent years it has become much more prominent as an organizing principle in understanding human behavior.


  • The ability to make and sustain healthy attachments is a primary human goal
  • Marriage therapy is focusing on marriage as an attachment. The work of Susan Johnson postulates that the really big fights in marriage have to do with a partner not showing up for the attachment, not maintaining it, or actively destroying it.

Trend #2: Utilizing neuroscience

Neuroscience is about brain function--how specific parts of the brain are implicated in common human problems. It has become very integrated with attachment theory.


  • Insecurely attached children suffer impaired brain development and a lack of ability to manage their emotions and relate to others. Problems with empathy and attachment result.
  • Addressing these problems with brain-based strategies has enabled us to treat both childhood and adult problems more effectively than in the past.
  • For adults sensorimotor psychotherapy is talking therapy that pays attention to the ways that emotions are expressed through the body. One thing it does is to pay attention to the "optimal arousal window" that trauma therapy should be conducted in. In other words, the individual should be "in touch" enough with the trauma to have feelings from it, but not so much so that he or she is overwhelmed.
  • As result neuroscience has shed significant light on how treatment can be faster and more tolerable. Simple behavioral techniques to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety are becoming much more common in therapy.
  • EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has continued to be helpful in the treatment of PTSD.
  • Neuroscience has also contributed to a better understanding of the role of diet and medication in emotional health.

Trend #3: Focus on the body

Read the special section on Mindfulness, especially the page on the mind-body connection to learn more about this helpful area of psychology.

Trend #4: Internal Family Systems

One of the more interesting newer ways of working in the therapy room comes from a style of work called "Internal Family Systems." In this work an emphasis is placed on working with the emotional "parts" of us in many of the same ways that family therapy works with members of a family. This work is creative, effective, and much faster than some other forms of treatment. Typically people also find it easy to embrace, seeing themselves in its explanation of human behavior.


I may be stretching things a little to call this a trend. But it certainly is a welcome addition to the field. I won't write more here, because you can read about it here on my blog. Also, take a look at another blog post where I describe an encounter with an "emotional part" of my own.

Trend #5: More engaged therapists and active therapy styles

Many of our newer understandings have led us toward more active therapy styles and techniques. There has been a resurgence of gestalt therapy types of work, though they go by many different names. Therapists are more able to pinpoint needs and help clients understand how to meet their needs.

What does all of this mean for someone in therapy??