Once we understood the brain as a fixed, static entity. Now we see it as a changeable, growing organ. This should give much encouragement to those who feel limited by their beliefs that they are somehow stuck in habitual patterns of thinking, since the brain itself can be rewired because of its neuroplasticity.
Before brain imaging was possible, many psychotherapists were already using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people reframe their experiences and learn to modulate emotions and thoughts to rewire their brain into healthier patterns. The idea behind the method is that “you become what you practice.”
If you are an observer of what you are thinking and why, you can pause and redirect your thoughts through self-awareness. For example, say something triggers you to become upset or anxious. When this starts to happen, instead of reacting the way you would usually do with the same thought patterns, you would teach yourself to pause and think through the reality of the situation and choose a better path of thinking.
Finding a psychotherapist who is familiar with CBT is much like going to a physical therapist and learning exercises that will help you strengthen an injured body part. You go for a few sessions until you learn how to do the exercises yourself, and then apply the techniques at home. A good “mind therapist” would be able to train you to use CBT — becoming aware of your motives, knowing your existing thought patterns and how to reframe things into healthier ways of thinking. You wouldn’t need to keep going to therapy once you become equipped to do this on your own.
A good psychotherapist, as a good physical therapist, would want to empower their client to empower themselves. You may feel as though you can’t measure growth or healing as well in the brain as an external body part, but a good measure of healing is that you will, over time, see that you respond differently to certain situations than you did before doing the work on yourself. You will indeed be able to measure growth.
In the day and age, where prescription drugs seem to be the quick and easy solution to coping, many others believe that CBT is the long-lasting and natural alternative. A good therapist will be able to explore and find the proper balance for their client. Prescription medication can only alter the chemical composition of the brain and not create new patterns of thinking. They also subdue the emotions so the client may not be able to fully engage in CBT treatment.
This is a tricky balance and should be done with a trained professional who has gained your trust. Always be wary of anyone who only assigns drugs and doesn’t explore other methods, especially since there is so much evidence now that CBT is a drug-free, long lasting solution. It takes some investment and hard work from you, but is well worth the effort. You will find yourself capable and strong over time!