Is There Proof That Therapy Works?

Yes! The science is the proof. Here for your reading pleasure is an excerpt from Cozolino (2015) explaining three reasons as to the “why” psychotherapy works.

FORTUNATELY FOR US, the same evolutionary processes that gave rise to the sources of our emotional suffering also provided us with the tools to heal: our abilities to connect, attune, and empathize with others. Psychotherapy is not a modern intervention, but a relationship-based learning environment grounded in the history of our social brains. Thus, the roots of psychotherapy go back to mother-child bonding, attachment to family and friends, and the guidance of wise elders. The potential success of therapy relies on three fundamental mechanisms of brain, mind, and relationships.

1. The brain is a social organ of adaptation, shaped by evolution to connect with and change through interactions with others. Psychotherapy leverages the ability of brains to attune and learn from one another in the service of adaptive change. This intimate interaction between human connection and learning has been forged over the eons in the crucible of social evolution.

2. Change depends upon the activation of neuroplastic processes. For any change to occur, our brains have to undergo structural changes that will be reflected in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Thus, the success of psychotherapy depends upon the therapist’s ability to stimulate neuroplasticity in the brains of clients—to make new connections, inhibit others, and link previously dissociated neural networks.

3. Together, we co-create narratives that support neural and psychic integration while creating a template to guide experience into the future. Through the co-construction of coherent self-stories, we are able to enhance our self-reflective capacity, creativity, and maturation. It is especially valuable in coming to understand our past, for the consolidation of identity, and to heal from trauma. (Part I, Chapter 2)

Cozolino, L. (2015). Why Therapy Works: Using Our Minds to Change Our Brains (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company.

If you would like to read a little bit more about how our brains can physically change through the process of therapy, check out the link below from Psychology Today.