Revolutionary Connections: neuroscience and psychotherapy
ed. Corrigall, J & Wilkinson, H. (Karnac, 2002)

Papers from the 7th UKCP Professional Conference
Authors: Allan Schore, Colwyn Trevarthen, Douglas Watt, David Boadella, Danya Glaser, Cairsn Clery, Chris Mace & Roz Carroll


  Excerpt from chapter by Roz Carroll:

  At the border between chaos and order”; what psychotherapy and neuroscience have in common .
“Understandings that are derived at the border between chaos and order where, according to some, many of the problems of nature lie,  may not provide exact solutions but rather those which can allow application and understanding to emerge.” (Coveney xiii)

"Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis appear to be far closer to forms of intermittent turbulence and uncertainty than to ordered systems….one of the goals of [..] modelling is to discover the underlying order beneath the surface chaos of the psychotherapeutic interaction.” (Langs: 1988:206)

I want to start by putting both neuroscience and psychotherapy in a larger context , and suggest that we are undergoing a shift in our cultural and scientific paradigm. The neuroscience represented in this book really does reflect a cutting edge distinct from mainstream science. It  offers psychotherapy a great deal more than just fragments of interesting information and alternative models of the mind. It highlights a new way of thinking in science which - I am going to argue – is not just a familiar way of thinking for psychotherapy but actually is fundamental to its inception.  We are at a point in history where a new convergence between psychotherapy and the rapidly developing field of neuroscience has immense significance and potential – a potential which is revolutionary in its implications.

  Freud’s neurological studies, from 1880 onwards, preceded and informed his development of psychoanalysis. In his day, neurology consisted in the attempt to correlate clinical problems with specific locations in the brain. But he became dissatisfied with the limitations of this ‘localisation’ approach, because it did not address the dynamic nature of neurosis (i.e. its clinical difference from the specific effects of brain damage).  Freud had both the desire and the imagination to sense a potential integration of neurological, behavioural,  mental and somatic functions but the scientific tools and conceptual models of his era were not adequate to the task. He never gave the idea up entirely, but turned his attention to the development of psychoanalysis. [1]

  In the twentieth century the two burgeoning fields of psychoanalysis and neuroscience continued to develop in different directions. Dialogue between the two disciplines was hampered by differences in discourse, aims and modes of research. There was a largely unbridgeable gap between the scientific language of neurons, neurotransmitters, and sensory-motor functions and the psychotherapeutic models of intrapsychic and interpersonal processes. Paul Whittle has called it ‘the faultline running down the middle of psychology’ with experimental psychology (which has been incorporated into neuroscience) on one side,  and psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy, on the other. (Whittle, 2000)

  But there has been a gradual turning of the tide. Until fairly recently “the self has been viewed as a metapsychological phenomenon that was not accessible to scientific investigation”. (Schore, 490) A small but significant group of radical thinkers in neuroscience and related fields have now made significant strides towards integrating into its conceptual models aspects of human functioning which are very much closer to psychotherapy’s concern with the self: feelings, the dyadic nature of consciousness (and the unconscious),  the construction of meaning (internal working models), and the critical significance of early developmental  experience. Psychotherapy, under pressure to produce ‘scientific’ evidence,  has much to gain from the impetus and dynamism of contemporary neuroscience. What is most heartening is that affective neuroscience is providing increasing evidence that points towards a relational solution to human suffering. (Schore 1994, Watt 2001, Solms & Solms 2000, Trevarthen 2001)

[1] Project – Spms/ Totton


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