Neurophysiology Supports Empathy in Psychotherapy

neuron-network.jpgEmpathy involves not only understanding with compassion what someone else is feeling, but also a sensation of feeling the same thing. We talk about being “on the same wavelength” with another person, but neuroscience is now showing how this is more than just sentiment. Neuro-imaging scans along with physiological tests are showing how a counselor and client actually attune to one another neurologically as they attune to one another emotionally.

These findings support the work of Susan Johnson in her EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy). I’m looking forward to attending her training session this June at the Smart Marriages Conference in Denver.

This whole field of neurobiology is showing that our brains are wired for connecting. Think of the significance of a mother’s bonding with her infant, whose neurons fire at a point ofnetwork-neurons.jpg empathic encounter. Then the neurons that “fire together” also “wire together” and form a permanent bond. I wonder if this sort of firing and wiring also takes place when a man goes outside his marriage to “bond” with another woman. Or, when an individual bonds with a bad habit. Perhaps we are beginning to see the neurological angle of God’s exhortation to stay pure and bond only with those experiences that enhance our relationship to Him. “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44 & 1 Peter 1:16).

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