Written by Louis Cozolino (with foreword by Daniel J Siegel), Second Edition

The Continued Project for a Scientific Psychology

Review by Gunnel Minett

The very last sentence of this book offers a very good summary of what this book is about. Cozolino writes: “From my perspective, the value of neuroscience for psychotherapists is not to explain away the mind or generate new forms of therapy, but to help us grasp the neurobiological substrates of the talking cure in an optimistic and enthusiastic continuation of Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology”.

Not only does the book offer a very thorough overview of the latest developments in neurobiology, it also gives clear links back to Sigmund Freud’s work as a neuroscientist that lead to the formation of modern psychotherapy. Although Freud moved away from studying the brain to exploring how the ‘talking cure’ could influence and change a person’s mental state in a positive way, his work was always based on his previous research on the brain.

For a long time his followers have continued down the road of exploring various forms of psychotherapy, some more removed from Freud’s neuroscience roots than others. But, as Cozolino points out in this book, the optimal approach to modern psychotherapy is to make the most of our rapidly growing knowledge of how the brain works; to acquire a basic understanding of interpersonal neurobiology. By mixing his overview of the latest neuroscientific developments and theories with practical examples from his own practice as psychotherapist,

Cozolino illustrates this beyond any doubt. On the one hand Cozolino points to research by Orlinsky and Howard which concluded that: “the quality of the emotional connection between patient and therapist was far more important than the therapist’s theoretical orientation”, At the same time he also presents very clear evidence that knowing the theory makes a huge difference and argues that: ”All forms of therapy are successful to the degree to which they have found a way to tap into processes that build and modify neural structures within the brain”. He also argues that, rather than telling the patients what their problems are, with the right understanding of neuroscience, the therapist can instead explain how we all function.

Because psychotherapy is very much a question of finding the right approach to each individual case, it certainly helps to know how the brain works and what influences the mind. For psychotherapy to be successful it is essential to know how to work optimally with the brain and to utilize and stimulate neuroplasticity to change relevant neural circuits. Regardless of whether the approach is ‘talk therapy’ or a medical intervention, the end result is still the same. For behaviour to change, it will require changes in the neural pathways, and being up to date with the latest research in this field is definitely a big plus.

Even if this book is a second edition, the update is so significant that it is worth getting this second edition. One reason for this is the rapid changes in this field. In addition to presenting the newest research it also offers an excellent overview of neurobiology which makes it essential reading for all psychotherapists.

W.W. Norton & Company, 2010, New York and London, http://www.wwnorton.com, ISBN 978-0-393-70642-0