There is a new approach to mental health care that is rapidly gaining ground. It's not a replacement for traditional care, but it gives us new ways of thinking about these problems that are both refreshing and science-based.
Instead of focusing on diagnoses, we focus on the underlying causes in the brain, most typically, brain circuits that were encoded in the womb, during adverse childhood events, and later during trauma. What's more, the treatment for these wires is to learn techniques to weaken and rewire them. This is a new paradigm in mental health care, which we call Brain Based Health (BBH).
Understanding what is going on inside
Brain circuits are strings of neurons that are activated in the emotional brain and control our emotions, expectations, and responses to daily life. Most of our circuits are pristine and highly effective. They are homeostatic and balance out the ups and downs of daily life. Most of us have a few of the faulty circuits, the ones that are allostatic, which means they are extreme and their activation does not flicker like the highly effective wires, but often becomes stuck, persistent, and overwhelming.
If you have had a bad mood linger, overreacted, or engaged in various patterns compulsively or addictively, the problem is one of those faulty circuits. The complication is that these faulty circuits create so much stress, that before long we have more of them, and even if we only identify one problem, usually we have several. The brain establishes a set point or habit of being in stress and the lower brain areas take charge. That's why we feel so stuck. We think we have one or two diagnoses, but the underlying cause is often a brain that has been overrun with stress (a set point in stress).
Think circuits and set points, not diagnoses
Our new approach to mental health care is based on using all the traditional methods, but also adding to it by training the brain how to rewire circuits. More research is needed and is on the way. For example, the Human Connectome Project is seeking to find the specific faulty circuits that contribute to mental health problems.
The BBH approach helps people use their natural brain capacities to their fullest. We all have a brain with a resiliency pathway that gets us from stress to joy, and using that pathway over time can raise our set point and weaken or rewire faulty circuits. The approach is based on Emotional Brain Training. (See a summary of the science and an animation of the overall concept.)
Training the brain for resilience
The BBH approach is unifying and de-stigmatizing. All members of the EBT Community have the same goal--raising the set point so that the lofty neocortex is in charge and their brain circuits are largely homeostatic. It's much like Tolstoy's vision that all unhappy families are different but all healthy families are the same. With a high set point, no matter what the problem, within the limits of wear and tear and genetics, most problems fade. For the rest, we have the exceptional brain function to deal with them more effectively.
What I like most about the BBH approach is that everyone has allostatic circuits, and nearly everyone has at least a phase of their life when their set point is low. I had raised my set point to 1, then had a cluster of losses in my family. There were some really hard years then and my set point suffered. I encoded a cluster of allostatic circuits, which required a lot of processing to clear. Yet I did, and my brain is stronger for it. However, the best part was that I could talk about it. And, I felt confident that this was a "rewiring job," that I could take my time with, like I would with anything important to me.
In an EBT telegroup, people at all set points participate, but instead of chatting about diagnoses or feeling ashamed of their issues, they say something like, "My set point is 2.5 now, I've raised it almost 2 points since I started," and, "I had a great day yesterday, I spiraled up from stress to joy 5 times," or "I rewired my worry circuits, my brain is not in the habit or worrying anymore. I feel great! Now I'm working on my perfectionism wire. It's going pretty well so far!"
Raising the brain's set point for lasting results
This may sound like a very casual approach to serious problems, but it is not. If your set point is at 5, it is essential to access medical care and psychotherapy, but once these treatments have raised the set point to 4, where the tools are more effective as the neocortex is more functional, it's important to deal with physiologic stress.
The wires that are controlling us are not just producing mental health symptoms, but the stress and inflammation they promote can negatively impact every cell of our body. We need that "bounce back" capacity so our entire being, including our mental health issues, improves.
If you are dealing with mental health problems and your set point or stress habit is to be very stressed (Brain State 4 - Definitely Stressed), but not so overwhelmed or addicted that you know you need comprehensive medical care to be able to learn some new tools, then I encourage you to try out the EBT tools. Once most people try them they are surprised at how great they can feel. The natural high from using the tools does fade . . . until you use them again. Currently, we are offering a complimentary coaching session to new members (Online PLUS or above) to make it easier to experiment with the tools and see if BBH is right for you. For more information, view the membership options on the blog or email email@example.com.
Medical care is increasingly becoming brain-based, and we invite you to explore this blog and try out the tools! There are no medications, procedures, or devices (other than our app and phone system), as the basis of the method is learning how to use the brain's natural pathways from stress to joy.
It's hard to argue with joy, isn't it?