It goes without saying that, in the 21st Century, the majority of psychologists and psychotherapists believe that individuals are all capable of making positive changes to their lives, no matter how old they (or we) may be, that change is possible right up to the moment that we take our last breath.
(This was not always the case. Freud, for example, believed that human development was complete after adolescence).
The great news is that increasingly detailed knowledge of the structure and workings of the brain from the exciting and rapidly developing field of neuroscience seem to back up this view. Neuroscientists speak
about “neuroplasticity” of the brain, meaning that our brains are
“a work in progress”, no matter what how old we are and that we are capable of by doing and thinking in different ways, people are able to change old, counterproductive patterns of behaviour and ways of relating to partners, children and the world in general.
How can this be achieved?
First, old, dysfunctional patterns need to be interrupted and changed. This invariably happens in all forms of successful psychotherapy.
Second, the person needs to be trained to focus their attention in a conscious, purposeful way
Third, a psychotherapist will help the client identify and then start to practise, new , more positive and healthy habits and patterns of behaviour, forming new neural networks in the brain. (see Pat Ogden, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Susan Aposhyan:Body-Mind Psychotherapy).
I see it as most encouraging that the new findings coming fromthe field of neuroscience provide scientific support to our work as psychologists and psychotherapists, and that psychologists utilising many different approaches, from Positive Psychology to Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), all have the above, central elements in common!
Reference: Psychotherapy Networker, March/April 2011